Melenas: “We miss women in production and recording studios”

Melenas’ third album, Ahora (Mushroom Pillow/Trouble in Mind, 2023), seems to announce from the title the providential moment its creators are experiencing. They are the new indie pop sensation in Spanish. In a world sensitive to the exoticism of projects like Maustetytöt – Finns in Coats Made of Fallen Leaves (Aki Kaurismäki, 2023) – anything is possible, also for Pamplona. Ask Heros del Silencio or Rosalia: Language is no barrier to influence beyond the Spanish-speaking market, no matter how much history tries to deny it.

They have already experienced this, albeit on a smaller scale, at foreign concerts. “The response is great. There are many connections. The public listens attentively, very lovingly, and then comes to say hello. Language is not a barrier. Even if they don’t understand the lyrics, they can hum and seem to feel what we’re saying, which amazes us,” explains Laura Torre (drums), who is alone in this interview because her colleagues, Oihana Herrera (guitar, keyboard and voice ), Maria Del Amor (keyboards) and Leir Zabala (bass) are busy preparing for the 8M demo that takes place the afternoon of the interview.

As an all-female band, their commitment to feminism is unapologetic. “Mentality is changing – says Laura – we are much more visible. There are many festivals and programs that are committed to parity. But there is a lot to do. We miss the presence of women in the world of production, recording studios or promoters, mostly men. And as you advance into positions of responsibility, this becomes more apparent. We hope that will change. “

What is moving in the right direction and at a good pace is Navarre’s international efforts. Designer Ulla Johnson has expressed hope that in 2020 New York Fashion Week will appear in her show. A year later they were awarded the Music Moves Europe award from the European Commission – before that they were Fontaines DC, Dua Lipa, Hinds or Rosalía – and whose financial well-being alleviated the lack of publication during the pandemic of his second album – also with the visual title – Rare Days (2020).

Pitchfork now reviewed a glowing 7.7 last December. And at the beginning of the year it was reported that Wilco, the North American group led by Jeff Tweed, included them in the recommendations for 2023, as well as names such as Lana del Rey, The Feelies or Sleaford Mods. “All this recognition is a huge boost, Wilco are musicians that we admire and suddenly they put it in front of you and you’re like, ‘Oh man, that’s amazing’. But then it’s something that seems kind of remote and you move on Your normal life, your routine, your thousand things,” he notes.

Everything started relatively early for them. Regularly gracing the stage that unites the Pamplona pub Nébula, these four women reunited in the summer of 2016 after playing in different bands such as Río Arga, Ginkas, Delmonos and Panty Pantera. Only a few months later, they successfully entered the multidisciplinary festival SXSW in Austin, United States. “We were there for a very short time. We would do about six concerts. And they caught us. We were very excited. “It was the first experience we had with an outside audience.”

He wasn’t the only one. In 2022, they embarked on their first European tour and are now embarking on another that will cover fifteen cities and already have dates in London and Berlin “sold out”. After their return, it will be the turn of the Spanish theaters with the GPS initiative (Girando por theaters), which during the month of May will bring them to Sabinanigo (4), Barcelona (10), Tarragona (11), Albacete (17). Murcia (18), Valencia (23) and Castellón (26). In the same month they will participate in the Tomavistas festival (Madrid). His presence was also announced at summer festivals such as Bilbao BBK Live (July), Boga Boga Festibala (September).

Part of that influence is due to their association with the accredited Chicago label, Trouble in Mind (Mikal Cronin, Ultimate Painting), which distributes them internationally, while Mushroom Pillow does so here. A signature that dates back to 2019 when, after quickly selling out the first edition Melenas (2017) and reaching France, the United States and Australia, Bill Roe contacted them on Facebook asking for a copy. . And finally he posted the following. “One of those things that you don’t even believe. It’s an artist label that we really like,” says Laura. But not only that. They also support their ideology: “It’s a pride to be in a recording studio with an independent and underground spirit, this ethic and this industry understanding. And, despite being a small label, it has prestige. In the United States, it is a reference. Thanks to this, we met people we never imagined. For example, Henry Rollins from Black Flag, who’s a fan of ours, and you’re like, ‘But what the hell?!’ Or Wilco, which is also related for that matter. “

And what is so special about your proposal to attract such attention? Not a small thing. They have an instinct for melodies, have impeccable production and show traces of influence that add to their resume. They say yes to names like Broadcast, Yo la Tengo, The Magnetic Fields, Electrelane, Deerhunter, The Jesus & Mary Chain, Aventuras de Kirlian, Exboyfriends or Family. And in terms of labels, they also identify with jungle pop, twee pop, noise, dream pop, garage, shoegaze, C86, kraut pop, reverbcore and the northern nineties pop of Xixón and Donosti.

With all this, they have created a formula that greatly simplifies the e-invoice pop. A cross between the melodic and vocal expressiveness of Nosoträsh and the retro-futuristic development of Stereolab with its hypnotic motoric rhythms. At least as far as his last album is concerned. Because his sound, along with the maturation of the project, is heading for the most frequent transformations: the transition from guitar to synthesizers. In his case, without losing the more pop feel of the frame or canceling the string playing entirely. “As we got more experience and more skills, we also opened some doors and got into bands like Broadcast or Yo la Tengo, which were always cool for us, but we still didn’t think about it because we were just starting out and making music, ‘No I know it’s basic, but it’s what we had at the time.”

This metamorphosis – expected in several cuts from Strange Days – was finally established after the publication of Polar Bear (2021), a convincing adaptation of Eisbär, eighties Swiss Grauzone, which arose from a television proposal. “We were very happy with how it sounded and what we were happy to do. And what’s more, people really liked it. For the next album, we were testing the songs on the spot and we saw that it changed more and more clearly. “

At the culmination of this process, his producer, Guillermo Mutilloa, appears, a regular collaborator and a fundamental part in the formation of this new sound. “It was very important. We arrived with an open window, considering that other things could have happened in the studio with the songs. We spent time and he contributed a lot with his knowledge of drum machines, analog synths and digital gear.

“Time is something that worries us a lot,” admits Laura Melenas about one of her themes. And this is especially evident in their last two works, in which they have moved from a nostalgia for the odd days to a focus on living in the moment – more pragmatic than optimistic – now preserved. Spine without any premeditation. “When we created and wrote the lyrics for the album, we realized that this idea was in every song. All we have is now. The present is the only thing that belongs to us, and from it, the future is slowly being built. This is a call to be aware of it. “Also, on a musical level, it also coincides that we have a lot of songs with sequencers, very distinct rhythms that are related to time, like the ticking of a clock.”

In fact, there are several topics (now, K2, Bang or promises) that make us get rid of what is unnecessary and get rid of everything that prevents us from enjoying the present. And the future, don’t even mention it. “I guess subconsciously it’s a combination of things: from the pandemic we’ve been through to the living situation we have. We are all average 40 year old women. We are no longer girls. “We are grown women.”

This serendipitous discovery of a theme that held him together led to one of the songs, Solemn Psychotropic Mantra Now, being the title and chosen to open the album. Because even though they claim it’s not a concept piece, there’s a certain classic concept to the album that comes from the age of its members. “We started buying music on cassette, CD or even vinyl. We were kids in the 80s when they still bought vinyl. This is something that we have very much in mind. And today, although we often eat, we listen to full albums. Yes, we are very concerned about the order of topics. We understand albums as a complete piece of work and we want them to have meaning and to be a kind of progression or take you down a certain path when listening to them. “

Without being an overtly political album, it now has a lot of social demands on it. They appreciate the difficulty of accessing a decent job without investing all your time – in the disturbing bad – the praise of unity and brotherhood to avoid bullets and move forward – in an undeniable explosion – or perseverance and the search for roots in our ancestors. In the flower of the emotional border. “It seems to me that talking more clearly about unification and returning time are political issues. We may not see that we are writing clearer poems in this sense. But who knows. I wish they came out as Public Enemy,” concludes Laura with a laugh. The word “unity” is repeated several times during the conversation. A concept that is often underestimated, usurped or misused, that can all by itself ignite the engine of a revolution.

Source: El Diario

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