STEPPING OUT ALONE
WITH A NEW NAME AND A NEW MUSICAL DIRECTION MELODIE NELSON IS CREATING AUTHENTIC, BLISSED OUT 60S SOUNDS. SHE TELLS CHRIS FAMILTON HOW MEDITATIONS ON THE SUN CAME ABOUT AND WHERE SHE IS GOING NEXT.
Melodie Nelson has emerged blinking into the bright lights on her debut album Meditations on the Sun. It is an album that represents her first solo foray into relatively straightforward songs after years spent as one half of the experimental drone duo Moonmilk with partner Kell Derrig-Hall and as bassist for Rand and Holland. By day Lia Tsamoglou is a producer for radio station 2ser but musically she has chosen to record and perform under the Nelson moniker taken from the 1971 Serge Gainsbourg LP Histoire de Melody Nelson.
“Well basically my surname is unpronounceable. I’ve always had trouble with it and thought I’d pick something a bit different and cheeky. I don’t know if I’ll stick with this moniker throughout making music but I thought it’d be good for this sound that I was going for. Plus I love that album,” she enthuses.
Moonmilk was much more experimental and freeform yet Nelson draws some parallels between the two projects and views the new album equally as a reaction to, and an evolution from her earlier work. One major change was the way she approached her vocals and lyrics.
“It was a bit of a reaction because I felt like we’d done as much as we could do. We’d put a few releases out on overseas labels and I just thought it was time to put it to bed. When we started dong it it was a strange thing to do and it was hard to get gigs. At some of our first gigs at the Lansdowne we were getting coasters thrown at us and now bands that are doing sort of the same thing are popular and so we thought we’ve done that and we should move on.”
“Melodie Nelson is music that I was listening to the whole time we were in Moonmilk and I thought maybe I should give this 60s sound that I love so much a shot and write some cool harmonies and see what I can do with it. There are elements of Moonmilk in the songs. The first two songs I wrote – Waiting and Meditations on the Sun – they are quite repetitive and loopy, the sort of stuff I made in Moonmilk building up loops. It was kind of a good transition in that sense. It was difficult to go back and write songs again though, writing lyrics you have to think about that shit again and get emotional with words. In Moonmilk I could just moan and make noses and loop it without really saying anything, just let the music speak.”
With the new songs written and recorded the next step was to recruit a live band who could replicate the warm and spatial sound that producer Tony Dupe (Jack Ladder, Holly Throsby, Jamie Hutchings) had captured in an old sandstone Methodist church and Nelson feels that the band are now really beginning to capture the essence of the songs on stage.
“I thought it would be hard but I’m so lucky to have such talented people to work with. They learnt the parts and they are quite simple really so it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. The first few practices were just technical things getting it right, as were our first few shows. Now the emotion and mood is being added. Some of the songs only have two chords so Travis our guitarist is adding some texture. I didn’t really envisage having a band though so I’m just taking it step by step.
Nelson isn’t resting on her laurels and on the back of positive reviews for the album she is already planning the follow-up to be recorded by Simon Grounds (Underground Lovers, Rocket Science) in Melbourne at the end of October as well as indulging in a USA holiday and playing in Derrig-Hall’s band The Singing Skies. Busy times indeed.
this interview was first published in The Drum Media