A Few Moments with The Melodic
You use some unique instruments. Were they specifically picked out for this project or had you always played them?
Huw: It’s an organic process for us with the instruments we were interested in playing. That’s just what we were playing. The band kind of formed around us playing those instruments.
Rudi: We just played music together and tried a hundred different instruments and enjoyed those instruments.
Huw: Rudi plays the charango, which is a South American instrument. That was brought back to London for us by a friend of ours—his sister who is half Chilean—and she was out there and saw it and brought it back and introduced it to us. It came to us out of the blue in a way, but then Rudi just got really involved in it.
How is that different from a traditional guitar?
Rudi: Well it’s a lot smaller and has more strings. So I describe it as something between a classical guitar and a mandolin. So all the strings are doubled up, but they’re nylon, and it has a wider neck so you can do a lot more with it.
Huw: The sound is very different. There’s so much more bass in the guitar and the charango is much brighter.
Rudi: The guitar and the charango connect really well.
I read that you approach your music like poetry. How would you describe that?
Huw: We both read poetry and we’ve been inspired by certain poets. Sometimes something can grow out of a phrase you see in a poem and you build with that. We might take influence from certain poets and traditional folk music and the way that’s written with repeating phrases and certain turns of phrases which are very common in certain folk songs. A lot of our songs have some phrase that repeats. More of the structure of our songs are like folk songs.
Rudi: They’re like folks songs, and they’re also like poetry.
Who does most of the songwriting?
Huw: Us two predominately at the moment, but everyone writes their own parts, and the songs don’t arrive fully formed. We bring them to the table in varying degrees of completion and everyone tumbles in and they evolve so much once the whole band gets involved.
What inspires you to write?
Rudi: I find just exploring music makes me very inspired and listening to genres that I’m not necessarily associating with our band quite often inspire me to write lyrics; I don’t know why. It’s like when you’re in a different head space and the music is kind of moving you in a way. I find that’s the way I become moved to write.
Huw: Sometimes in conversation I hear somebody say something, like the turn of the phrase, or the way the words play against each other, and that sets me going. It starts from one line that I like.
Rudi: I think we’re both similar in that often our songs they’re actually being written over quite a long period of time and you don’t even quite know it. There will be one idea you had and it’ll go with another idea you had. So you’ll be writing load of songs at once without quite realizing it.
What have been your influences?
Huw: We listen to such a wide range of music in the van when we’re driving, but we started playing instruments in a way when we’ve been listening to a lot of sixties folk artists like Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, and there’s this Scottish guitarist named Bert Jansch who played in a band called Pentangle and they incorporate a lot of different styles of music-folk and jazz influences-and that had a big influence on us. We grew up listening to electronic music and rap music and all sorts. Rudi listens to a lot of South American music and West African music…classical music.
Rudi: Baroque Baroque (laughs)
What has been a great live music experience for you as a fan?
Rudi: Recently I went to Steve Reich premiere in the UK. He’s a composer. He had a premiere of a new piece in London and that was really amazing because he’s like a real hero in classical music, and to see him at the show, and to see a new piece was really exciting. The whole culture of going to premieres is a really exciting thing which I think our generation is missing out on a fair bit because when classical music was the most common music people would go to premiers and it was a really big event. Now because you have so much access to music you kind of miss out on that.
Huw: We saw Bert Jansch play years ago a bit before he died.
Rudi: An amazing concert is the West African version of a jamband. I saw Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba. This guy’s invented like five different octave versions of the same instrument, and they just play for hours and get in these grooves, and they’re all soloing the whole time. They’re like West Africa’s Grateful Dead. I went to one of their concerts and they played for three hours and by the end everyone’s just losing it and giving it up to it.
What do you want to do in your music?
Huw: Explore an instrument more and more, because you can’t ever stop getting better at your instruments. It’s not a finite thing. It’s all about enjoying it as well, that’s a big part of it.
Rudi: I play the charango, which is not my native instrument—it’s from South America—so I definitely feel like with that instrument I want to respect the tradition, because it’s really easy to pick up an instrument that you don’t have a lot of knowledge of and just play it, and use my guitar knowledge on that instrument, but I really want to understand the history of the playing and bring something new to it. I think that’s really important. Music should be about renewal and new creation or moving forward.
Do you ever wish to experiment and improvise?
Huw: That’s a big part of how the band came together, just hanging out and jamming. I think there’s room for that for sure. We’re trying to create music that has this groove to it, and when you get the groove going people can jam off the top. I think as you get more and more confident and tight at staying together there’s so much more room for that. We’re always changing our songs as well-changing the endings, or the parts. I think it would be really fun if we could get that involved….Maybe we’re a jamband in the making.