Chris Cron & Ryan Malloy of Mêlée
Often times I find myself wondering what music is missing these days. It’s not that there isn’t great music coming out, it’s just that none of it seems to take many chances, break any rules, push any boundaries. Everyone follows a formula and dares not stray from the beaten path. One listen to Mêlée’s major record label debut Angels & Devils on Warner Bros. and I had to look to the sky and thank the music Gods above…finally, a band that’s willing to put it all out there! Surfing through the still waters in the sea of musical mediocrity they managed to create their own tidal wave.
Mêlée (Chris Cron on vocals and keys, Ricky Sans on guitar, Ryan Malloy on bass, and Mike Nader on Drums) have blended soulful, pop rock melodies with infectious choruses that you probably won’t be able to get out of your head without a prescription. The songs run the gamut from flat out rockin’ love songs like Built To Last and Drive Away to the 80s retro pop dance grooves in Frequently Baby (She’s a Teenage Maniac) to the all out arena ready power ballad Can’t Hold On.
Not to be outdone by the music, the lyrics vie for your attention as well. While the tempo of the song may ring of sugar pop goodness, make sure you listen to the lyrics that are cleverly written and will leave a random smirk on your face at the most inopportune of times. Covering everything from death to crazy ex-girlfriends, Mêlée gives you a glance into the life of a twenty-something year old in the world today – love, hate, rejection, devastation, death and taxes. The songs are a virtual living biography into their lives.
Their solid song-writing, musicianship and passion to leave it all out there on the stage night after night is inspiring for any music fan. I can’t wait until they hit arenas so I can raise my lighter and toast the band with the perfect concoction of tonic and spite…wait, strike that, make it a glass of satisfaction.
Mêlée is currently out on tour with Amber Pacific and Monty Are I. We sat down with lead signer/piano man Chris and bassist Ryan after their amazing performance in Boston to talk about all things Mêlée.
Interviewed by: Mary Ouellette & Sally Feller | May 2007
(Ryan is in bold, Chris is not)
So let’s start off with a brief history for anyone who’s new to the band…you’ve all known each other for a long time right?
Yeah, Rick and I have known each other since kindergarten, and we’ve been close friends since then.
So has Mêlée always been this current line-up?
No, it’s been the three of us, I met them in junior high. We started playing music when we were young and Mike is our fourth drummer.
Yeah, we want to keep him..he’s a great drummer.
So this isn’t like a notice for him or anything..
No no, he’s been in the band for about four years. He’s done both of our records with us. He’s the Mêlée drummer.
Okay so we’ve established that Mike is in the band. That’s a good start.
I know this is a cliche question but I have to start out with a question about the band name because my friend and I keep a list of words that we love, and the word Melee happens to be on it. That’s what first attracted me to the band. So whats the story behind the name?
Well let me ask you, where did you find the word?
Like I said, we’re dorks so every time we hear a word we like we make a mental note and then any time we hear it anywhere we get really excited so melee is one of those words that they love to use to sensationalize things and they throw it into some random scenario where it really doesn’t fit especially on the news…like a sale at a store causing a real melee and I’m always like, that’s not a melee!
Right, a melee is like conquistadors!
In high school and junior high we were trying to come up with a band name and we just came up with lists and pages and pages of names. I was doing my homework and found the word in the dictionary and wrote it down. Then we came back and looked over everything we had and thought it sounded cool but then we thought, what if we were “Squirtgun Melee” like a squirtgun chaotic waterfight and we were like YEAH! Then a couple of weeks later we told our friend and he told us it was really stupid and that we should change it. So we dropped the squirtgun, kept the Mêlée, and it’s been that ever since.
There were a few years between your last release on an indie label and Devils and Angels on Warner Bros. records. How was the transition and do you feel you lost any of your vision by moving to a major label as we often here artists lament over? Were you worried about it or were you just psyched to be signed to a major label?
Part of it was us being naive and thinking alright we’re a band, we need to get signed to a major label. That’s kind of changed over the years but its always been our goal as long as we could be happy with it. There were a couple of labels that showed interest and we really took it all into consideration. We found out that Warner Bros. was really cool about things that mattered to us. I think that a lot of bands are signed and if they don’t sell a ton of records their first week the label thinks they need to be dropped but Warner Bros. understands that it’s a slow process, we’re not huge, we don’t have a huge fan base yet so they know our first week record sales are going to reflect that and it’s a growing process. That’s one thing we liked about Warner Bros. Obviously you make compromises but I think they want us to do well and we want to do well.
You didn’t compromise so much that it changed who you were as a band or anything..
Exactly. The compromises come with things like the order of songs on the album. You have to meet in the middle. We haven’t changed our outlook on life or our beliefs or how we want to write music. We still do what we’ve wanted to do since day one. We’ve always been about music first, the songs first, making sure that we don’t alienate our fans but that we also don’t limit ourselves with what we do creatively. There’s so much that we all love about music that we don’t want to do just one thing.
I know this question is played out and I’ve read about it everywhere but you worked with Howard Benson on this album and Chris, you had some problems with him at first because you’re a piano guy – but Howard actually played piano so it ended up working out well?
He’s actually a big piano guy.
I think my biggest concern with that was just that these songs mean so much to me that I want to make sure that they are portrayed the way I want them to be. I was being stubborn and I think that works both for me and against me sometimes. I was being stubborn thinking that there was no way he was going to get our stuff just looking at what he’s done in the past. The thing is, he’s done a great job with a lot of records, he’s taken bands that haven’t been very great bands and he’s made them sound excellent. He’s really talented. He just got it. He got what we were trying to do and I ended up getting along with him really well.
So we saw you yesterday at Bamboozle, and you’ve done Warped tour in the past…but in my mind, I don’t see you as a band that would share the stage with the bands that play Bam and Warped. Do you think those kinds of shows are limiting you in anyway? Do you feel pressure to go out there and win over people who may not necessarily get what you’re all about? (And for the record, we sat through two full days of Bam and Melee was by far our favorite performance)
I feel like it’s been important because those kids like music too and it’s been a good thing that we’ve grown up through that whole scene. We’ve always played with hardcore, punk rock or ska bands when ska was big. I think what we’ve taken from that is the energy from that and the upbeatness of that and I do agree, I think we need to be playing with other bands. At the same time, I think it’s good that we’ve experienced the other side as well. The fans that we make from that are going to stick with us. We’re not going to take everyone from the Warped tour because we’re not that way, we’re not Fall Out Boy, nothing against them, we’re just different styles of music.
When we were driving home yesterday we were talking about it, and we thought that Maroon 5 would be a great tour for you to be on. I think that audience would totally get what you’re doing and love it.
I think if we went on tour with Maroon 5 that would be great, Fountains of Wayne, Snow Patrol, any of those kinds of bands. And those are really all the bands that we listen to. Bands that seem to focus more on their songwriting.
There are two videos for the song Built to Last, one that I assume is the “official one” and one that you shot yourself…and the one you shot yourself I think really captures the essence of the song…(go figure)..the beginning actually gave me goosebumps..so why not something like that concept for the “official” video?
They are both actually unofficial ones.
Well, I just want to put my vote in for the un-unoffical one. I think that should be the video.
We did that first one over the course of a whole tour and we had tons and tons of footage.
Were those just random people you walked up to?
Yeah before we got kicked out of the mall with the video camera. Part of our reason for doing another one was that we didn’t get release forms because it was such a guerrilla video. Actually we’re doing an “official”official video for it, a real video with an actual budget. We’re flying home in two days to shoot that. We’re really stoked about this video.
It’s actually like the first one but it will be us walking around the city where there are scenes from famous love stories playing all around us. It will be cool, we’re excited about it.
Built To Last – AWESOME VERSION!
Everyone always seems to ask about Ricky and Chris butting heads during the writing process, which I think is funny because, who would want it any other way right? Obviously the difference between you helps write a better song….so what I’m wondering was, was there ever a time when you couldn’t work out the differences and left a song shelved because of it or is it up to Ryan and Mike to save the day?
Yeah, Ryan is our “that’s stupid” guy.
I’m like the negative guy.
I think it’s important though because Rick and I sometimes just go crazy on a song to the point where we have no objectivity anymore so we throw it to Ryan.
Or if they say I don’t know what I’m talking about, at least they know now that it’s something they believe in more than they want to listen to me. Or if it’s something I’m into that they don’t like and I’m like “Are you kidding me, this is good, don’t throw this away” then we usually keep it.
If Rick and I didn’t butt heads with this, we’d settle for a lot less. There are times when it’s just like “RICK NO!” or “CHRIS SHUT UP” but then we get done with it, we record the song and it’s like “CHEERS MAN” and we feel like we did a good job.
They’re both very particular. Chris is into everything, every style of music, every decade. Rick is usually only into about four or five different artists at a particular time. That’s one of the main differences between the two. That’s what makes it so much more interesting when it all comes together.
What’s your songwriting environment? Is it just, any time you are inspired? If you happen to drive by something in the van and it gives you an idea do you bust it out right then? I always wonder how great songwriters remember all of their great ideas…
It changes. You’ve got to write bad songs to write good songs. You have to put in the time. I think the biggest thing is just sitting down to do it, even if you don’t come up with anything. I’ll sit down at my piano for a few hours. Sometimes I’ll get an idea and it will come out in fifteen minutes, it will just pour out and I’ll record a demo. It just doesn’t write itself if you don’t sit down and do it.
And what about when you’re out on the road?
I have GarageBand on my computer and some portable recording devices. I have folders and files full of ideas and little ten seconds snippets of songs. Sometimes we’ll take pieces from all over and put it together and it fits.
I want to start off by saying that Devils and Angels is currently my favorite album and I’d go so far to say that it’s the best album of the year…with that in mind, I sometimes find music reviews laughable because who is really qualified to review music? So what I want to know is…Do you read your album reviews? And if so, what kind of affect do good/bad reviews have on you?
There are some crappy reviews out there.
There were some good ones and then I read one from the Notre Dame school newspaper and it was a really bad review.
I usually have pretty thick skin and can laugh about bad reviews but I read that one and I kept thinking bout it for like a week straight and thinking, “man, that sucks” I don’t want to be “just a pop band”.
You’re definitely not just a pop band.
I’m happy making the music we’re making and our fans are happy that’s what it’s about it’s not about being brooding and appealing to one person in a dark corner.
Talking about that though, a lot of the songs do have an uplifting sound but the lyrics aren’t exactly upbeat.
There are times when we’ve had bad relationships and things went wrong and we don’t dismiss that. I like writing tongue and cheek things sometimes. On the other hand Biggest Mistake is an example of a song that doesn’t take itself seriously at all. The lyrics are cheesy, I’ll admit it, but they were written to be cheesy, they weren’t written to be serious. We were just having fun with it.
Most of the songs on the album are admittedly about people your age living in America as we know it…whether it be about trying to find a job, natural tragedies like Katrina, dying too young or dealing with death, or the old faithful crazy ex-girlfriends. It’s almost like a living biography of your lives. With that in mind for each of you, what is your favorite song on Devils and Angels and what is your favorite song to play live…
I think Stand Up is both of those for me. It’s got a cool beat courtesy of Michael Nader and it’s a fun song to play and I really like the lyrics.
I really like playing Imitation, I really like the melody, it’s one of my favorites off of the record. It reminds me of Huey Lewis. Imitation and You’ve Got are really fun to play live and Biggest Mistake is fun to play live…Stand Up too..
I read somewhere that the Hall and Oates cover on the album was recorded for a soundtrack, what soundtrack was it?
Not really sure, it might be on a soundtrack. That’s an example of a compromise with the label. That wasn’t really our idea.
I don’t need to talk about it.
We like the song, obviously we appreciate good pop music.
Is someone in the band responsible for all of the amazing artwork on the album cover and your merchandise? I literally want to frame the album cover and hang it on my wall. The colors are infectious.
We were toying with ideas and different things for ideas and the album name. When we came up with the idea of Devils and Angels which is one of the songs on the record we liked the duality of it. We thought devils and angels evokes a religious vibe and we wondered what we could do with that and we though of stained glass and gothic churches. We had a meeting with the art department and Frank, a really talented guy, hit us back with the design and it was the first thing that he showed us. The fact that it was the first thing and we liked it so much was crazy. We wanted something vibrant.
Okay, can you each tell me one random not so well known fact about each other..that you won’t get beat up for telling us?
Ryan’s whole family is famous. He has three famous surfer cousins and two famous music director cousins.
Is one of them directing your video?
Yep, got the hook up yo. He did two of our videos before this back when we didn’t have a budget so it’s cool now to work with him. They did our first two for free so its cool to be able to give them a budget to work with.
You have your own YouTube channel where you release weekly videos to your fans (although, you’re slacking lately.) That brings me to the question I always like to ask bands, how do you feel modern technology has changed the path and career success of bands as far as that instant fix and being able to reach out to fans in so many different new ways than bands of the past – myspace, youtube, downloadable music, etc.
I think it’s amazing and it’s cool that you can get in touch with that many people and I think it’s definitely helped a lot. If you do it right it can really make an impact. But there’s a little bit of loss of personal touch with it. When you write fan mail or when you receive letters back from people you can see that they wrote it or signed it. Nothing will replace being at a show and talking to the musicians. Technology is great but it will never do what being at a show will do. But it’s great because we can make our videos and throw them up there for everyone and we can tell so many more people what’s going on with us.
Do you have plans for what you’re going to be doing when this tour ends?
We’re going on tour with Bowling for Soup. We’ll be playing the States, England for two shows, the Wireless festival and hopefully Japan in October.
Have you ever played in Japan?
No Never but our record is doing well. We were number seven on the import charts.
Last question…what was the first album you ever purchased for yourself.
I know what mine is. (As he hangs his head in shame).
Is it weird Al because for some reason half of the musicians we ask this question to answer Weird Al.
It probably was Weird Al.
I bought a John Secada record. I had no idea. He was before Enrique Iglesias but way more appealing to forty year old women. Here I am an eleven year old boy buying my John Secada cd.
Mine was either Weird Al or a movie soundtrack, it might have been Weird Al’s greatest hits.
What’s with all musicians loving Weird Al?
He’s amazingly talented.
Rick and I watched UHF countless times and we had all of his albums. It’s something we grew up with.
I think because it’s the whole dream of actually making it Weird Al covering one of your songs.
Now being musicians you really appreciate what he does.
Isn’t it funny that he’s covered all these songs and now some of the bands are nowhere to be found but Weird All just keeps on keepin on.
Every time he does a parody, the band he’s making fun of sells more records than they did already.
One man is solely keeping the industry alive…
Live Photos of Mêlée taken by TWRY Staff: