MELLONOVA CD release with A Northern Chorus and DJ Davy Love at the Tranzac Club (292 Brunswick), Friday (May 3). $7. 416-923-8137.
Sure, local space-rock foursome Mellonova play swirly dream-pop songs, but don't lump them in with the legions of shoegazer bands clogging the indie scene. These boys look beyond their navels.
Tossing back pints in the smoky back of Squirly's on a gloomy grey afternoon, long-time pals Michael Brennan, Andrew Roberts, Harley Paul and Matt Cromarty look more like snowboard dudes than the emo sweater boys the My Bloody Valentine comparisons would suggest. It's not entirely surprising, since they're born and bred West Coasters.
They've come back from the UK after butting heads with their Brit manager when the company's "vision" for the band didn't mesh with their own. They admire fellow Canucks Godspeed for their artistic integrity, and claim they covet a similar career, in which they could avoid "being pretty boys for some major label."
But then there are flashes of their crunchy-granola British Columbia roots. Singer-guitarist Brennan, for instance, has a flaky tendency to perform sans shoes.
"It's part of our earthy BC background," he laughs sheepishly. "I like to have that grounded, organic feeling when I play. Not to sound all hippie-dippie or anything -- there's just something really freeing about it. I'm not a nudist either, but a lack of clothing can be a lot more comfortable, too."
Bassist Roberts interjects, "Really it's just so he can suck up all the beer on the Lee's Palace stage through osmosis."
Mellonova maintain an admirable balance between out-there and down-to-earth. The tunes on their new Slightly Happy disc are well-constructed, with fuzzed-out guitar riffs bolstered by intricate bass lines and complex drum parts. Beneath the echoey chords and effects pedals, the songs are built on hooky cores that make them accessible and even danceable.
The overall effect is of pop songs given the Frankenstein treatment -- stripped down to their basic components and stitched back together to create unexpected, monstrously good, new life forms. You can see why The head of local experimental label Aporia signed them after hearing early mixes of their self-titled second EP.
Then there's the Buffy The Vampire Slayer factor.
The group's Buffy-obsessed buddy, a bassist in a Boston band, included Hideeho, the lead track of their self-titled EP, on an indie compilation that he sent to Miz Vampire Slayer herself. She passed it on to the music editor, and the tune ended up on the soundtrack.
"It was right about the time when we were thinking about making a new record, and Matt got a phone call from 20th Century Fox," recalls Roberts. "It ended up in a party scene, when Buffy was slow-dancing with her vampire boyfriend. Very Stairway to Heaven.
"I didn't feel great about it, but when I saw the episode I was ecstatic 'cause you couldn't really hear the song. Luckily, nobody's slagged us for selling out yet!"
Brennan admits to having studied jazz guitar, which he says gave him a good musical foundation, but he warns that "They always tell you to forget everything you've learned."
Or don't bother learning anything.
Roberts explains, "(Producer) Rudy Rempel put all our names into a hat, and the names of random instruments into another. None of us had played any of them before, and they sounded terrible, but he worked his magic.
"We were in hysterics when we went back and listened to the original takes -- like, with the accordion really high in the mix. It sounds good on the record, though, and we pretend that's what we intended all along."