Meltt Discusses Their Influences and Creative Process
Back at Treefort Music Festival in March, we had the opportunity to sit down with five amazing bands and artists. After a month of making sure the audio recordings were transcribed properly, we have finally started to release these interviews into the world! Check out our interview with NNAMDÏ, and be on the lookout for the other three to come soon.
This time, we’re publishing our interview with the Canadian alternative psych-rock band Meltt! We were able to sit down with Chris, Jamie, James, and Ian to discuss their creative influences and the process of recording their upcoming album. Due to some technical glitches, all of the answers have been ascribed to Meltt as a collective, but Chris, Jamie, James, and Ian all have their individual voices shine through.
A: Starting things off, how are you guys doing today?
M: We’re good! Yeah, it’s been sweet. Enjoying the festival so far. We’ve been hanging out in Boise for two days now. Got in on Wednesday.
A: Sweet! And you’re in from Vancouver?
M: We’ve actually been on tour for a bit! Originally from Vancouver though, yeah.
A: Where were you before this?
M: Right before this, we were in Salt Lake City. So we went down from Vancouver to Seattle, then Portland, Sacramento, San Fran, LA, Phoenix, Tucson, then SouthBy.
A: Oooooooooooh so you did that route, that’s cool!
M: Yeah, this is like the last three-and-a-half weeks, just over three weeks.
A: And how are you feeling before the two shows you’re playing here at Treefort?
M: Pretty good! Yeah, we’re feeling great. It’s been a really solid run of shows, so we’re excited to finish it off in Boise. We love this city. We’re playing new songs, and now they feel dialed, which is good after all the other tour dates. At the end of tour we always feel pretty dialed, so that’s the best. And we got some rest, too. It’s a bit tiring at some points, but we’ve been able to rest here, so we’re feeling pretty good.
A: Nice! So for those who might not know, tell a little bit about yourselves and the band’s history. How did Meltt get started?
M: It was probably like… 2014 or so. [James], Chris, and Jamie played in a cover band in high school, and then we went off to different universities, started sending demos back and forth, and decided we wanted to try to do this more. So we switched out of university, came back to Vancouver, and then since then, we’ve just been recording and releasing stuff. We had an EP in 2014 that we uh… We didn’t really stand by it, so we took it down. [laughs] And then we had one in 2017, “Visions,” and then our album Swim Slowly in 2019, and here we are. We’ve known each other for a long time. All childhood friends. We all went to elementary school together, all from the same proximity.
A: That’s super dope. How would you say growing up in Vancouver altered or shaped your approach to music?
M: We don’t feel a direct geographical connection to what we’ve made, necessarily. It’s more about the influences, which are from all over the world, that really kind of shaped what we do musically. Lyrically, there are a lot of themes of nature and the ocean and the forest — being near the ocean is a big thing. That’s definitely a huge influence on us, we have a lot of themes of water and nature. Our visual images are definitely influenced by where we live, because we’re right in the proximity of mountains, oceans, hiking, skiing, camping, kayaking, all that stuff. Puts things into perspective. Good point musically, though. There’s no end of great artists in Vancouver, but for what we do, we don’t know if there’s been a super direct Vancouver connection.
A: Who would you say your biggest influences were? Starting out and right now?
M: Starting out, especially Glass Animals’ ZABA album. That was a huge one. Lonerism, Tame Impala, Currents. Those are huge ones for us. Holy Fire from Foals, that was a huge, mind-blowing one. And we all started back when we were really young, before we did Meltt, we were in a cover band of like the classic rock stuff that our parents liked, big on Led Zeppelin originally. The Beatles. That’s a pretty enduring influence, The Beatles. Still one of [Chris’s] top artists last year, so. He has an annual obsession with The Beatles still, every year. They keep doing these reissues, so it keeps bringing it back up, and the documentaries. The Get Back documentary got us back in again.
A: I still haven’t seen Get Back, but Eight Days A Week was — I remember when that came out.
M: That’s the touring one, yeah?
M: Guess that’s [Chris’s] 2023 obsession coming in. [laughs]
A: What is your creative process like? Are you bringing stuff in individually, are you all collectively working together? What does that look like for Meltt?
M: The most recent album and EP, we made a lot of stuff alone during the pandemic, most of it anyway. And we got together for a full month, rented this cabin out in the middle of nowhere, on a lakefront in B.C., then we shared all of our stuff, took notes, and pinned down things we thought were worth investigating, then we played them out together in the room, finished parts together, added parts together. Structuring songs and figuring out vocal melodies was the main thing. We had a huge batch of demos, so we decided some were further along than others, and worked on those. Some stuff, Chris would bring in a demo, and another one of us would be like “Oh, that’s an awesome verse, let’s take some time alone, put a chorus to it, bring it back to the guys and work on it from there.” Melody is another big thing we all kind of work on together. There was one time at the cabin there where three of us were like… We spent maybe a full day just trying to get melodies for that song, and nothing was working, then we tried this three-part harmony thing that, in the moment, felt amazing, but we went back to it like a few hours later and it was just trash. [laughs] It was a bit of a different process with this [upcoming album] than the last one, cause this one was over COVID and we were isolating, so a lot more individual demos happened. With Swim Slowly, there were a bunch of songs that were pretty much just room jams. Like “Deeper Water,” “Watch Over Me,” and “On Your Own” started as a little riff that James had, but a lot of it was worked out in the room with us just working through it. This one’s a little more demo-based than that, but then we … kinda just did so much that one month in the cabin together to really pin it down. But it definitely varies a lot.
A: Let’s actually talk about that new album, then. What is the number one thing you want people to take away from the new album?
M: We’re not quite in album mode yet. [laughs] Our intention with is was more like… make a wider soundscape, more colorful, more varied, a brighter sound palette. Swim Slowly was a little bit darker, a little bit more contemplative and melancholic, and this one’s a little brighter, a little happier, upbeat, more dance-y stuff. A lot more synth-y kind of, pop. Lyrically, though, we would’t necessarily say it’s more upbeat. In terms of intention there, it’s a lot of dealing with grief, but then a lot of other relationship type stuff as well. There’s variants. Try to make the most out of your life and the time you have, stuff like that. Get the most out of your life. Swim Slowly had those kinds of themes as well, but both albums, what connects them in like a general idea, when it comes to the grieving process, when it comes to contemplating the big themes, the general message would be of positivity and making the most of it and getting through it, coming through better and more positive, kind of living your life through the bad moments and appreciating the good moments, and gaining positivity from negative experiences. That’s kind of a running theme in most of the music we’ve done.
A: That’s awesome, I love that. Now, I know I asked about influences earlier, this one’s a bit different: who or what is your biggest muse at the moment?
M: We probably all have different answers. Nature is a pretty constant one, that’s always reflected in what we do, and then… that’s a good group answer. [chuckles] We all draw from our own personal relationships and things going on with our families, it’s very like… there’ll be a lot of metaphor in our lyrics, but it’s very personal a lot of the time. Just using metaphor as a way to express that. Some of the books and stuff [Ian] reads affect his approach to songwriting. A recent example would be Cormac McCarthy, one of [Ian’s] favorite authors, James likes him a lot, too. He had a book that came out recently that really aligned with a lot of the stuff [Ian] was going for in the songwriting on this upcoming album. So that was cool. We’re also inspired by cinema, very much finding visuals a useful way to figure stuff out. Pulling from all different arts.
A: I absolutely love that answer, I’m the same way in my creative practice.
M: Yeah, they all kind of interweave together, there’s no disconnection between any of them. The last few months, [Chris] has been inspired by seeing some crazy good shows. He went to Desert Daze festival and saw some amazing stuff there.
A: Did he see Lonerism performed in its entirety?
M: Of course. [laughs] Quite a journey, that show, it was unbelievable. And then he also saw Tycho do a ten-year anniversary show for Dive, which was unbelievable as well. Two anniversary shows for these formative records for us. So just seeing those, visually, sonically, was just unbelievable. So it kinda motivates us to up our game for the live show. This is the first time we’ve introduced visual stuff to our shows.
A: How have you played with visuals in the past?
M: Never have, but we started making stuff for it two months ago.
A: I’m very excited to see what it looks like, then!
M: We won’t be able to do it at these festival slots because there’s no way to structure the time to set it up, but if you come to a standalone Meltt show, you’ll see it.
A: That’s fair. [laughs] We’ve been talking a lot about process: how do you contend with audience expectations? Do you contend with audience expectations?
M: We don’t know what their expectations are. [laughs] We don’t really think about that. The best thing you can do to serve your audience is to not think about pleasing any of their expectations, because they liked what you made when you weren’t thinking about it, so probably just continue not thinking about it. [laughs] Also just do a show that you would like. If you enjoy it, that’s kind of all you can do. The only way when we’d be actively thinking about it would be when we’re putting a setlist together. For live, we do kind of think about that. Choosing songs, choosing what songs to include, that’s sometimes would go into… maybe there’s a song that’s quite popular that we might not want to play as much, but we’ll include it. That’s probably the only time we’d say we manage expectations like that.
A: I was thinking about both on record and live, so that’s —
M: Yeah, for on record, we don’t really take it into account, but for live, we definitely want to give people the best show. So we’re definitely thinking about the audience in that setting.
A: That makes a lot of sense. What are you guys listening to right now?
M: [James] the past two years, he’s just been obsessed with Dope Lemon.
A: We know we’ve got The Beatles over with Chris.
M: [laughs] [Ian] has been getting obsessed with folk music and stuff lately, so Townes Van Zandt has been a huge one for him. Very unrelated to Meltt. [laughs] [Jamie] was listening to the new Foals record last year. This year is nothing too specific, but a lot of Glass Animals last year as well. Those two were big. And we definitely want to throw in this band Loving, from B.C. as well. We love their stuff. They’re like a lo-fi psych-folk kinda thing. It’s beautiful. Nothing like our music, but we love it.
A: Cool! And I guess really I just have one final question: how can we as an audience, we as a publication, we as a community: how can we best support Meltt?
M: Come to shows is always the number one. Showing your friends, actually, is probably the biggest one. For publication, really anything to get the word out, write reviews, be honest about it. We welcome all reviews. Grab a shirt, grab a record, come say hi. Be honest about the music, good and bad, because then people can read something and relate to it and really connect to it more, and really just anything to spread the word and get us out to more people.
A: Makes sense to me. Thank you so much, guys, really appreciate your time!
M: Thank you!
Be sure to check out Meltt’s debut album, Swim Slowly, below, and visit their website here for more information!