Artist Interview: Melody
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Melody wants you to know that teen feelings are beautiful. “I feel like because we feel so deeply at this time, we’re kind of just written off as hormonal or emotional,” the 16-year-old songwriter told me over the phone. “But I think it’s actually really a beautiful thing to have so much passion.” Her jangly indie pop hits this point home—it doesn’t shy away from the concerns of the everyday teen. Identity crises, growing pains, and emotional turbulence all roam the halls of Melody’s songs, narrated with a laid-back kind of honesty.
Yesterday, Melody announced that she would team up with Lauren Records to release her EP Teacher’s Pet on June 12th. It’s a wonderful collection of songs that range from infectious, happy-go-lucky rockers like the title track to slightly angstier cuts like “Hibernate,” which grumbles along with a low exasperation while Melody sings “block out the sun and everything underneath it.” Melody has been writing songs for as long as she can remember, and Teacher’s Pet reflects that natural inclination to process her experiences through music. These songs are as earnest as they are catchy.
Melody hopes that listeners will find something here to foster a real connection with, and I don’t think that’s a stretch. These concerns are universal, to an extent—we’re all feeling the stress of change, we’ve all felt an uncertainty that comes with understanding our place in our own little world. Still, Melody injects Teacher’s Pet with a healthy dose of her own perspective—“I hope that if they don’t relate, they get a piece of what it’s like to be an introverted, shy teenage girl.”
We talked to Melody about her new EP, her growth as a songwriter, and her love for story-based video games like Life is Strange. Check it out below, and you can also preorder Teacher’s Pet here.
The Alternative: So tell me a little bit about yourself, how would you introduce yourself and your music?
Melody: I live in Culver City, which is basically LA—it’s not a suburb but it’s not the big city, it’s a smaller city in LA. I guess I would say I’m an alternative or indie rock artist. I am a teenager, so a lot of my music is about that sort of thing. I want to show the world a teenage perspective. I mean, a lot of teenage perspectives are out there, but some of them don’t feel genuine. I want to show a weird and awkward time in a kind of beautiful way.
Can you tell me a little bit more about that teenage perspective?
I’m a pretty shy, introverted, creative person. In high school, it’s kind of hard to exist as that type of person. I feel like what every teenager goes through is kind of hard, growing up and things changing and relationships and school…it’s a really complicated time. I feel like because we feel so deeply at this time, we’re kind of just written off as hormonal or emotional. But I think it’s actually really a beautiful thing to have so much passion at this time. I want to channel that into something good and creative. I want to represent the awkwardness and weirdness in a cool way. I want to represent this weird time of figuring yourself out and going through normal things that are actually really hard.
Is there anything else about that experience that you think that people don’t understand?
A thing that I think people overlook is the loneliness aspect. I’m surrounded by a lot of people, I have friends or whatever, but I feel pretty lonely a lot of the time. Even sometimes with the things I like—I don’t have a lot of friends who like video games or stuff like that. I feel like being lonely without being alone is a thing that people overlook. A lot of teenagers feel like that and people will be like, “well you have a school full of people, go make friends!”
How long have you been writing songs?
Basically as long as I can remember. My dad is a musician, so I come from a creative family. Even when I was three years old, we had like a toy piano and even then I would be making up stuff. My dad’s publishing or copyright company or whatever is called “Donanelle” which is the first song that I ever wrote. It’s just a made-up word that I would sing and make into a song. As far back as I can remember I always wanted to be involved in music. But for writing real songs, I guess it started in middle school, like sixth or seventh grade. It never was a question, I always just did it.
What kind of music does your dad make?
In the ‘90s, he was in a…I think it was a pretty popular punk band called Gameface. But now he does more like folksy/indie/alternative stuff. And we play a lot of music together. Like if I have a verse and a chorus and I don’t know what to do next, I’ll play it for him and we’ll bounce ideas off of each other. It’s pretty fun, I’m definitely lucky to have that.
Since you’ve been writing songs for a really long time now, has anything changed in the way you write songs?
I guess everything—I’ve changed a lot as a person in general. My songwriting changes as my perspective does. I went through my emo phase in middle school, so it was definitely more about trying to be angsty when I actually really wasn’t. That definitely changed because now I’m more “authentic” about it. My taste in music has changed, so the type of music that I want to pursue is a little different.
Tell me a little more about the “emo phase,” what kinds of bands did you like?
I still love it! In middle school, I was more about bands like Twenty One Pilots, My Chemical Romance—that type of thing. But then later I started to get into what my dad calls “real” emo which is more like pop-punk or like…I’m actually really into a lot of the bands on Lauren Records which is super cool! Stuff like that. I was also really into Waterparks and Green Day and Panic! at the Disco. I still love them, but I’m not super in that anymore. I had a total emo haircut [laughs].
What kinds of artists do you gravitate toward now?
Now I’m more into Snail Mail, Elliott Smith, Declan McKenna, Phoebe Bridgers, and all the other stuff that Phoebe Bridgers did like Better Oblivion Community Center.
What was it like writing and recording your new EP?
It was so fun! It was just me, the producer/engineer, and my dad. I would do most of the work and have most of the ideas, but they would be there if I needed help with something. I also don’t play bass or drums, so the engineer/producer played those. It was really cool to do a full band kind of sound. I play guitar and piano, so usually I just play those by myself, but it was super cool to be able to hear the drums and everything with it.
The EP and your single are called “Teacher’s Pet.” What’s the idea behind being a teacher’s pet?
It’s more of a metaphor for any sort of label or stereotype that you give yourself or other people give you and you feel like you have to stick to. For me, in my personal experience, I’ve always been kind of a good student. I always make friends with my teachers and I love schoolwork…well, I don’t love schoolwork, but I’m a good student. I’ve had an experience where I don’t always connect so much with kids my age. In my eighth grade year, my English teacher became one of my best friends. I went to her wedding—it was a whole thing. The other kids at school, they were like, “why are you so close with your English teacher?” They would throw shade or whatever. But the song is really about feeling confidence in being whatever you want to be.
What other kinds of themes were you thinking about while writing these songs?
“Hibernate” started out to be kind of political—I just felt really frustrated, especially being a teenager, feeling like you can’t really “do anything.” That’s the chorus, but I kind of just started to add other angry feelings. It’s the angry song. Then “Room 111” is about that teacher who I told you about. That all happened in eighth grade, and then, you know, I had to go to high school. So it was really hard to have such a familiar environment and then feel like I had to go into this new daunting place. It’s about finally finding somewhere that feels like home and then having to leave.
You talked about “Hibernate” being political, do you have any thoughts about what’s going on right now, politically?
Right now, it’s just frustrating. You see people protesting the stay at home stuff and this whole administration is just not taking this seriously enough. People are saying the economic health of America is more important than the public health and that’s just really frustrating.
“Hibernate” is one of my favorites on the EP, it’s got that razor-sharp synthesizer on it. Did you like getting to incorporate different elements like that in the studio?
It was so fun! I knew I wanted to do a synthesizer for that song because I wanted it to be really intense and big and more than it was with just the guitar. But I didn’t know exactly what I wanted, so we just kind of sat down and messed around with it, and when we found it, we were just like, “yeah, that’s cool.” I wanted to do things like that because I only have Garageband at home and you can do a lot with it, but it was really fun to play around with the actual tools in the studio.
Do you hope to get to do more shows once all of this is over?
Oh totally. It’s one of my biggest fears, but I know that I have to overcome that and it’s going to be really rewarding once I do. I’m hoping to do some stuff soon.
I heard that you’re into video games, can you tell me a little about that?
A year and a half ago, I played a game called Life is Strange. It basically took over my life. It’s totally in a teenage-girl-obsessive way. But I’m so okay with that. It’s story-based/player-choice stuff and it’s really aesthetically pleasing and cinematic and the story is really rich. It’s basically an interactive movie. Any game like that, I just love. Life is Strange 1 and 2, What Remains of Edith Finch, Detroit: Become Human, The Unfinished Swan. I have posters in my room, it’s a whole other obsession. I can go on forever about them. And I love the soundtracks—my dream job is to be a score composer for video games and movies.
What do you hope that people will take away from listening to Teacher’s Pet?
I hope that most people can feel the way that I feel about other artists. I hope people can find themselves in the lyrics, even if it’s just a line or one song. I also hope that if they don’t relate, that they get a piece of what it’s like to be an introverted, shy teenage girl. I hope they can have a little bit more understanding of my experience and a lot of people’s experience.
The same reason that I love video games is the reason I love music. It’s a way, not to escape, but to immerse yourself in another thing that’s not just your life. I love getting lost in fictional universes and these songs and these artists’ perspectives. I hope that people can feel that from my music—I hope it builds a universe that brings them comfort.
Teacher’s Pet is out June 12th on Lauren Records.
Jordan Walsh | @jordalsh
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