Melody Prochet rapidly became Crack’s new sweetheart last autumn.
Under nom de plume Melody’s Echo Chamber, the Parisian won us over with her magnificently dreamy, self-titled debut album. We met up with her at Cargo and tried not to swoon too much.
The East London haunt is buzzing, packed to the rafters, or arches anyway; London is ready to welcome the new enfant on the block. We last saw Melody’s Echo Chamber at this very same venue a few months back, when we were given a rather shy performance from our girl, who barely peeked out from under her fringe as she supported her pals, Aussie rockers Pond. Tonight’s show couldn’t be further removed. We saw an artist in her stride, vocals perfectly on point as she danced hard, charming the crowd like a pro.
Cut to a few hours earlier and Melody arrives fresh from Maida Vale Studios where she recorded a session for BBC 6 Music. She is every inch the gorgeous, sweet-natured, vaguely bohemian, denim-clad young woman you’d expect, as she sits sipping on a ginger ale. Today – the afternoon before her first ever show as a headline act – she is a little nervous. Quite thrilled, but a little nervous. “It’s going to be really special for me emotionally, so I am really excited” she admits, before conceding that the show “might be a bit short.” That is more than understandable seeing as she’s armed with just a forty-five minute debut album and a wonderful rendition of Jane Birkin’s Jane B. It’s hardly surprising that she’s in the flow of owning a stage; Melody’s been touring relentlessly these past few months, supporting The Ravonettes around the States and more recently back in Europe, playing at Paradiso Festival in Amsterdam as well as the opening party of the excellent Pitchfork Festival in Paris.
As she continues to sneak her way towards the top of line-ups, does she find herself preferring supporting roles? “The thing is, being the support band is really sweet”, she tells us. “You don’t have that much pressure, you just have fun, if shit happens people don’t have high expectations so it’s cool. But I guess I’m really excited about it being the first time people come to see us having heard the record. It’s never happened to me before so I’m really looking forward to it.” The record in question was released on Weird World Records in October; a beautifully textured, playful, moving piece of work. Some people are hooked in by the intrigue of a production credit for Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker, but not us. There’s simply something magical about this album, and something magical about Melody. It’s an album of juxtapositions: bold but delicate, childlike but serious, sang in both English and French. She confesses that in earlier musical lives (such as previous band My Bee’s Garden) she preferred to sing in English than her mother tongue “just, kind of, to hide things I want to say to people that are around. It’s a subconscious thing. It’s my secret. It’s so personal. Everyone’s got a dark side, hey? All your things you don’t even tell yourself, your flaws. It’s intriguing.”
We find Melody to be incredibly modest, becoming quite shy and fidgety when talking about herself, but she glows with enthusiasm when speaking about music. As she tells us of her current loves, she practically brims over. “Recently I fell in love with Selda Bagcan, who is this Turkish singer who sang traditional songs in the 70s with a really psychedelic band. It’s the craziest music ever, and she sings in this oriental way and it’s so emotional”. She goes on to reveal her firm favourites are “obviously Kazu Makino from Blonde Redhead and Trish Keenan from Broadcast.” She dreams of working with Geoff Barrow of Portishead one day – “I want this next record to be extreme and have some darkness. He’s really good at this intense darkness” – and Johnny Greenwood is her hero. “He plays viola too, he’s a genius! And he’s a fan of one of my heroes as well, the composer Olivier Messiaen, he’s so cool.” Which brings us nicely to another huge element of the Melody appeal; as a classically trained viola player, it seems that music is in her blood. Like her heroes Greenwood and Messiaen, Prochet has crochets for DNA.
Growing up in the South of France, the young Melody was musical even as a tot. “I was really young, like five, and I went to this music kindergarden. I had a report that said ‘Melody has something good’, and my mum showed this to me and said ‘see, you already had it when you were a kid.’” She later took up the viola. “I wanted to play cello, but my mum didn’t have a car, she drives a scooter. I didn’t like the violin, it’s too high. I started with piano and my piano teacher was this young music student. Her mum and her dad were viola teachers and they never had students because viola is not really popular. But it’s so beautiful and warm, and in orchestras there’s no one playing viola and they need them. They said I could always find work if I want, so they recruited me.” We ask what sort of an impact this had on the composition of her album. “I don’t really know”, she considers. “I write in arpeggios, a really classical way of writing. I think it kind of helped me to have a vision of arrangements, because I really know what I want, what elements I want in songs and I think that’s an orchestral way of arranging.” On that note, she tells us that she has started practicing again. “I want to do my arrangements on my next record so I’m practicing. It’s like a bicycle. But I got worse, I’m not that great anymore. It would be really satisfying. I feel like an imposter sometimes because I don’t play everything.” When we point out that she really shouldn’t beat herself up about that fact, she quickly rebuts that her producer Kevin Parker does all his own arrangements. So is the Aussie whizz kid a factor in Melody’s picking up the viola again? “When you stay with a bunch of creative and amazing musicians, it motivates you to try harder and be more creative yourself.”
There is of course the other Parker factor: the question of whether or not he is Mr Melody, the other half. We refrain from interrogating her on her love life, which she more than appreciates. But she is happy to discuss their working relationship. Does his seemingly laid back demeanour translate to the studio? “He’s really soothing, he’s never judgemental. He’s a real guru, he’s got this vision”, she fawns. “It’s been so fun, and what I liked is he would never force the working. When it starts to bore him he stops. So it’s never an effort. It’s just fun.” Sounds pretty idyllic to us. Melody agrees. “I really liked this approach. It shouldn’t be torture to make music. Some people are so tortured, which makes for some beautiful songs, and I used to do that. But it’s just not healthy. I like dark music as much as light, but you need the right balance.”
The album certainly feels balanced. It is distinctly French in many ways: her tempos and harmonies bring to mind scenes of cycling around the cobbled alleyways of a romanticised Paris. But it also has a wonderful sun-drenched, heat-hazed quality. It makes sense, then, that she wrote and recorded some songs out in Perth – in Kevin Parker’s studio, in fact, which Melody describes fondly as a “glorious mess”. Her stories of being left alone to experiment bring smiles to her face as she tells us: “For one week Kevin was on tour and he had left all these little notes. Really cute post-its with how everything worked. So he left that morning and his room mate came to use his studio and messed up all the notes, and I had a week there without knowing how to use it. So I just plugged a guitar in, right into the pre-amp, and wrote Some Time Alone and played all the guitars on it really badly. In the end we kept all the guitars because it was wrong technically but uniquely textured.” She enjoyed the Perth way of life so much that she’s toying with the idea of moving there, or perhaps the warmer climes of LA. Particularly now that her Grandparents’ family home in the small south coast town of Cavaliere, where she recorded much of the album, has been sold. “I knew for a few years it was for sale and when I decided to record, knowing it was the end, I had to record there. I think emotionally I have something special there, and my grandmother passed away in the garden there ten years ago and I feel her spirit there and … I don’t know, it has kind ghosts. I was really emotional when I sung there.” Does she see herself moving back to the countryside? “Yeah, I mean the city is quite oppressive. I live in a flat in Paris, and going to Australia there’s so much space for your soul to breathe. I actually have to move out of my place in December, so it’s good. I like change. I like movement. I like collision. I don’t like routine, that’s for sure.”
There’s no routine to her album. It takes you on a journey full of surprises. We refer particularly to the ‘hidden’ track Isthatwhatyousaid, which, as track nine, is not actually hidden in the literal sense, but is presented to the listener backwards and at a faster speed. As we expected, there’s a solid reason behind this caper, as Melody explains. “We didn’t even have time to finish this song, we were limited in time and we had more songs, like two or three hours of songs that for me were really cool but were just not finished. This one we played with, we put it through filters, backwards and it sounded cooler. I like this idea that it was a secret that somebody could find. My only friend that found out about it was Chris Taylor from Grizzly Bear, and the first thing he told me was “I pitched it back, I slowed it down.” It was funny.” Chris Taylor is not the only tech nerd who restored the track though. Before the album was even released it appeared on YouTube, back at the speed and in the direction that it had been originally, roughly recorded. But Melody’s not phased by fans toying with her work. On the contrary, she smiles. “I like that. That’s really cool. You have to be a nerd, we were pretty nerdy sometimes. I’m really glad it’s on YouTube. I didn’t think someone would do it so early.”
Melody is happy to admit she does have a favourite track on the album. Hers is Bisous Magique, “because it all came to me at the same time; the melody, the production, and it was really quite magical. It never happened to me before. Usually I start with a melody then some chords I work on, and then lyrics later.” We tell her that ours is Be Proud of Your Kids, a darling way to close the album. It has a lovely story behind it. The little girl speaking over the song and vocals is Zelda, who Melody babysat for. “I used to bring her to her first guitar classes. It was really weird because I would sit and wait for her the way my mum would wait for me when I first started music classes. I felt really emotional at the time. I miss her. She was always tripping, kids have this amazing sense of imagination, it’s a shame we lose that. You know, when you see a kid on their own, on a beach, having this whole adventure. And they sing and they tell stories. Where does that go? When do we lose it?” We might suggest that Melody hasn’t. There is a childlike wonder about her world. She speaks her mind. She is spirited and sincere. When we point out that Quand Vas Tu Rentrer sounds like a nursery rhyme, Melody laughs but makes it quite clear – this is not supposed to be a ‘childish’ album. We return to laughing about tiny Zelda’s crass playground number: “she was singing this really weird song she learnt at school which was the most vulgar thing. I had a really big laugh and asked her to do it again and I recorded her, and at the end she says this really funny thing: “I announce to you that the radio is over.” So the record ends like that.”
And our interview ends like that. We were utterly wowed by Melody’s performance at the show that followed. It was like a scene from A Star is Born. And what makes it all the more impressive is Melody Prochet is not kicking back and taking any of this for granted. She’s already started writing second album. But first things first. Go out and buy her remarkable debut.
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Melody’s Echo Chamber is out now on Weird World/Domino
Words: Lucie Grace
Photos: Charlotte Bibby