THERE’S a moment about halfway through Melody’s Echo Chamber’s second album, Bon Voyage, when the drums fade out and a familiar voice comes through.
It’s POND’s Nick Allbrook and his brief spoken-word interlude – delivered in a pronounced Aussie accent – begins with the “memory of making love” and winds up with a vision on his own death. “To be declared brain dead or heart dead in the Vatican,” he says, before an acoustic guitar puts an end to the morbid fantasy.
Melody’s Echo Chamber’s auteur Melody Prochet lovingly describes it as “mad poetry”, and it was recorded in a Stockholm studio while Nick was on tour with POND and Melody was deep into recording the follow-up to her 2012 debut.
Described as a collaborative record with Dungen’s Reine Fiske and The Amazing’s Fredrik Swahn, Bon Voyage was almost derailed by a serious accident from which Melody has only now recovered.
In her only Australian interview, she speaks with her friend Nick Allbrook about the early beginnings of their friendship, primal zodiacs, favourite flowers, Nordic fantasies, and how music helped her deal with immense personal pain.
Even on email, it’s clear they share a beautiful friendship. Enjoy.
Nick: Dear Melody aka Dee aka D-battery aka D-vitamin. First question: Do you like that last nickname? I just made it up.
Melody: Hi Nicky, what a surprise to read you today. How sweet. It all reminds me the smell of Eucalyptus, freshness of youth, salty breeze and hair, scooter drives along the majestic ocean, all the mad tenderness living together in the Perth bubble. The bliss of recording music there and the Australian noisy crows. I will always treasure the memory of this lifetime.
Nick: I wish this was a real conversation and I wasn’t just tapping out questions in a van in California. Nothing against California, but it’s hard to interview someone without any action and reaction biz. See? That wasn’t even a question.
Melody: Last time we hugged was in the studio in Stockholm. You came to record some mad poetry on my new record, also you played this amazing show there that I missed because i was deep in the ocean of creativity and work and just a studio rat.
Where are you?
I just came back from a retreat in the Puglia region of Italy. Now I’m back home in my ‘village provencal’, south of France. Vineyards, donkeys, church chiming, and mediterranean seas.
Nick: What is your favourite flower?
Melody: Les coquelicots, corn poppy.
Nick: What is the most beautiful thing you’ve seen in the last week?
Melody: Driving through a desert of centenary olive tree and deep red dirt.
Nick: How do you imagine yourself looking when you’re old?
Melody: Hopefully elegantly wrinkled, with sparkling eyes, a child’s heart and a strong fit body to walk the earth back and forth with my husband, and also playing harp solos like Alice Coltrane.
Nick: What’s your spirit animal? Or primal zodiac, I guess they call it. Officially mine’s a sugar glider, fyi, which I’m obviously super proud of. Unofficially a shag/cormorant.
Melody: I have no idea but I’d love to be as graceful as a giant turtle
Melody: Hey, I really think you’ve created a modern classic with this record. Are you proud?
Melody: I’m happy I’m alive! What a journey, I think you heard the full unmixed version of the 45-minute record but i only completed 36 minutes, so it took me a while to feel good about it. Now i think it is what it is and it is rewarding to see it released.
"I had reached this non-return point in my life where I didn't give a fuck about a thing because of pain. I needed to feel emotions of an extremely great intensity to feel alive. I used music as a portal. I just turned into a stoned well of creativity and a vessel traveling through my heart to my guts."
Nick: One of my favourite parts of this album is that I can hear you. I mean really you. The vocal expulsions – screams of animal pain, silliness, scatting, and unbridled joy of the act of creation. I can’t express how much I love this. There aren’t enough capital letters and exclamation marks in the world to convey my enthusiasm. How did you get to this place, break down your inhibitions and make all these beautiful, mad, weird mouth noises? (I don’t really know what to ask you about this, because the beauty of it is that the noises and singing are so visceral and evocative as to render words and questions and explanations completely pointless, but I gotta try.)
Melody: I felt like the captain of a mad vessel, entering my own heart by the wound and exploring, trying to find what was broken and how to fix it by myself. Vocal expulsions and animal pain are perfect to describe the essence of some of it.
Nick: There’s a lot of silly, giddy joy in the songs that I’ve never heard from you. It sounds very honest. Was this a particularly euphoric recording experience, or have you just never expressed that part of you before? I smiled a lot hearing it, imagining you screaming and laughing like a maniac, ‘cause humour and levity are often mistaken for a lack of artistic legitimacy which, I think, is bullshit.
Melody: I think I embraced the little monster in my body and heart and let it express what was hidden there all along. A deep infantine wound needing to be expressed and recognised by myself.
Nick: Wow, I just got to the super funky song with this sort of trance synth chord thing going on at the start [‘Desert Horse’]. I love that shit! It’s a much maligned sound among the musically discerning crowd. You truly didn’t give a fuck about going wherever you wanted in this album, hey?
Melody: I had reached this non-return point in my life where I didn’t give a fuck about a thing because of pain. I needed to feel emotions of an extremely great intensity to feel alive. I used music as a portal. I just turned into a stoned well of creativity and a vessel traveling through my heart to my guts.
Nick: Was there much improvisation in the studio, ‘cause some of the songs are so bizarrely structured I can’t comprehend how they could be actually written or composed.
Melody It was my fellow travelers Reine Fiske and Swahn and limitless time in the studio that allowed me to work like I was a sort of impressionist sculptor. We started from graceful moments of improvisations to this cycle of digestion, destruction; re-adding a bunch of clay, taking some out again until it was right (to me).
Nick: Listening to this I’m kinda shocked that this many different instruments even exist in the world, let alone on one album. How in God’s name did you get all this – drum machines, dulcimers, violins, horns and hurdy gurdys, or whatever the fuck they are?
Melody: I believe it’s the sound of Reine, Swahn and my own generosity and passion! It was very intense to fit all our ideas and favourite traditional instruments and folklore influences with our modern and retro visions. It is a very fragile harmony of imperfection. It won’t work for certain pair of ears. Maybe you need a certain sensibility to understand it, or let yourself not understand what is going on. Myself, I tend to love minimal, essential, airy, unpacked productions – but you don’t really chose what you create.
Nick: What instruments do you play? I think you’ve told me before, but I dun forgot.
Melody: I have been classically trained with viola and I’ve been back to Conservatoire Mairie d’Aix-en-Provence to learn drums. That was probably the best experience of my last year – going back to learn something I really wanted, age 30. I love to tweak and edit as a music producer, play keyboards and guitar but it’s a little more laborious, which is also what adds a little punk to the story, I guess.
Nick: What instrument do you wish you could play?
Melody: I dream to learn how to play harp (I can see it standing there beautifully like a treasure in my living room) and play drums better.
Nick: What was the name of that pedal you plugged my voice through when I sang with you in Stockholm? I wants.
Melody: We call it the funky pedal. What a great toy. It’s TC Helicon VoiceTone.
Nick: The imagery that goes along with what you’ve put out so far looks kinda like a book of fairy tales I bought in a second-hand store in Hamburg. It had a story about a freaky fella with scissor hands. It was sick. Aaaaaanyway, the illustrations that accompany your album are similar to that. Am I somewhere near the mark in thinking that nordic fantasy is something you’re into right now? How does it relate to you and the album?
Melody: Nordic fantasy was pouring out of the woods in Sweden. Elves and deers eating berries together and hiding in the snow in the winter. I love the Swedish enchanted worlds of Elsa Beskow, Kay Nielsen, but also a lot of eastern and oriental folklore.
Nick: It’s been a very big, wild journey for my dear D over the last few years, worthy of an epic tale. Which chapter do you think you’re in right now? Have you made it back to the proverbial shire? Or are you still deep in the dark woods? or stabbing the great dragon?
Melody: It is true i had to stab some dragons, vampires and cyclopes on the way, inside and out. It is beautifully quiet these days. I’m about to give birth in two months, meanwhile i am composing, drawing my life with my beloved, nothing is being produced out of it that is to be shared. Family is the new chapter, the most epic adventure is only beginning for me.
Nick: “When you’ve got some nice friends, life is great.” Do you remember recording that? How does it feel to look back on?
Melody: I remember singing that with a deep sadness and melancholia hidden behind the words. Nice friends, never judge when they listen to your darkness, and don’t expect much from you. Only by listening they help you keep your head out of water for as long as it doesn’t take them in the dark waters and it’s fair enough. Life’s a dangerous, beautiful jungle. i have met a couple of vampires sucking light and kindness out of me but i have a bigger protective circle of angels dancing around me.
"I dream to expatriate my family somewhere with less administrative bullshit, where it's not saturated with information, less controlled, and you can shape and craft your life to your own feelings with zero media influence."
Nick: How do you feel about blood, at this point in your life? Grotesque, violent, life giving, magical? I been thinking about it a lot.
Melody: Blood still makes me feel uncomfortable like a little girl, my partner by his medical profession knows all about the human body and opened dead bodies for his studies. He has a complete different approach to blood, knows every single organs and bone. I kind of envy his knowledge. It helps him to listen his body and knows himself and his limits. It fascinates me.
Nick: Does a quiet life appeal to you? The older I get, the easier hangovers come, and the less ambitious my image of heaven becomes.
Melody: I fantasise and work hard at painting myself a quiet life with ambitions of simplicity, inestimable value for loyalty for love and family. Obviously I can’t live without nature, space to breathe, but total isolation isn’t quite right either. i dream to expatriate my family somewhere with less administrative bullshit, where it’s not saturated with information, less controlled, and you can shape and craft your life to your own feelings with zero media influence.
Nick: Why do you think this is happening? I was thinking that maybe the longer we live, the more we see that real life is fucking intense, and we just want a good, long, rest.
Melody: Adulthood, vanity seems to suck all the goodness and lightness out of us. I promised to my heart to protect what’s left of my candour.
Nick: Oh wow, that sequencer bit just came in. Crazy. I wasn’t expecting that. I’ve thought that a lot while listening. This record is a very good mind workout, considering that new stimuli and challenges are good for brain development. That’s not a question. Obviously. When are we gonna make some more stuff together?
Melody: Hopefully in this life my old friend, good luck with everything and thank you for your support and friendship through the years.