The Meligrove Band to Play Snug Harbor Tomorrow Night, Interview with Bassist Mike Small

Toronto, Canada's The Meligrove Band will play Snug Harbor tomorrow night (December 7th) with Jukebox the Ghost and Dynamite Walls. The band just released a new album this fall, Shimmering Lights, which is a return to form, after being away for nearly four years. We highly recommend streaming "Halflight" on SoundCloud from said album while you read the interview.

We talked with bassist Mike Small about the band's time away, the new album and the current US tour:

It's been about four years since Planets Conspire. What happened in the time between that album and Shimmering Lights?

Lots of touring for the first couple years. Writing happened slowly at first because we lost our rehearsal space around the time Planets came out in Canada, and since we were away so much, we didn't get a new one until January 2007, right before V2 [Records] shut down in North America. From there, new songs began to take shape as we continued to do tours of Canada and the United States. In fall '07, a family tragedy forced the band to shut down for a while; we got back together and began recording in January 2008. Shows and tours became more sporadic, and aside from working on the new album, we each took a lot of personal time away from the band. We started getting emails from Canadian labels asking about the new album, and one even told the Globe & Mail (a national newspaper in Canada) they were interested in us, which made things a little weird for a while, in that people started assuming we'd already signed a deal. Anyway, from start to finish, we did the new album completely on our own, and didn't begin planning its release until after mastering. We found excited and supportive labels for the United States and Canada (Last Gang and Nevado, respectively) fairly quickly, and from there, tours and whatnot began to come together... and... here I am, somewhere in Georgia, answering your questions from our bus.

How was the experience of being a part of V2 Records as it folded? Did you ever fear the band's future might get caught up in it all?

It seemed to come out of nowhere, though in retrospect, we should have seen it coming (i.e., V2 starting to not want to spend money on anything, and pushing our US release back a couple of times). For a long time, we couldn't get it on paper that the licenses to our V2 releases (one album and one 7") had reverted to us. That was a bit annoying. Also, the label folded after signing off on the advance for our next album, but before actually giving us the money. It wasn't a huge amount in the grand scheme of things, but to us, it definitely was! Also, the scheduled US release of Planets Conspire was obviously cancelled. To this day, Americans can only get the CD or LP as an import from Canada or Europe or at one of our shows here.

Given the amount of time between releases, how would you say Shimmering Lights is different from your previous albums? Did you approach writing or recording this album any differently?

We try a lot of new ideas from album to album; the writing's pretty different. The main difference is that Darcy wrote as many songs as Jay this time. The production, though, was very similar to Planets Conspire: we played all of the drums, bass, piano and main guitar live, with our friend Jose Contreras (of By Divine Right) at the board. Then we took those tracks home and recorded all of the singing and extra instruments ourselves. Shimmering Lights has most of the same guest musicians as Planets Conspire as well. We brought everything back to Jose for mixing, which he did mostly at home. The album was mastered by the same engineer as Planets, Joao Carvalho, who built himself the most amazing mastering studio on Earth. Oh, and Jay did the art again. He's now two albums and two 7" [records] in, doing all of the art on our releases.

Jukebox the Ghost seem like good touring partners for you guys, in that they have a complimentary sound to yours—how have the one or two shows been on this particular tour so far?

So far we've only played one show, in Athens, Georgia, last night. It was a lot of fun and we hit it off personally right away. They are so great live... I don't want to describe their show too much and spoil any surprises. There are surprises. Great ones. They have a fun crowd too. Anyway it's exciting. Aside from Baltimore and Philadelphia, all of the shows are in cities we've never played in. Tonight we're in Mobile, Alabama. That's awesome!

Being from Toronto, I'm sure you don't make it to Charlotte, NC that often. Have you ever played Charlotte before? If so, do you remember the venue?

None of us have ever been to Charlotte. I can't wait, though; I love the Carolinas and have had fun shows here in another band (By Divine Right). Winston-Salem in particular I enjoyed a lot... We played at a place called [The Wherehouse], and had a big dinner upstairs with the people running it, who also lived there. And when we got to our hotel later, Cher's tour buses were all parked outside. Cher! I didn't see her, though, as far as I know (maybe she was walking around incognito).

I've seen your sound described as "heavy pop," which is pretty appropriate. Do you credit any bands as influences?

Aside from obvious stuff like the Beatles and Led Zeppelin, one band we all agree on is the Flaming Lips, and I think that's leaked into our sound. The last Nirvana album has a lot of good lessons on heaviness and dynamics in your playing. My own habit of putting my bass through a Russian Big Muff started with my 90's teenage love of noisy Canadian pop bands like Eric's Trip and Radioblaster, and then Ben Folds Five shortly after. I love to wail!

With 2010 coming to a close, it's inevitably time for Top 10 lists. Do you have any favorite albums or songs from the past year?

Here are my favourite albums of 2010, in no order of greatness. Bear in mind that I don't pay much attention to new music. I think this stuff's all awesome though. 

  • Hooded Fang - "Album"
  • Best Coast - "Crazy For You"
  • The Stance - "I Left Love Behind a Long Time Ago"
  • Owen Pallett - "Heartland"
  • The Pinecones - "Sage"
  • Maylee Todd - "Choose Your Own Adventure"
  • Arcade Fire - "The Suburbs"
  • Doctor Ew - "Gadzooks"
  • Kissed Her Little Sister - "High and Low"
  • Rich Aucoin - "Public Publication"

 Full disclosure! I play bass on part of one song on Rich Aucoin's album.