By Johnny Papan
VANCOUVER – The Melvins don’t follow traditional form. They are not heavy metal or alternative rock and their experimental approach to songwriting has juxtaposed them into a genre-defying void of their own. It’s hard to categorize what exactly the Melvins are stylistically. All you need to know is they’re raw, distorted and sometimes unfamiliar.
Often credited for their direct influence on bands like Soundgarden and Nirvana, the Melvins’ vastly noisy-to-mellow rock hybrid would plant the seeds to the 90s punk-rock trend soon marketed as “grunge.”
Dale Crover, the soft-spoken yet hard-hitting drummer of the band touches on being lumped into the scene. “Sometimes we might get pigeon holed into that, but people are figuring out Melvins are not some old sound from a certain time period. We were something completely different and separate, but somehow influenced that whole thing.”
While in the Melvins, Crover also performed bass and drums on the 1985 cassette-tape demo Illiteracy Will Prevail, the first known original-music recordings of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain. Crover also makes appearances on the Nirvana albums Bleach, Incesticide, and the With the Lights Out. This only scratches the surface to his expansive and diverse discography, which will soon feature his first solo record The Fickle Finger of Fate.
“Our area was really isolated. Buzz [[Osborne]] was the one that was into underground music and weird obscure stuff. Stuff that wasn’t your normal pop music. Without him being into that, none of us would be where we are. Not the Nirvana guys, not me.”
Buzz Osborne is the eccentric singer-songwriter of the Melvins, who consistently explores the possibilities of creation. “I’m always looking for something to kick me out of any kind of corner I may have painted myself into,” Osborne explains.
The Melvins are set to release their whopping 26th studio release A Walk With Love & Death, named after the John Huston film, on July 7. Split in two parts, Death, the first section of the album, is a more traditional Melvin’s song collection, though in its own right, still sets itself apart from their past works. Love, on the other hand, is a noisy, experimental soundtrack for the band’s upcoming short film, which shares its title with the new album.
“Love was a completely different experience because we were writing a soundtrack for a movie that doesn’t exist,” Osbourne states. Unconventionally, the self-produced short-film, directed by Jesse Nieminen, is being made to support the soundtrack, as opposed to the other way around. “We always thought our stuff was perfect for soundtracks. It wasn’t happening so we decided to do it ourselves.”
This isn’t the Melvin’s first venture into cinema. In 2015 they self-produced and released Across the U.S.A. in 51 Days: The Movie! This film documented their 2012 North American tour in which they performed 51 shows in every U.S. state in 51 days. This documentary is roughly 51 minutes, dedicating a minute to each location.
In terms of what their upcoming movie is about, Crover and Osborne don’t say much. “It’s about a man in trouble,” Osborne expresses. Crover chimes in: “I’ve seen little clips of it. It’s definitely strange. Definitely.”
The band gave the director personal photographs and footage for the piece. A surrealistic, almost lynchian trailer has been released and is available on YouTube.
This is the first record to fully feature bassist Steven McDonald, who recently made guest appearances on the Melvins’ last effort Basses Loaded. A Walk With Love & Death also features some guest performances, including guitarwork by Joey Santiago of the Pixies.
Creatively, Osborne doesn’t give too much away on the lyrical content of the album. “I’m not really a lead someone down the garden path kind of lyricist. I work really hard on the lyrics and a lot of people say they mean nothing. I say your head has nothing in it if it means nothing.”
“We are non traditional band, so people should not expect us to do traditional types of things,” Osborne states. He credits the experimental nature of the Melvins to a lack of classical training. “I don’t know how to read music, I didn’t take guitar lessons. I learned on my own.”
Osborne concludes: “We focus on ways of writing music that are not in the traditional form. Or we’ll take an untraditional way of doing something and apply it to traditional song structure. It doesn’t always work, but you have to wave through it all and see what comes out on the other side.”
Melvins perform at Venue Nightclub (Vancouver) on July 14, Union Hall (Edmonton) on July 17 and the Marquee (Calgary) on July 18.The Marquee, The Melvins, Union Hall, Venue Nightclub