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Chipper Castro, frontman and rhythm guitarist of San Francisco based Melvoy, makes no bones about describing the band’s mix of edgy punk influenced pop-rock, soaring vocal harmonies and coolly unconventional arrangements and song structures. He calls it “sex rock.” That’s the operative phrase driving the wild narrative about a 4-year rollercoaster relationship chronicled on the band’s in your face debut EP Midnight Makeup. The provocative six track set was produced by Grammy Award winner Ikey Owens, longtime keyboardist for progressive rockers The Mars Volta, who was hooked the minute he first heard Melvoy jamming at a warehouse party.
Even if their energy is pretty raucous most of the time and the songs balance scorching guitar with melodic pop hooks, the band—including Kevin Eagle Oliver (vocals, lead guitar), Natalie Rose (vocals, drums) and Wayne Henry Helgeson (vocals, bass)—is down with the whole “sex rock” notion. They see the sensual impact their tunes have on the audience, whether they’re playing the DNA Lounge, Bottom of the Hill, an impromptu set after the Haight Ashbury Street Fair or one of those trademark raucous house parties they love to do. For those outside Northern Cal who haven’t been privy to the live hang, there’s definite sexual energy in the music and lyrics—but nothing like at the shows, where everyone’s making out, simulating or getting close to having sex and taking off their clothes just as the band sometimes does.
“We’ve done all sorts of shows in the past, from nearly selling out the DNA Lounge for the Battle of the Bands finals, to empty bars, to high schools in small towns and even setting up DIY in the streets of San Francisco with a generator and ending up blocking off the street because of the attention we can draw,” says Castro. “We really try to put on a great show no matter who is in the audience. We’ve coined the term ‘Sex Rock Swag Pop Dance Party Non Stop’ to capture the essence of what we do.”
When Melvoy won the SF Battle of the Bands last year, they received 20 hours of free recording time, which they applied to their goal of doing their first EP. The 20 hours only went so far and they wound up paying for the rest themselves. Right before they were about to record, they played the party where Owens saw them. “Seeing how interested he was, we decided to have him produce the EP,” says Castro, who co-writes the band’s songs with Oliver. “We’re really glad we did because he helped us fine tune our songs to become what they are today. Working with a big producer like Ikey definitely made us more confident, and the experience in the studio was amazing. Our songs were good, but he made some key suggestions that helped some of them become better. When you listen to the original demos vs. the final product, you can hear the way he helped us take things to the next level sonically.”
Owens says, “Most indie bands have the problem of writing a lot of songs but maybe only one with a hook…not Melvoy!” He’s talking about the six tracks of Midnight Makeup, starting with “Dirty Girl,” an inspired, intense Latin dance song about finding out the darker truths about someone after a breakup; the band banged it out in an initial three hour jam session. Other tracks include “Touch Yourself,” a tender ode to female masturbation and angst-filled rave about leaving her, longing for her and letting her go; the power-pop declaration “I Love You,” about that peak time when everything is going well in the relationship; and “Listen To Your Mother,” which lists all the bad parts of the beloved woman that make it necessary to let go and move on. The autobiographically titled “Oh Melvoy” is about the transition between feeling it might work out and learning the dark twists that tell you that it might not.
Explaining the band’s unique origins, Castro says, “The idea of Melvoy started when Kevin and I met at school in a sound recording class at about the same times both our girlfriends had broken up with us. We were both pretty antsy and hadn't been in a band in a while. After our first jam, we wrote three songs and knew we had something special. Wayne and I happened to live together at the time and since we had been in a band together before so I knew he would be perfect to play bass, even though he had never played bass before. The drummer was the hardest piece of the puzzle to fill. Kevin, Wayne and I would jam with me on drums and singing but we knew we couldn't play shows this way. After trying out a ton of guy drummers who for some reason wouldn't cut it, Natalie, the cutest little lesbian girl you'll ever see responded to a Craigslist ad I had posted saying she had just moved to the Bay from Michigan. After one jam with her, we knew she was what we were searching for.”