One of 2012's brightest discoveries arrived in the shape of Melody's Echo Chamber, the self-titled long player from the solo project of Parisian chanteuse Melody Prochet. Recorded under the tutelage of Tame Impala's Kevin Parker, its radiant mixture of nascent psychedelia, shoegaze textures and classic 1960s-inspired melodies made it one of 2012's finest debuts, a facet universally recognised by its inclusion in many end-of-year "Best Of" lists including this one here.
Currently holed up in Paris working on songs for the follow-up, DiS caught up with the amiable Ms Prochet in the offices of Domino Records. Here's how the conversation went...
DiS: 2012 has been an amazing year for you. Your album has received universal critical acclaim including a 9/10 marking here and placing in our Top 50 albums of the year list. Did you expect the album to resonate with so many people?
Melody: I had no idea how people would respond to the album. We didn't even have a label at the time we recorded it. We just carried on making the music and didn't over think anything. It's just so amazing the way everyone's reacted! I'm really grateful, more surprised if anything that people are listening to it. Earlier today I did an interview with a publication from Brazil and they were saying how much their readers loved the record. It's unbelievable we've reached so many people.
DiS: What's even more amazing is that this time last year no one knew about you or Melody's Echo Chamber.
Melody: That's right, we were still putting the record together at that time. It's great. I think the record has a lot to give but even so, it's all about personal taste.
DiS: When did you start working on the songs for the record?
Melody: It was in the early part of 2011... I'm so lost with time these days! Probably about eighteen months ago to be exact.
DiS: Did the record turn out the way you intended? I read an interview earlier this year where you said the songs ended up very different to how they'd originally sounded when first demoed.
Melody: When I first recorded them as demos it was just me and a little Yamaha, you know, one of those silly nineties toys! I would just put the drum machine through a delay pedal and record some vocals and that was pretty much it. There were quite a few cosmic sounds on there already but nothing like how it ended up. Kevin (Parker) added so much.
DiS: How important was Kevin Parker's contribution towards achieving the end result?
Melody: I've learned so much working with Kevin. It's been the most memorable period of my life. His vision of making music is just incredible. I had a different way of working before. I used to kind of suffer when I was in the studio. Then we realised that you should really have fun while you're recording. It doesn't mean that you don't take it seriously. There are still emotional and melancholic moments but on the whole it should be an enjoyable process. At first it really freaked me but once I'd got used to it everything kind of made sense. I'm really grateful to Kevin for that. And he's also a hilarious person to be around. He's just a non-stop thinker that has a million things on his mind all the time. I sometimes think he lives on another planet! He's really inspiring. We'd start off with Kevin playing the drums over the top of my old demos and he would just transcend a sound right away.
DiS: I also read that Kevin apparently deconstructed a lot of the original demo recordings in order to make the album. Would you ever consider releasing those demos in the future?
Melody: They do sound completely different to the finished versions on the record, but at the same time if you listen to them it's possible to hear where most of the songs originate from. Kevin thought it was important to keep to the essence of the demos when we were making the record. They're what prompted him to work with me in the first place. He kept a lot of my synths and played over some of the programmed drum beats, but then added his magical touch at the same time. I guess he did deconstruct it but then we put it back together but it's not that unrecognisable from the original demos either. However it is clearly a million times better!
DiS: Was it difficult to transfer the songs from the record into a live context?
Melody: The most difficult part for me these days is to be completely satisfied with a drummer. Kevin's drumming is really unique. To me, his technique is like a modern take on Jaki Liebezeit from Can. I've never heard anyone play like that before, he really is so good. On the record they have been textured to the point where they sound almost electronic and when I have the drums on my sampler it works really well but then with that we're also stuck within the same format and we can't really jam so although it's a good thing in terms of reproducing sounds it's also a bad thing because everything becomes less spontaneous. Also, as Melody's Echo Chamber is not a band as such, I have my friends playing with me who are all really talented and have their own projects which they want to focus on so it can be difficult finding the right people to play with at times. Sonically it isn't a problem because I have everything on my micro sampler. Kevin actually helped me a lot with that too.
DiS: Do you prefer working in the studio or playing live?
Melody: Nothing makes me happier than experimenting with music and writing songs in the studio. It's the place where I like to be all the time, whether that be in the studio or the house. Anywhere I can just play music with people and relax. The weird thing about playing live is you can just play the best gig you've ever done and yet people in the audience don't necessarily perceive it in the same way. You can never actually see yourself and know how you sound which is pretty frustrating. You never really know whether it was good or sucked. Although I have been enjoying playing live recently. The US tour with The Raveonettes was great fun. Everyone was really enthusiastic and warm with us, which was really surprising because I'm not used to that. In France the audiences tend to be a lot colder.
DiS: You've been covering the Jane Birkin song 'Jane B' during your recent live shows. Are you a big fan of her work and will you be performing any other covers in the future?
Melody: I'm a massive fan of Serge Gainsbourg's work and Jane Birkin's vocals for sure. I know she's influenced a lot of my favourite singers like Kazu Makino from Blonde Redhead for example. But then at the same time I don't really think she's a great songwriter. Serge Gainsbourg was responsible for writing a lot of her work and they really had this magic together for a while. 'Jane B' is actually a cover of Chopin's 'Prelude In E Minor' and I just think her interpretation is beautiful so that's why I choose to cover it. My guitar player wanted to cover Canned Heat's 'On The Road Again' which probably sounds quite a safe song to play but actually was quite a lot of fun to do so maybe we'll do it again.
DiS: Do you see any parallels between the way Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin's work and what you and Kevin are doing with regards to Melody's Echo Chamber?
Melody: I think Kevin would love that idea, but Serge Gainsbourg was more like Jane Birkin's creator. He made her the way he wanted her to be. He wrote the songs for her and exerted his personality over everything she did. Whereas I'm a fan of music and I already had a really strong vision before I met Kevin. We're both obsessed with listening to and making music all the time. I know what I want and I write my own songs, play a lot of instruments, so in that way it's very different.
DiS: What music were you listening to while making the record?
Melody: I've been listening to a lot of Sun Ra and this band called Women. Also lots of Deerhunter around this time. I'm a really big fan. Recently I've been listening to the Mac DeMarco and Ty Segall records. I saw Mac DeMarco play live a few nights ago and he was really awesome.
DiS: Listening back to your past work with My Bee's Garden and the Narcoleptic Dancers compared with where you are now as Melody's Echo Chamber, there's a vast difference. Was this the sound you were striving for from the outset or is it more a case of natural progression?
Melody: Definitely more of a progression. With my previous works and collaborations I had the opportunity to go to really big studios and work with different people and each time I learned something new. I mainly learned that I like recording in a home studio with friends around in a more relaxed environment than being in a professional studio. That's such a big thing when you're making a record. I was more inspired recording the album in Australia with the space, the beach, the whole environment really. Paris is not inspiring me that much any more. I don't think My Bee's Garden was that much different from what we achieved with Melody's Echo Chamber. It was just mainly bedroom recordings and we didn't have much equipment.
DiS: Whereabouts are you based at the moment?
Melody: I'm living in Paris at the minute but I have to move out of my place soon because the owner is taking it back. I think I'm going to stay with my sister in Paris for a while but then I'm thinking of moving somewhere else but I'm not quite sure where yet.
DiS: Are there any new songs ready for the follow-up and if so, is there a projected timescale as to when it might be released?
Melody: Actually, I've been writing new songs for the next record on my guitar. It's going to be more garage-y than this album. I'm trying to let myself go even more.
DiS: Will it be a Melody's Echo Chamber record or will it be under the guise of a different project?
Melody: It will definitely be Melody's Echo Chamber. I really found myself and blossomed with that record. I want to keep this project going for a while. I think we might work with Kevin again. You don't change a team that works and it's always difficult to find people to make music with where you click that naturally so if we have time to make it work then hopefully that's what we'll do. There may be other people on the record as well. I've been talking a lot with Flying Lotus. We haven't talked about any collaboration yet but I know they're fans of the record. Also someone like Tyler The Creator. I think it would be the best thing ever if he could rap over one of my songs. It really interests me to try and collaborate with people you wouldn't usually be expected to.
DiS: You're back in the UK next March for three shows. Have you any other plans on the horizon such as festivals over the summer?
Melody: I'm really excited about coming back to the UK. Yeah, we have some cool things coming up over the summer. We got some interesting tour support offers as well but we're still a new band. We don't really have the funds to tour so we have to make the right decisions for us. We can't just go along with every offer we receive and spend lots of money we don't really have. We'll just see how it goes. Hopefully we'll come back and play more shows in the UK.
DiS: You've only played once over here, right?
Melody: Yeah, in London. It was our first headline show ever and was so amazing because it was the first time people actually came to a show to just see me and also knew our songs. It's such a great atmosphere and energy compared to when you're just playing as the opening act for another band. Even if you play a great show as a support, no one really knows your music even if they like it. They're not here for you.
DiS: Finally, Melody's Echo Chamber was one of our favourite records of 2012. What was yours?
Melody: I don't have one I have several. Connan Mockasin's Forever Dolphin Love. Was that this year? Maybe, maybe not. The Lotus Plaza record Spooky Action At A Distance too. The Ty Segall and White Fence record is great as well, Mac DeMarco I've already mentioned. Tame Impala's Lonerism obviously but I've heard it a million times.
Melody's Echo Chamber are back in the UK in March 2013 at the following venues:-
3 Brighton Green Door
4 Manchester Deaf Institute
5 London Scala
More information on Melody's Echo Chamber here.
- "Nothing makes me happier than experimenting with music & writing songs" - DiS meets Melody's Ec
- Some Velvet Mixtape - The Sequel: 2012 in drones, reverb and feedback.
- Drowned in Sound's Favourite Albums of 2012: 50-26
- On the DiS stereo: November 2012
- Melody's Echo Chamber - Melody's Echo Chamber
- Weekend Listening: M83, SVIIB, HTDA (Trent Reznor), Chvrches, Ed Harcourt, Melody's Echo Chamber +mo