The members of O.C.-based band Melee compare their highly melodic, piano-driven rock to “Jackson Browne rocking Elton John in Orange County.”
The quartet – Chris Cron (vocals, keyboards, guitar), Ricky Sans (guitar, vocals), Ryan Malloy (bass) and Mike Nader (drums) – recently finished recording their major-label debut for Warner Bros. Produced by Modern Rock master Howard Benson (All American Rejects, My Chemical Romance, Hoobastank), the disc will shortly be mixed by Tim Palmer (U2, Pearl Jam, Switchfoot) and is due out in Spring 2007. Melee will kick off a major tour with Wheatus and Brandtson in September.
“In a few short months we’ve progressed as songwriters, musicians and people, and seen it all come together,” marvels Sans. “A lot of people thought we’d be intimidated by going into the studio with Howard. But our attitude was, how scary can it be? We’re musicians, not hedge-fund consultants. Howard became like a fifth member of the band. He’s a piano player, so he and Chris really bonded over all the keyboards, and he got the best out of us by giving us the freedom to be ourselves.”
Over the past couple of years, Melee has appeared on the Warped Tour and performed with Copeland, The Donnas, Bowling for Soup, Sugarcult, Motion City Soundtrack and Starting Line, among other bands. After touring exhaustively and selling 15,000 copies of the indie release “Everyday Behavior” (Sub City/Hopeless), the band became the subject of a major-label bidding war before inking with Warner Bros. Records A&R chief Craig Aaronson. “We were getting taken out to a lot of dinners, but we felt like Craig had our back,” Sans says. “He was genuine, and he made us feel comfortable.”
Even so, the guitarist is at pains to point out that Melee laid the groundwork for these developments through hard work. “We just toured so much and sold our first record out of the trunks of our cars,” he recalls. “It was hard and we didn’t know what our future was going to look like, but it built character. We don’t have to rely on anyone else. We can make it happen, because we got ourselves this far.”
Sans believes that Melee’s piano melodies and flair for classic pop hooks represent a welcome alternative to the modern rock fan’s typical diet of power chords and screaming. “I think people gravitated toward us because we’re different,” he reflects. “We’re not a mirror image of ’70s rock, like some bands try to be nowadays; we think things should progress. But we still want to pay homage to the great songwriters who influenced us.” The band has helped nurture its relationship with its fans by personally tending its heavily trafficked MySpace page.
But just how much Orange County is there in Melee’s music? “O.C. is such a sunny, upbeat place,” Sans explains. “When I drive back from L.A., you can feel the tension being released. There’s an upbeat feeling, a sense of hope that comes from being raised there. And that definitely finds its way into our music.”