Meltt Defies Conventional Genre Boundaries in “Eternal Embers”
By: Zoe Blakeman
Canadian alt/psych-rock band Meltt, consisting of James Porter, Chris Smith, Ian Winkler, and Jamie Turner, just released their newest album “Eternal Embers.” With the sounds of psychedelic rock and connections to nature found in every song, their music blends different styles defying conventional genre boundaries with its captivating fusions. Meltt’s distinctive sound blends with their intense emotional lyrics and with their infectious rhythms throughout each song.
During this interview, Meltt dives head first into the intricate writing and recording processes of “Eternal Embers.” As listeners, we are taken on a journey through the creative minds and souls of each band member gaining insight into the creation of an exceptionally beautiful and heartfelt album.
Read below to check out my Q&A with the band!
ZB: Your upcoming album, “Eternal Embers,” covers a range of intriguing themes, from social media anxiety to technology addiction. Could you talk about how these themes influenced the creative process and the overall sound of the album?
CS: I guess in terms of the album it didn’t really reflect on the actual making of the album. It’s just an issue I struggle with at times, not all of the time, but sometimes I can fall into a wormhole of internet browsing. I think a lot of people experience this as well. Thinking of ways to escape from that and be more in the present is definitely a theme for the song. It was a feeling I had while writing the song.
JT: One thing as well to do with that in terms of bringing that to context, individual songs may have themes of social media anxiety or some kind of social media issue in any way. I think overall, a lot of our values and stuff we like to write about is kind of an escape from daily life, being connected and being plugged in. It’s an escape to a more natural and primal-driven lifestyle. It’s about getting into nature more and connecting with the earth.
I think the overall theme of the album, even if not every song touches on these topics of social media directly, there are themes of nature. This album is an ode to nature and it plays into a large amount of who we are and what we write about. A lot of the writing came when we were pretty isolated from everything when we stayed in a cabin in the middle of the woods in B.C. Canada. A lot of what is on the album was written there, at least musically, so that had a huge impact on how we wanted to drive the overall theme through nature.
ZB: That was going to be my next question! How did working in a cabin affect the music-making process for the album?
IW: We went to the cabin up in B.C. and it was early COVID days and we were all with our families and concerned, it was when we didn’t have much information on COVID. We were concerned about getting together and working in that environment, so it was a way for us to escape everything and be together and just live and breathe the music. We did an entire month up there and we were amazingly productive. It was also just in a beautiful area.
A lot of these songs, though they weren’t all written at that moment, were worked on during this period. It’s funny we talk about the smoke today (from the recent fires) and that the album was written in the time of many forest fires and pretty bad smoke in the area of the cabin. I think James has been keeping up with that a bit more, but a huge chunk of the lake has been burning.
JP: I don’t know about that specific cabin, but a bunch of cabins burned down up there from a bunch of forest fires in the past few months. It’s still going on too.
IW: Those kinds of things influenced the writing for sure.
JT: I also think that being so focused on the music and having that time to be so productive is amazing. We turned the living room into a studio. As soon as we woke up in the morning, we’d come out of our rooms and find ourselves in the studio just playing. We’d take a couple of breaks to swim and eat and such, but then it was right back to playing pretty much all day every day. You just get so immersed in it, but when you do take breaks, you go outside to this beautiful environment and get refreshed and inspired, and then come back in and get down to business again.
IW: You can see that we’ve taken a lot of videos and stuff up there and we used a lot of images and videos for production and marketing. The “Soak My Head” music video was from the nature footage we took while we were up there.
ZB: The album’s title, “Eternal Embers,” evokes a sense of enduring emotions. Could you elaborate on the significance of this title in relation to the album’s themes and sonic atmosphere?
JP: We went back and forth on the album name a bunch but then in the end, we noticed when we wrote all of the songs, this was done unconsciously, there were a lot of themes of death and birth and growth and decay. There was a lot of smoke and fire imagery throughout the album as well. We liked this idea of an eternal ember, this ember never goes out. I think of it as like the passion inside of us is never going out but it can dim at points and grow at points. But, it’s never going away.
JT: James is right, there are just a lot of themes of death and rebirth. We kind of look through the lens of post-fire life with all of the smoke and regrowth of nature. It’s really about the cycles of life, death, and everything in between. We settled on “Eternal Embers” to have that permanence and to connect to our lyrics and themes. There is a song on the album called “The Fire Itself” which has a lot of those themes in it which makes it have a deeper meaning and connection to our listeners and with the album itself.
JP: I’ve been thinking, after the fact, that “Eternal Embers” has the word eternal in there which feels like this album has captured a moment in time for all of us. It feels super tied to the cabin as it’s an eternal document we have for this time in our lives.
ZB: To switch gears a bit, your music is often described as alternative psych-rock, do you think this fits your music? How do you feel about these comparisons, and how do you strive to differentiate Meltt’s sound within the genre?
CS: I would say it’s a combination of what we all like musically. No matter what we do, it turns into sounds like Meltt organically. It’s sort of our own taste curated to what we want to hear and just naturally going in that direction with our writing and producing. There are a lot of influences that have brought us to where we are in our sound, but it seems to be just naturally occurring. It’s never “I want it to sound like psychedelic rock,” it just comes out like that for the most part.
IW: Yeah I don’t think there’s a conscious effort to differentiate ourselves to not sound like something else. It’s more that we write what we write and produce what we think sounds good. Whatever happens to come of it is what we get. Chris is right, we are the amalgamation of our influences. The whole alternative thing is pretty funny for me. Someone will ask any of us what kind of music we play and most people don’t know what psych-rock is.
JT: There is such a huge umbrella of music under the label alternative so you can’t really describe it. It can be anything, which makes it so hard to describe it or put someone’s music under this genre. It also depends on what we’re influenced by at the moment. It can be something more “alt” or something more “indie,” which doesn’t mean anything either. COVID allowed us to experiment with more synthesizers, sounds, and lyrics. The guys could explore different synths and sounds while we were isolated. It became more colorful and the sound became a lot more layered.
CS: Usually you try to make your music emotional or moving in some way, the tones and the delicacy of sounds, but also making it heavy at the same time. Sometimes we try to juxtapose heaviness with delicacy at the same time. It gives our music an ethereal feeling which can be nice.
ZB: You’ve mentioned that the band has been experimenting with new sounds and synths, but how do you approach the process of combining these elements while maintaining a cohesive sonic identity?
IW: I would say, very broadly, we’re pretty maximalist in our initial stages of songs. We just go nuts and try everything out and paint on a lot of layers as time goes on. Then we’ll have to take a step back and think about what the song needs, or what it’s lacking, now that we’ve messed around.
JP: Here are all of the ideas all at once, now pick through most of it and unmute some stuff.
IW: We find a lot of joy in messing around with gear and effects and those kinds of things. We spend a lot of time trying things out and recording random bits of sound to see what works.
CS: One thing to mention with our sonic writing, at least for me but I think for most of us, it’s very much messing around in the DAW (Digital Audio Workstation). Recording different sounds, copying and pasting them into different parts of the song and just moving a lot of things around and writing in that way. I never usually write a song front to back and just record it all the way through.
It’s more experimenting, searching, and arranging in the computer as part of crafting the song and what comes in and out layer-wise. But, our music is pretty collaborative. We all take our parts and bring them together to make one sound we all enjoy. However, we usually do music first and then songwriting when we’ve made a melody.
ZB: As musicians, you’ve dealt with personal and relatable topics in your music. How do you navigate the balance between vulnerability and maintaining a sense of privacy when sharing such intimate experiences with your audience?
IW: For me when I’m writing songs, it feels like a very private and intimate thing. It’s poetry that we make into lyrics and it’s so personal and vulnerable, which I find scary. There is the feeling of holding back and not wanting to share everything I write. But, that’s what we try to do with our writing. The catharsis achieved through our art is important to me, which is why it’s important to have pieces of writing out there.
JP: Within the band, there’s enough trust, and we’re working toward the same thing, to where we can share vulnerable writing pieces with each other. It can still feel slightly uncomfortable at first, but we have a safe environment where we’re working on making the best music we can. In that sense, I don’t feel weird about writing vulnerable songs or lyrics, but sometimes I get conscious about the fact that people hear our music and we might be asked to explain something. That’s where I feel like I don’t know if explaining it makes it better or worse. The song is the expression, sometimes it’s nice to leave it vague. It’s saying something without actually saying it.
ZB: What do you want listeners to take away from this LP?
JP: To take them on a journey for sure. These songs, to us, are the album. The album as a whole is the best way to hear all of the songs. We definitely want to take people on the big beginning-to-end journey with all of the music. I’d like to leave people feeling good, maybe having a bit of a cathartic release. I hope it leaves them feeling like they’re in a good place.
IW: We’re not so much the type of writers where we have a specific message or lesson we want every listener to gain from our music. We like to let the listener interpret the music and take what they want from it.
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