Interview with Mellevon's April Hutchins
For those who might not know, Mellevon is a Canadian metal band whose latest album, "Solace", I just covered last week. Now it is my pleasure to share a recent interview that I had with the multi-talented April Hutchins. In addition to being the band's sole guitarist (and a damn amazing one at that!), April wrote most of the music and lyrics for "Solace" and took care of the production duties! I want to thank April for taking the time to chat with us and I would encourage all of our readers to check out this band's latest release.
Andy-Could you please introduce yourself for our readers and tell us how Mellevon came together?
April-My name is April Hutchins and I play guitar in Mellevon. We’re a metal band from Montreal, Canada. I originally started the band as a solo project in late 2009, but I got bored of doing music on my own pretty quickly. I started jamming with friends when I started college, and our first full lineup came together in mid-2011.
Andy-How did you decide on the band's name?
April-I came up with the name "Mellevon" when I was fifteen. I originally used it as the name of a monster in a story I was writing. It doesn’t mean anything; I just thought it sounded cool.
Andy-For those who have never heard Mellevon how would you describe the band's sound?
April-Admittedly, we’re pretty strange. We don’t sound like any one thing; we mix things up a lot. I’ve never been able to successfully describe our sound to someone without them coming back to me later and saying "What the hell? You sound nothing like that". I guess the best I could do is say we sound like a metal version of the soundtrack to a Nintendo 64 action-adventure game, with lots of poppy keyboards and added breakdowns.
Andy-I like that! Somehow it's very fitting. Now, it looks as if your band has had more than it's fair share of line-up changes over the years and yet Mellevon has persevered. What's the secret to keeping it all together despite the rough storms?
April-We’re not just a band; we’re also all really good friends. We came together to share ideas and play music together, but we’ve stuck together because our personalities gel and we get along. I think that’s really important. If you’re going to travel across town to get sweaty in a garage and bump into each other for two hours every week, you want to make sure it’s with people you actually like to be around. That’s actually the first thing we (Chel, Stefan and myself) looked at when we started bringing in the new guys (Red and Colin). We knew they could scream and drum, but we wanted to make sure we could be friends first and foremost. To be honest, I think we spend more time hanging out and getting drunk together nowadays than we do actually playing music!
Andy-There's nothing wrong with that LOL! Speaking of Red and Colin how did you find them April?
April-I’d seen Red around in college a few times but never spoke with him. I ended up actually having a conversation with him for the first time when we ran into each other at a party. He was really cool. He told me he’d been trying out for different local bands for a while, but to no avail; the vibe was never right. He checked out our first record after I told him I played in a band, and he’s since admitted to me that he couldn’t get into it for the first few listens. But something kept pulling him back, and eventually, it grew on him, and caught his interest. When we started looking for a replacement for Gabriel, he volunteered to come over and try out, and both his vocals and personality blew us all away. The rest is history.
Colin just sort of fell into place. He plays drums in the Montreal band The Wild Hunt, who Mellevon has done a number of shows with in the past, and he went to the same college as the rest of us. We’d hung out with him on quite a few occasions in the past, and he’d even come over to jam a few times. When Jermeel left, he offered to fill in on drums for a few shows, and eventually started coming to our jam sessions regularly. After a while, we realized he was spending just as much time playing with us as his other band, and we all agreed to make his membership official.
Andy-Switching gears some, could you tell us about the new album and how it all came together?
April-Recording Solace was a long process. We started jamming and tracking material for the record just a few weeks after we released Chaos Reigns, in February 2013, and we continued to make adjustments and changes until just a few days before the release in late 2014. Some of the songs on the record were written during that period, some were written even before.
Unfortunately, we underwent some lineup changes over the course of working on Solace, but it ended up working wonderfully. Colin and Red brought a lot of great performances and ideas to the record. It wouldn’t have sounded nearly as good as it does without their help. Red even wrote one of the songs, "Deathwish", which I’d argue is the best song on the album.
Unlike with our last record, which we recorded with Glen Robinson, we put Solace together completely on our own. Almost everything was recorded and mixed in my garage. It was an experimental process for sure, but it meant that we had a lot of time to work on the record and make it sound as good as possible.
Thematically, I’d say the record is all about struggling (and sometimes failing) to cope with difficult circumstances. Some of the lyrics draw inspiration from literature and film, but most of them are completely based on personal experiences. All in all, I’d say it’s a more honest record than our last.
Andy-I guess in a way you could call "Solace" a D.I.Y. project right?
April-That would definitely be appropriate!
Andy-How has the response been from long-time fans and friends of the group?
April-It’s been very positive. Everyone I’ve spoken to, at least, prefers this album over our last in all respects and thinks we’ve improved greatly as a band.
April-Very mixed. We’ve always drawn mixed reactions. Some critics have complimented the uniqueness of our sound and the catchiness of our grooves and melodies. Others just really don’t like our style. We’ve gotten a lot of flak for how we mix different sounds together. Some people really hate that we do things like inserting a nu-metal groove or a rap section into a melodic death metal song. Solace has been called "inconsistent", "predictable crap", and my personal favorite, "an embarrassing attempt at making pseudo-progressive music". I just like that people react strongly to us, for better or for worse. We must be doing something right.
Andy-I guess so! You mentioned the honesty behind "Solace". Could you touch on that a little more April?
April-Most of the lyrics on our first album, Chaos Reigns, were strongly inspired by movies and literature, particularly the 2009 Lars von Trier film Antichrist. "Chaos Reigns" is actually a line from that film. In Solace, there’s a little of that outside influence, but it’s based mostly on experiences we’ve personally had to deal with and feelings we’ve felt. It’s definitely a more lyrically honest record. I also think that our musical vision came through more clearly since we took so much time putting the record together, and were able to shape the record’s sound on our own, without any third party input.
Andy-That's always a positive thing. I'm curious about something April. This is kind of out of left field I realize, but what are your day jobs if you don't mind me asking?
April-I work at a grocery store. I do cash, cleaning, bagging, cart-pushing, sometimes shelf-stocking and inventory. I’ve been there for three years. Red currently works as a security guard at a warehouse. Chel is an assistant machinist at a metalworking joint. Stefan’s currently looking for a new job - he just quit his old one recently. Colin’s looking as well, but he’s got a good bit of cash to hold him over for the time being.
Andy-Who are some of your influences as a guitarist, April?
April-If I were to name three, I’d say Niklas Sundin from Dark Tranquillity, Jason Mendonça formerly of Akercocke, and Steve Holt from 36 Crazyfists.
Andy-And as a songwriter?
April-There are so many bands and songwriters who I’ve taken a page from over time, but I guess my big three would have to be Rammstein, Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters, Nirvana, Probot, etc.), and Grant Kirkhope, who composed the soundtracks to Donkey Kong 64, Banjo Kazooie and tons of other great games that I was obsessed with as a kid.
Andy-I can relate to Donkey Kong 64 and I was also obsessed with video games as a kid. How things have changed! Now I'm a parent of two teenagers and I find myself on the outside looking in at all of their obsessions! It's rather surreal somethings! But anyway, how is your local scene April? Are there any other good bands that you would suggest our readers check out?
April-Montreal’s got a great music scene. I’d say most of the metal bands that come out of here play technical death metal and metalcore, and we have some great alternative rock bands too. Out of the bands that we’ve played with, I’d recommend Skeleris, Join the Conspiracy and Cirrhose et cendrier. They’re all great guys, and they crank out some pretty ripping tunes.
Andy-I'll have to check them out. What is a live show like for your band, April?
April-Always very exciting, fun, and just a little nerve-wracking. We’ve been told we have a lot of energy and stage presence, and that’s mostly due to Red and Stefan. Stefan’s a big guy, always headbanging and moving around, and Red likes to get up in people’s faces and try to start shit. He’ll almost always dive right into the pit at some point during our set, and he’s jumped off of tables and chairs and broken equipment before.
Andy-Sounds fun! So, is the band working on new material?
April-Always! I’m not sure if we have anything definite yet, but we have dozens and dozens of song ideas floating around. You can definitely expect many more records out of us in the future.
Andy-Sweet! How can fans find our more about the band?
April-Follow us on Facebook.We post everything that we’re up to there.
Andy-I like to give artists the last word. Is there anything that we didn't touch upon that you would like to discuss? Would you like to give a shout out to anyone? Do you have a story to share? The mic is all yours April and yours alone.
April-We are a bit of a strange band, and we sometimes like to do things with our music that may seem a little out of left field simply for the fun of it. I would encourage anyone patient enough to check us out to proceed with an open mind. Try to take our music simply for what it is instead of getting too analytical. Enjoy! Oh yes, and thank you so much for the lovely interview!
Andy-You're more than welcome April. And thank you for taking the time to talk with us.