Show Up!: The Melismatics

Hard Work Pays

Simon McCormack
3 min read
The Melismatics
“When we say ‘Melis,’ you say ‘Matics!’ ” (Alex Abercrombie)
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The Melismatics understand that every show counts.

The band once watched a fellow Minneapolis group screw around on stage in front of a five-person crowd. When The Melismatics went on, the members gave it their all, just as they’ve done at every gig since they came together nearly a decade ago.

"It’s something we do for the people who come to the show," frontman Ryan Smith says. "If you don’t give the same show no matter how many people there are, it’s disrespectful to them."

It turns out, one of the handful of people in the audience was an advertising executive who gave the band $15,000 to use one of its songs.

Like The Melismatics itself, the group’s sound–new wave post-punk drizzled in a sugary candy coating–rarely stops to catch its breath. Window-rattling bass lines and call-and-answer guitars climb in front of rock-solid, no-frills drums. The band’s rapid pulse thumps with a sledgehammer back beat, and the dueling voices of Smith and his wife, Pony, provide a steady contrast.

Smith met Pony at a rehearsal when she was in another project. "I was blown away by her stage presence," Smith recalls. "I said, ‘Someday I’m gonna be in a band with her.’ ”

The co-lead vocals didn’t make it on a Melismatics record until recently. Putting Pony in the spotlight came from producer John Fields. After he saw the band’s set at last year’s SXSW, the man behind the albums of outfits as divergent as Jimmy Eat World and the Jonas Brothers offered his services. Under his tutelage, recording
The Acid Test , released a couple months ago, went faster than any of the band’s three previous releases. "A slow day was absolutely completing one song," Smith says. "He moved at light speed."

Fields made an already cuddly band even more ear-friendly. "He’s brilliant, and I think the world of the guy," Smith gushes. "He’s got ideas that are overflowing all the time and he never has a dull moment."

Even before Fields got his hands on the band, The Melismatics had mass appeal. Its song "Nervous Wreck" was featured on Season 2 of "Laguna Beach," and "Automatic" played on NBC’s "Windfall." The band’s success in getting its tunes on the tube is ironic, Smith says, because he and Pony never watch it. "I’ve never seen ‘Laguna Beach,’ ” Smith says. "I have no opinion of it whatsoever. I don’t even know what the premise is." We’ll take him at his word.

This summer, The Melismatics won Lollapalooza’s Last Band Standing contest, earning it a spot on the festival’s bill. For Smith, playing in front of thousands was a big deal, but the greatest payoff was getting to be near rock royalty. "Perry Farrell would zip up and down on his scooter, and then Slash would be standing there," Smith remembers. "At any moment, there were all these musicians, and that was really a rush."

Slash might not be there, but The Melismatics will provide all the star power necessary at Burt's Tiki Lounge on Saturday, Nov. 15. Animals in the Dark and The Tangle brighten the night as well. It's free but only for those 21-and-over.

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