Fri, Nov 21, 2008 - Page 15 News List

Melee action

STAFF REPORTER

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California power-pop quartet Melee hasn’t made it to the top of the charts in their own country, but that hasn’t stopped them from building up a huge following overseas.

Built to Last, the first single off the Orange County band’s major-label debut album Devils and Angels, was a Top 5 hit in South Korea, Singapore, Thailand and Taiwan, where the band plays on Thursday at Riverside Live House in Taipei.

The single, released in January of last year, also reached No. 2 on radio airplay charts in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands, and climbed to No. 25 on the Euro Pop charts.

“We had only toured the United States until [Devils and Angels] came out. Our managers turned to us a week after [the album was released] and said, ‘It’s kind of taking off in Japan,’” Melee frontman Chris Cron recalled in a phone interview from his home in southern California earlier this month. “Then the next thing we knew we got in a plane and headed to Japan and then it spread throughout Asia from there.”

Cron (vocals, keyboard) and childhood friends Ricky Sans (guitar) and Ryan Malloy (bass, vocals) played music together during high school and got serious about it during college. They added drummer Mike Nader and self-released an EP, followed in 2004 by a full-length album, Everyday Behavior, with indie label Sub City.

That album — which reflected Melee’s early love of bands like Blur and Weezer and late-1990s ska — sold 15,000 copies and led to the four-piece signing with Warner Bros Records in September 2005.

Melee has by now drifted solidly into melodic pop. Songs on Devils and Angels — which Cron has said are about “being in your 20s in modern America” — range from power ballads to pop-rock anthems and are characterized by slick production, catchy hooks, soaring vocals and lots of piano. The band cites Elton John, Coldplay and John Legend as recent influences.

PERFORMANCE NOTES:

WHAT: Melee live in concert

WHERE: Riverside Live House, 177 Xining S Rd, Taipei City (台北市西寧南路177號). For more information call (02) 2370-8805 or go to www.riverside.com.tw

WHEN: Thursday from 8:30pm to 10pm

TICKETS: NT$1,500 advance tickets available online at tickets.books.com.tw and at 7-Eleven stores; tickets purchased at the door are NT$1,800

ON THE NET: www.meleerocks.com


When asked about Melee’s swing to more pop-oriented music, Cron said: “We started Melee saying that we weren’t going to put any labels on ourselves. If we wanted to write a surf-rock song then we’d do it, if we wanted to write a bossa nova song we’d do it, if we wanted to write a metal song then we would do it.”

“Then we kind of honed it into something because we realized that doesn’t necessarily make for a very convincing album,” he continued. “But I think we still hold true to [ourselves]. We never completely repeat ourselves.”

Melee has even achieved considerable success in the UK, despite being panned by some critics there (the BBC called Devils and Angels a “pop missile designed by computer for maximum payload yield”). Built to Last hit No. 16 on the British radio charts and the band played several shows in England and Scotland this past summer.

Cron attributed his group’s warm reception among British fans to the fact that “we joke around about who we are and aren’t too serious all the time.”

“I always thought that people were going to be very pretentious and very critical of music in the UK, and sometimes they are. But they also can really appreciate people who don’t take themselves too seriously, which I don’t think Americans can all the time,” he said.

— RON BROWNLOW

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