(above: original Meltybrains? artwork by Sophie Branigan)
Last week I went to Volt Studios to have a chat with the guys from Meltybrains? about falafel, getting electrocuted on stage, having sex with Westlife and their upcoming trip to Austin, Texas for SXSW. This guy Dara from some band called Girl Band was there too.
To set up your AIB online banking, you have to play the first few bars of your favourite song on any BGA flute. What song would you play?
- Micheál: That’s incredible, how do you know about that?
- Dara: What is it?
- Micheál: It refers to a funny little surprise I’ve hidden on www.meltybrains.com, I didn’t think anyone would find it! As for the song, I’d get an ensemble of people to play a Snarky Puppy tune.
- Donnacha: Amhrann na bhFiann.
- Brian: Mario Theme.. If the BGA flute is a real thing..
If you had to sleep with a member of Westlife, who would it be?
- Ben: Shane.
- Micheál: Well realistically, it’d be Mark I guess. If he was interested, of course!
- Brian: Not Brian McFadden after that dodgy song he put out a few years ago..with the banjo solo..
- Ben: .. “Cotton Eye Joe” in the Wright Venue.
Where did you meet?
- Donnacha: Space. We were trapped in the Phantom Zone glass prison from Superman.
- Tadhg: We’ve never been any older or younger than we are now.
- Micheál: Space college.
If you made a rockumentary, which member would be the rambunctious trouble-maker, and which member would be trying to get things back on track?
- Ben: Micheal would be the mischief-maker and Tadhg or Brian would try and fix things up.
- Brian: I think Donnacha would be the one to get things back on track. I’m actually in the process of making a musical using only music from popular advertisements. Maybelline’s the love interest in it.. “maybe she was born with it?” Dara has a walk-on line selling fish..
- Dara: “Freeeesh fiiish aaand apricots!”
Your live performances have been described as “undoubtedly weird, captivating” with “intimidating energy, loads of humour and wig-out moments”. What way does Meltybrains? view the gigs? And what do you want them to be?
- Brian: To be honest, we just think it’s us going a bit mad!
- Micheál: We still don’t quite understand why people like it so much!
- Tadhg: Honestly the people who come to see Meltybrains? understand us more than we do! A woman in Cork gave me an amazing dissection of our live performances, that it’s about a transformation from boys to men to animals. I think the audience are important in the experience of the live show. We all have a good time together.
- Ben: I thought you were going to say a transformation into Boys II Men. I think it’s a compromise of five totally different musical backgrounds. Even in our daily lives we disagree about things..
- Brian: No we don’t! … Sorry I had to do it. Field sports are also a big influence on our live performances.. After every performance there will be a lot of high-fiving and shouting “YEEEAH!!”
- Micheál: If a gig doesn’t go so well, Brian will be pacing around swearing like the coach at the side of the pitch.
Do the gigs ever get a bit too mental?
- Ben: I electrocuted myself accidentally through the bass guitar yesterday. The guys thought I was just getting really into the song but there was actually electricity running through my body. I finished up the song though.. I should go to the hospital tonight..
What musical backgrounds do you all come from?
- Ben: I like dark, heavy electronic music and heavy metal. But also nicely written, beautifully melodic pop music!
- Brian: We all had pretty typical, classical training when we were younger like choirs, marching bands and orchestras. By the time I got to university I figured I was too old to be in a band and I should look for orchestral work. Then I started listening to more 20th century avant-garde stuff like Xenakis and Ligeti, and from there I got into electronic music like James Blake.
- Micheál: I credit my dad mostly for my love of music, he used to take me on drives and let me listen to Alice Cooper because my mum thought it was too dark for me. I like pop music too. I think it’s incredible when someone writes a 3-minute piece of brilliance that millions of people like, even if that’s not what I want to do personally. At Berkeley, I got introduced to stuff like neo soul and Snarky Puppy, who are my life.
- Tadhg: I’ve been playing violin since I was six years old, so I was all about classical music. I went to see The Chillis in concert in The Phoenix Park with Pixies and thought, “Forget The Chillis, who are Pixies? They’re the best thing I’ve ever seen!” . Then I got more into hip-hop, reggae and world music and I go to Notting Hill Carnival every year now. I have a reggae night in The Twisted Pepper on Sundays now actually!
- Donnacha: I used to mime playing the violin in orchestras.. I stuck with piano more. As a teenager I was in an Arctic Monkeys-style indie-band called “Ladyboy Fantastique”. We changed the name to “Invaders from Space”, and then to “Hanshake” without a D..
Meltybrains? use auto-tune quite well, who’s your favourite auto-tune artist?
- Ben: Cher and The Eurythmics.
- Donnacha: After T-Pain of course, I like Zapp and Roger’s use of the vocoder talk-box.
You’ll be performing at SXSW in Austin, Texas in bit over a week, how do you feel about it? What can we expect?
- Tadhg: We’re so excited, we’ve got 500 masks ready to go!
- Donnacha: The only thing I amn’t looking forward to is us being the band with the skinny white legs walking around like the Irish people you see fresh of the plane in Spain with the jerseys on and the flowery shorts from Penney’s.
Tell me a bit more about the masks.
- Tadhg: They were Micheal’s idea completely. He puts 60-70 masks on the floor on a big rug in his shed, sprays paint into the lid of the can and splats that onto the masks. Each is completely individual.
- Ben: We started wearing them initially because the first ever gig we did was a song competition in university, and we decided to take the piss since we thought it was ridiculous to play that music live. We played three tunes, made a mess of the place, and wore silly clothes. Tadhg wore a wrestling mask for that. The second gig was equally as silly, Brian ran onto the stage in a mask and started solo-ing during Donnacha’s rap section, because Meltybrains?. That’s where the mask sort of evolved from. For our gig in the Unitarian Church in July 2013 we decided to make masks for the audience too and ever since it’s been part of the experience!
- Micheál: We’ve an amazing fan in Galway who considered booking a flight to Austin just so he could have a mask from every gig, actually!
Do you have any other good fan stories?
- Tadhg: After a gig in Galway a girl came up to myself and Donnacha and tried to tell us how much she liked the band but she sort of lost her words and looked like she was going to cry. She ran away then but myself and Donnacha just sandwiched her in a hug and it was all good!
- Donnacha: I was told we have some fans in Mayo who like to meet up every now and again and sit around listening to some of our tracks with the masks on…
- Tadhg: We like to write messages inside the masks for the audience on the inside of the masks sometimes, like the name of the venue or “WE LOVE YOU” or whatever. Other times it’s just nonsense. It’d be a funny way to spread rumours about the band.
- Ben: Our sound engineer just wrote “help.” and “help me.” on a load of masks for Electric Picnic this year.
- Donnacha: I once just wrote “falafel, falafel, I love falafel” all over the inside of one and afterwards the girl who got it came up and told me that she too loved falafel.
What other artists are you looking forward to seeing at SXSW?
- Micheál: Not Girl Band anyway.
- Dara: I’m going to see your’s!
- Tadhg: Freddie Gibbs, my favourite rapper. And our housemates for the few days, Japanese two-piece ZARIGANI$.
- Micheal: Hudson Mohawke. There are also some incredible Pakistani acts that will be playing, which will be incredible since live music and YouTube are illegal in Pakistan. No one has heard this music before and the artists have never played outside of underground hubs in Pakistan. I think that will be really special.
You recently supported Tuneyards in Vicar Street. How was that?
- Brian: Amazing. It was Merrill’s birthday the day of the gig and we brought out her cake during the last song.
- Micheal: Then we went to her birthday party and nicked some champagne and had a great chat with her parents about Milltown Malbay trad festival. We also made friends with Des Bishop and he’s our adopted uncle now.
How would you like Meltybrains? to be regarded?
- Donnacha: I’d like Meltybrains? To be regarded as an experience, where you go to the gig and you tap into something mad. I’d also like for people to recognise the humour in it.
- Tadhg: I agree with Donnacha, I want people to feel that it’s okay to act like this, it’s okay to be a bit wrong or stupid or silly or fun. I don’t want people thinking they have to put on their coolest clothes to go to a gig.
- Micheal: I would like people to come to the gigs and realise that things aren’t really that serious. Some people take things that shouldn’t be serious too seriously.
- Ben: So we take the piss seriously.
- Brian: We love the idea that things which start of as bizarre, bad ideas could turn out to influence other people’s music. Things we think of and say, “that’s a stupid idea – let’s do that.”
- Tadhg: That’s what happened with all of our favourite bands.
- Brian: We’d also like to regarded as a band that are pushing things forward.
- Tadhg: And backwards.
- Ben: And up and down… and always twirling, twirling towards freedom! .. I have no idea really, we’re all just blindly running!
Words: Cara Spelman