By Victoria Wasylak
From vinyl records to Polaroids, everything in pop culture resurfaces eventually, but Melvern Taylor and his gang are way ahead of the curve.
Melvern Taylor and His Fabulous Meltones’ self-described “post-modern parlor music” rips the expiration date off early 20th century tunes with nothing more than a ukulele and some old school charm. And if you couldn’t tell from his name, his early soul and rock ‘n’ roll influences run deep.
“I wanted to be like Charlie Chesterman and the Legendary Motorbikes,” Taylor says. “Ray Charles had the Raylettes. I have the Fabulous Meltones.”
From the twang-y, melancholy “Table for Two,” to the energy-effervescing summer anthem “Penny Arcade,” the group’s latest release The Old New Stuff plays like tunes straight out of a saloon, except songs like “Mill Town Moon” detail Lowell instead of the wild west.
Trini Lopez’s Live at PJ’s is a big inspiration.
“I like to make up cool little songs that people can sing along with,” he says.
The Beach Boys. The Mills Brothers. Ian Whitcomb. The list of Taylor’s influences goes on and on. Sonically, the album is an array of everything far and in between, and carefully crafted amongst four musicians who click with each other. That need to connect musically, however, is what caused a seven-year gap between The Old New Stuff and their prior release, Love Songs For Losers.
After the departure of original bassist Jonny Grant, the group had to find a new bassist who musically clicked, which became an exhaustive challenge for the group. Their first replacement – what Taylor calls a “rebound bassist” – proved to be a hindrance to making The Old New Stuff.
“Musically it wasn’t really happening, and it made me really depressed,” Taylor says. “For a while I didn’t really want to do it anymore, but I write all these songs and I have to do something with them.”
For Taylor, not being a musician isn’t an option, even if he wanted to take a break. His online bio notes his “unhealthy obsession with making music,” which Taylor says is no hyperbole.
“My brain is always working on a song in the background. It’s like a computer program that never shuts off even when you are doing other things,” he explains.
“I have kind of a love/hate relationship with music. I think about it all the time, and I’ve given it my whole life, and it kind of just shits on me all the time. But I like making up songs so I keep doing it.”
The band’s perseverance paid off when they finished the album equipped with new bassist Matt Murphy, the puzzle piece the band had been looking for.
“He has a totally different style from Johnny (Grant) but is equally as good,” Taylor says of Murphy.
After 16 years of releasing albums, Taylor’s well-versed in the whole recording process, although he admits that his albums have changed stylistically over the year.
“My recordings are more sparse now,” Taylor says. “Early on I liked to make records with all the bells and whistles and that’s really cool. Some of my favorite records are like that, but my last two records have been basically just a representation of what the band and I would sound like on a really good night.”
Five albums and 16 years later, his music still has the sharp bite of the “Handsome Bastard” who started making albums in 1999.
“All of my records are available on iTunes. People should download all of them,” he says. “Someone should cover some of them and make it a hit so I can stay home all day and play with Legos.”
Download The Old New Stuff at www.melverntaylor.com/music.