By Sara Spangler, DC Music Live
Two brothers and a best friend came together a few years ago to form Melodime, a DC-based band with soulful lyrics full of themes of redemption and hope. Melodime successfully funded their latest album Where the Sinners & the Saints Collide through a “Start Some Good” campaign, and are donating 100% of the proceeds from the album to providing instruments to those less fortunate. This Friday, November 1 at The State Theatre in Falls Church will be the CD release show for that album, which lead singer Bradley Rhodes promises will be a special celebration. I had a chance to sit down with Brad before the show to talk about the new album and how Melodime got its start – check it out below:
DC Music Live: So Sammy Duis (keys/bass) and Tyler “Tyg” Duis (drums) are brothers, but how did you meet the two of them and come to start playing music together?
Bradley Rhodes (lead vocals/guitar): So I met Tyler when we were about 18, well I was 17 years old and he was 18 years old, really just through a mutual friend we both had. Tyg and I went to different high schools and I had this friend who told me that he knew somebody who played drums, and that we should connect, and sort of against my will drove me way out to where Tyler lived to introduce us. And we just started playing, and Sam joined in about two weeks after that, just sort of listening to what we were doing and filling out the sound and everything.
DCML: How did you get your start in music?
BR: We all actually got our start playing in church, and playing in praise bands and our youth praise bands throughout high school. So I started playing in church I think when I was like 14 years old, and that was my first opportunity to play with other musicians, which is a lot different from sitting in your room and playing the guitar and everything. The fact that the three of us all came from the same background I thought was a really cool way for us to be able to pull together and kind of have the same music experiences.
DCML: When did you know music was what you wanted to do for a living?
BR: I wanted to do it probably from when I was in, I’m trying to think of the exact time, probably right when I started playing the guitar when I was 10 or 11 years old. And then obviously that was your typical starry-eyed childhood dream of wanting to be on stage and wanting to be like our idols that we listen to. The second I met Tyg and Sam was the moment we realized it could be an actual possibility. But yeah, the initial dream was probably when I was around 10 or 11 years old.
DCML: How has living in the DC area influenced your music?
BR: I think the DC music scene is an excellent place to learn how to play music because there’s a ton of these amazing musicians here, and you know we’ve had a great connection with bands like Honor By August. Some of the bands that were around a few years before us kind of took us under their wing and showed us what it means beyond just playing music, but also becoming more business-minded. Just the fact that there’s also a lot of venues, and a lot of musicians within this area, too. I think it’s an inspiring place to be, being right outside the nation’s capital is a cool place to be able to do this. Also, it’s a great hub for touring because we’re not far from New York City, we’re not far from Nashville, we’re kind of right in the middle of all these different areas that are great areas to tour in. And so that’s worked out really well for us to be able to leave for four or five days and go down south, and then come back home and then head up to New York City. You can just cover a lot of ground having D.C. as your hub.
DCML: What’s currently playing on your iPod?
BR: The most recent album that I got was that new Amos Lee album. We just came back from Louisiana and it was like a 22 hour drive, so that was kind of my soundtrack during my driving shift. I will say that what I typically listen to is a lot of the bands and singer/songwriters that we meet on the road that have the talent to be super famous, but are kind of at the same place where we are in terms of touring, and where we are in our musical careers.
DCML: What’s your songwriting process like? Do you ever incorporate other songwriters outside of the band into the writing process?
BR: We haven’t brought anybody in outside of the band. That’s kind of something that I think we’ll
continue to stick to. I think it’s become sort of a band principle that we want to do all of the writing within Melodime, not because we don’t want help from anybody but we have such a science to the way that we write as a band. So as for the songwriting process, in the beginning I just had a bunch of songs that I had written in high school, and Sammy and Tyg learned those and pretty much just made them better, you know as like an outside ear to hear something that I made. And now we’ve really done it as a joint effort, especially with this last album which has been really cool. We spent like five days at a campsite in northern Pennsylvania about a year ago last fall, with the intention of just writing as much as we can for this album. And writing from everybody’s perspectives, a lot of the time just sitting around the campfire and just talking about where everybody is in their lives personally, and where we are in our lives as a band, and using that as our foundation to write from.
DCML: Your newest album Where the Sinners & the Saints Collide was funded entirely by fans through “Start Some Good.” How did you find out about this website, and what was the process like?
BR: Well we initially did what every band does and tried to get a Kickstarter up and running, but with their rules one of the things is you can’t fund a social cause. There’s a little bit of a gray area because we were raising money to record our album, but all of those profits would be going to our charity foundation, and so that didn’t fall in line with the way that Kickstarter does things. So we just searched from there to see if there was another mechanism that would fit well with our project and “Start Some Good” seemed to be our best bet. It’s very, very similar to Kickstarter, and pretty much does the same thing, but you’re able to do it for something beyond just a creative project. But that was an amazing process. You spend an entire month trying to raise that money, and you’re very nervous the entire time that you’re not going to reach your goal, and the album’s not going to be able to be made. Which was scary because we were already in the studio recording the album before we reached our goal, just with the hope and the faith that it would come through and everything. And it was in like the last two days of our campaign we raised around three-quarters of the total amount of money, which was insane. It sort of validates your project and validates the goal we had with the foundation. It was a very humbling and cool experience.
DCML: What influenced your decision to donate 100% of proceeds for the new album to the purchase of musical instruments to those who can’t afford them?
BR: Well, so there’s a story behind this about Sammy and Tyg’s great-grandfather that we actually learned about. He grew up in a very poor family with five brothers, and one day this anonymous person dropped off five instruments on their doorstep, and he and his brothers all chose an instrument and got very good at the instruments that they chose. Through that they were able to improve the living situation of their family by being the town musicians. To be honest we actually learned about that story a little bit after we decided that we wanted to do something like this. We all had kind of had a dream or goal to do something beyond just touring and releasing albums, and constantly trying to build our fan base. We wanted to think outside the box and think of what we could do for the greater good with music. So this is what we landed on, and it was probably a three-year process to work out all the kinks and the details of the whole thing. And now we’re finally at a point of getting that up and running, so we’re very, very anxious to do our first instrument drops and get that part of the business going.
DCML: What themes or ideas inspired songs on the new album?
BR: While we were at the campsite, a lot of the time was spent talking about where we were in our lives and everything, and we realized that this was kind of a sequel to our previous album that was a lot about fighting and your struggle through the uphill battle. This album kind of branches off of that and is a lot about redemption and using your past failures and mistakes to create something good. As we were talking about that we realized that really fit into what we were trying to do foundation-wise, in bringing people together regardless of our circumstances to really make a difference and create change in the world, minus any judgment that might have been passed on anybody. Sam had recently gone through a divorce while we were writing this album, so a lot of songs were written from his perspective going through that, which is a really interesting thing to write about. I haven’t personally gone through a divorce, but I sort of forced myself to be in his shoes through that, and there’s just tons of emotions involved with something like that. So a lot of it was from that circumstance that he went through. Other themes are some love songs that find themselves on our album, which typically come from something I was going through. But I would say overall redemption is definitely the overarching theme.
DCML: What’s your favorite venue in the country to play?
BR: Out of all the venues that we’ve played I think we would probably all say the 9:30 Club. It’s kind of grown to be somewhat of a cliche answer in the D.C. area but it’s just because it’s phenomenal. Even bands from out of town have the same feelings towards that. They treat every single band like they’re U2 when you walk in, no matter where you are in your career, which is a really cool thing. It’s nuts at 9:30 Club, just the staff helps you with anything you need. It’s a breath of fresh air outside of the terrible venues we’ve played where everything’s broken, everyone’s mean, they don’t care that you’ve traveled 10 hours to get there. It’s just a breath of fresh air playing at home, often times
DCML: Are there any shows you’ve played that stand out to you?
BR: I think all of our CD release shows are special evenings because we finally have a product in our hands that we’ve poured our heart and soul into. It’s really just like a party and a celebration with our hometown whenever we have those release shows. I expect that Friday’s going to be the same sort of thing.
DCML: If you could open for any band/musician (present or in the past), who would you pick and why?
BR: That’s a good question. Can they be dead or alive?
DCML: Anyone you want!
BR: I’m a huge Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers fan. I’m trying to think if there’s anyone I’d rather open for than that. Actually, I’d probably say Led Zeppelin, which again might be a cliche answer but that’s probably my all-time favorite band. And that would be so much fun to do like a joint thing on stage. That would be awesome.
DCML: Are you guys excited for The Rock Boat? What was involved in getting chosen to be on the boat?
BR: We are so excited. That’s definitely been a benchmark in my mind. When we first started playing I would always check out The Rock Boat each year to see what the lineup was, and I always wanted to be on it. I always wanted to just go as a fan, but then I was like well I’ll wait and maybe someday we’ll be on it as a band. You know, at 17 years old thinking one day maybe they’ll ask us to be on it. To be asked was incredible, so we’re stoked about that and stoked about seeing all the other bands. We kind of developed a connection with them, opening for Sister Hazel last year. And then we also went to the Sixthman offices while we were in Atlanta and just did a totally stripped down, acoustic performance for them, with unplugged instruments. We got the opportunity to meet everybody who worked there. We’ve been doing this for about 7 1/2 years, so in that time we’ve met people who have put us in contact with the right folks. We also did Rock By The Sea this past May, and it’s a lot of the same people, including Sixthman. That was the most fun I’ve had since our band started. They were telling me The Rock Boat was basically that on crack, so we’re pumped.
You can buy Melodime’s newest album Where the Sinners & the Saints Collide here . You can also get tickets to their CD release show on Friday, November 1 at The State Theatre at www.thestatetheatre.com.
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