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Melee – Daring to Shirk the Easy Road…The Nerve of Some Bands

Chris Cron – vocals/keys
Rick Sanberg – guitar/keys
Ryan Malloy – bass
Michael Nader – drums

The term “mêlée” brings to mind bloody images of fisticuffs and sword-play. Never is it a word that one associates with sugar-pop hooks and Brian Wilson orchestrations. Yet, when applied to the music world, mêlée takes on a somewhat playful connotation. For example, it isn’t much of a stretch to picture the second coming of Sum 41 under the moniker of Mêlée.

Fortunately, Orange County’s own Mêlée bears little resemblance to the aforementioned pre-pubescent punk phenomenon. In fact, the group has more in common with some of the great songwriting duos of our time—Sturmer and Manning of Jellyfish fame, Page and Plant, Lennon and McCartney.

Okay, so perhaps we’re getting ahead of ourselves here. But in a relatively short period of time, Mêlée’s Chris Cron and Rick Sanberg have established a promising combo that’s poised to capture a respectable share of the pie made possible by Maroon 5. Completed by bassist Ryan Malloy and drummer Michael Nader, the foursome that is Mêlée has made significant strides over the past year, having gone from an EP and a brief stint on the Vans Warped Tour in 2003, to its first full-length effort and a full tour of duty on Warped this year.

Now with the summer festival behind them, the boys of Mêlée are ready to capitalize on the momentum from the tour and initial positive reception they have received for their album Everyday Behavior. With little to no break between tours, the band is once again on the road and will be playing Club 156 in Boulder and 32 Bleu in Colorado Springs on September 3 and 4 respectively. Mêlée’s vocalist Cron took a moment to speak with Kaffeine Buzz about the band’s recent progress, as well as its approach to its brand of pop.

Kaffeine Buzz: You guys had an opportunity to play a few dates on the Vans Warped tour last year, and this summer you were invited back for the entire tour. What’s that experience like for a band trying to get ahead in this industry?

Chris Cron: It was a really good thing for us, and we’re happy to be done with it. That was our big accomplishment for the year. It was a lot of fun and a lot of hard work. You just go all summer without much time to rest. So, it’s nice to be back on a club tour now, where we can relax a bit and not have to drive all night.

KB: It seems like it’s a common theme that if you’re on the Warped Tour, you’re pretty much working your ass off.

CC: Which we should be doing anyway, but it’s just way more intense on the Warped Tour. ‘Rock ‘n Roll Boot Camp’ is what we’ve been calling it.

KB: Do you guys generally find when you come off something like the Warped Tour that while you might want to take a rest, it’s actually the best time for you to be right back on the road?

CC: Yeah, there’s something different about club tours. It’s more intimate, and the people come to see you instead of one of the 100 bands playing that day. So, it’s really important to hit those areas that we just hit again, so that people don’t forget about us, and plus it’s just a great way to make new fans with people who wouldn’t necessarily come to the Warped Tour. We just need to hit them up again to keep the momentum going, which might take awhile because we ran through 46 of the 50 states plus Canada (on the Warped Tour).

KB: So, it’s probably fair to say that you noticed a difference this time around doing the whole tour, in terms of audience reception, new fans and such?

CC: Yeah, we were touring on our EP last year — a four-song EP. But we had our full-length (album) out for this year’s tour. It came out on the 29th of June and the Warped Tour started on the 25th, so practically right when it started. That helped a lot. And another big thing is, although we had our van last year, we didn’t have a trailer. So it was 12 days straight with all of our equipment and everyone in the band and not much room to spread out. We didn’t have any money to sleep at hotels or anything, so we would sleep outside or cram in the van. And that was not fun. So this year we had the trailer and a bed in the back of the van, which made it a little more comfortable.

KB: The things you go through simply for the love of music.

CC: Yeah, I know. Even as hard as it is though, I’d still recommend it to anybody, just because it’s something you’ll never forget. It’s pretty much a big adventure. A lot of things happen, and you get a lot of road stories that you wouldn’t necessarily get from normal club tours.

KB: I’m sure you learn to be fairly patient.

CC: Yeah, extremely patient. Just to get along with each other, you have to be patient. Which is good, because it teaches you values. Warped Tour teaches values (laughs).

KB: Tell me a bit about the new record, Everyday Behavior. How did recording this compare to some of the EPs you did on your own? Were you able to add new elements that you didn’t have in the past?

CC: We had a lot more vocals than we had done before. We had Rick, our guitarist, play saxophone on one track. We hired a violinist to come up and play on a couple of songs. So, it was really cool to bring in more elements than we’ve ever been able to do before. I mean, we brought in a real piano, so I didn’t have to play my keyboard on it. There’s no comparing a keyboard to a piano.

KB: In terms of what you guys want to accomplish with Mêlée, do you think long term about where you want to go and how you’re going to get there, or do you pretty much just take things as they come?

CC: It’s a bit of both. There’s always the dream of making it big, but it’s not really the most important thing right now. It would be awesome if it happened, but we’re just taking tours as they come right now. The important thing for us is to reach people with our music and make an impact and difference in people’s lives. The more people we reach, the better, so I guess you could say we’re looking into the future. But really we’re trying to look at it more like one by one right now. So when we play clubs, we’re just trying to get to each person there on a one-to-one level, rather than hit radio, blow up and fizzle out really quick. I want to keep our music as pure and fresh and real as possible. I don’t want to ever be contrived. I think if we just keep doing what we’re doing and try not to get stars in our eyes, then we’ll be fine.

KB: It’s interesting to watch from the spectator’s position, because there’s a tendency in the media to over-dramatize music industry politics, what bands are willing to do or how devious record labels are. So it’s interesting to try to better understand where you guys are coming from at this point in your careers.

CC: There’s always the whole ‘artist plight against the record label’. But I know record labels are a business, and they’re out there to sell records. So I understand where sometimes musicians will cater to that in order to sell records. But there’s a fine line between integrity and simply whoring yourself out. That said, I think it’s possible to still maintain integrity and appease the record label. There are a ton of good examples of that — Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty and all of those guys. They maintain their integrity while still reaping new fans.

KB: So do you consciously keep in mind some of the things that those artists have been able to achieve? Perhaps a better question is whether or not it’s possible in this day and age for a band to do things on their own terms and still be successful?

CC: You know, I don’t know. That’s a good question actually. It seems like more and more it has been about the quick fix. People want something now; they don’t really want to take the time (to explore music). I’m not saying everybody does this, but it seems like the majority is more about quick pleasure, rather than having the patience to listen to something deeper.

KB: Well, it begs the question, ‘Who, today, is going to become the enduring artist of our generation?’

CC: I don’t know. I think U2 is probably the closest thing to that, but they’ve been around forever. But I don’t know of any band today that could repeat that. It seems like all the bands that are out today are just writing things like ‘Woe is me. My girlfriend just broke up with me.’ Yes, there are some punk bands out there that are more socially conscious, but it doesn’t seem like that many people are really worried about anything other than their love life.

KB: In terms of bands right now, who gets your ultimate respect?

CC: There are a lot of bands that I’ve been really into right now. There’s The Doves. They had one hit on modern rock radio a couple of years ago, which didn’t really do anything as far as being a big radio single. But they’re incredible. They’re latest record is just a really good mix of world music, orchestral music and rock ‘n roll. They used to be a techno group, but then their studio burnt down. So they had to start all over, because all of their instruments were destroyed, and they started over as a rock group. And then The Cardigans new record is amazing. It feels like classic songwriting, like Neil Young or something. It has really great melodies, and her (Nina Persson) voice is just amazing.

KB: What would you classify as the strength of your music? Obviously melodies and harmonies are a big part of it.

CC: Yeah, it’s what we focus on — the lead vocal line and how it fits with the rest of the song. As long as that’s strong, you can do whatever you want around it as long as it doesn’t take away from the melody. You know, pop songs are based on the melody, and if you don’t have it, it’s not going to be a good pop song.

Mêlée plays in Colorado at Club 156 in Boulder and 32 Bleu in Colorado Springs on Sept. 3 and 4 respectively. Check out MP3’s of their first single “The War” and “Perfect Mess” at


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