NYC indie soul band Melt talk Debut EP ‘West Side Highway’

It has been four years since the members of Melt came together as a band. Co-founders Veronica Stewart-Frommer (Vocals) and Eric Gabriel (Vocals, Keys) both NYC natives, started playing music together in High School. They and some of their friends entered a local battle of the bands competition and won. They took the prize money from that competition and used it to produce the band’s first song “Sour Candy” which was released as a single in 2017.

Melt is a septet, which is comprised of an additional five members: Marlo Shankweiler (Guitar), Josh Greenzeig (Drums), Coulou (Trumpet), Lucas Saur (Bass), and Nick Sare (Saxophone). Melt’s successful debut single propelled the band into the limelight with the strategic utilization of social media and substantial exposure on various internet streaming services. “Sour Candy” holds the distinction of having over 5 million streams on Spotify since it’s initial release. Between this heavy exposure and the band’s high energy live performances, Melt has been successful in establishing themselves securely in the rough and tumble NYC music scene.

Melt has a reached another important milestone with the February release of their Debut EP West Side Highway, which includes six tracks of previously unreleased music. Recorded at the Bunker Studio in Brooklyn, West Side Highway reflects a new level of maturity that Melt has been successful in developing as a band. “Coming into the studio with the goal of creating a longer work, we thought more intently on how each track worked with one another and used the opportunity to weave together the wide set of influences helping to shape a seven-person band,” said Josh Greenzeig (Drums).

“We used the EP format to create a snapshot of what that moment in time was for us, cementing elements of our sound that we love and finding new ones worth exploring.”

West Side Highway starts out with opening track “Don’t Want Me,” a moody number that details a love affair that has gone bad and is still painfully lingering in it’s final death throes. The masterful guitar instrumentation by Shankweiler and the melancholic vocal by Stewart-Frommer both work in concert to create a setting of sad desperation with a longing to be released. It was a great way to start the record and one that was interesting in it’s selection. It set the meditative tone of the EP which is soothing, comforting, and introspective in it’s entirety. This on going theme is again illustrated with third track, the EP’s title track, “West Side Highway,” which can be considered a love letter to pandemic ravaged NYC. This thought evoking number features a wonderfully muted trumpet solo by Coulou that is enhanced with Gabriel’s creative keyboard playing. his type of musical craftmanship results in another gem of a track on the record.

We were able to get some time with Melt co-founders Veronica Stewart-Frommer (Vocals) and Eric Gabriel (Vocals, Keys) in order to discuss the band and it’s debute EP – West Side Highway.

Tim Bopp: How did the band Melt form and what were the circumstances that caused the genesis of the band.

Eric Gabriel: Veronica and I went to High School together and towards the end of high school we had some more time to kind of start playing with people around the city and that was really the first iteration.   

Veronica Stewart-Frommer: The first call we made was Marlo who is our guitar player.

TB:  How did you come up with the band name Melt?

VS-F:  The funny thing about that is that we actually had the song even before we had the name for the band. Suddenly we were sitting with this single and we were like, “Alright and we kind of want to put this out there but we don’t have a name.” So we went down this very long list of random names. The night before we were going to release “Sour Candy” we actually made a Facebook page called Big Deli Chain.  We were like, “That is it! That is the name! We are going to be Big Deli Chain (laughing).”  At some point between 2AM and 4AM that night I was just like this band can’t be named Big Deli Chain and we changed it to Melt.  It was so random.

TB:  How has the Pandemic Affected the band and the new EP West Side Highway?  

VS-F: The EP really is a product of the Pandemic.  In a lot of ways, it feels like an entirely new Melt.   This was such a unique time for us. Something that is interesting about us is that during the year we are all either doing our day jobs or even in school. A lot of us are still in college. So we do this kind of funky long distance band thing where we unite for these crazy weekend shows and then go our separate ways.  In a lot of ways due to the Pandemic, if we wanted to work, we had to live together for multiple weeks in order to justify moving anywhere. It was kind of the first time since four years ago when the band started that we were able to settle down and really be together for weeks on end and write and hang out. We are such a live band that our songs are usually tested over months and years at live shows and they are based on what the audience reacts to and how we are feeling at the show but there was none of that this time.

EG:  We have mostly been thought of as a live band. On most of our singles we typically try to document that energy that we all love about playing together at a live show.  This EP we kind of wanted to go into a different direction.  I think it is much more chilled out and doesn’t really have as much of that live band sound. The individual tracks we kind of wanted to take a different approach in the crafting of the songs.

TB:  What are some of your musical influences? 

VS-F:  Part of what makes up the Melt sound is that we are seven people and some of us went to school for Jazz music and some of us studied political science and were raised on the Beatles and Bob Dylan.  A lot of us have been into the Jam scene.  That is actually how I met Marlo, through Phish and the Grateful Dead.  I think we are kind of all over the map on that.  Obviously as a singer I really adore a lot of artists like Aretha Franklin, Etta James, Otis Redding. That is where I fell in love with that genre and that type of singing. We are really all over the place.  Right now a lot of us are into Phoebe Bridgers and the more Indie scene. I think that comes through on this EP.

EG:  I grew up with a ton of Bruce Springsteen. More recently I listen to more folk music like Adrianne Lenker and also bands like the National.  That kind of music.

TB: So, are you two the predominant the songwriters for Melt?

VS-F: Typically, that is how it has been. In the past, Eric and I usually write the lyrics to the songs that we sing, but we edit with each other and with other members of the band. Usually, it will either be one of the two of us will start a song and then bring it to the band. It evolves into a completely different direction from there. For this EP, since we were all together and couldn’t perform live, we wound up focusing a lot more on the production side of things as a band. Our bass player Lucas is really skilled at recording and in engineering production. He played a huge role in creating the foundation for the songs on the EP. We experimented a lot on this record this time around.

EG: This time around we started with Josh the drummer literally laying down songs, sometime just on his own. Then we would add the bass track and then that leads us into the guitar and usually vocals at the end.  We really just build it up. 

VS-F:  We don’t know which way we like better.  Maybe in the future we will go back in and play everything as if we are playing live. I think part of the beauty of Melt is that we are so young, so we don’t feel tied to any of our ways and we like to try out new things and see how it goes. 

TB:  How long did it take a band like Melt to complete the West Side Highway EP? 

VS-F:  Start to finish it was like two months. We were really lucky to be able to record the EP at the Bunker Studios in Brooklyn.  We had a really wonderful producer and engineer named Aaron Nevezie who mixed some of the tracks as well.  

EG:  Some songs were written earlier, like Hours I wrote about a year ago.

TB:  What does the future have in store for Melt?       

Eric:  We cannot wait to start playing shows again. We are really looking forward to playing out.  The last real show Melt played was at the Sinclair in Cambridge last February.  It felt like that at that show we all came together and we were fully on it.  Our trumpet player Aaron even stage dived at the end of the “Sour Candy” solo that night.

VS-F:  That show was awesome.  It wasn’t the biggest room we have played, but just the layout of the place was great.  It went straight back so you could see everyone and there was great energy that night.  I also think the Knitting Factory show we played in Brooklyn.  That was the first time we played “Waves.” Before a show we are always saying to the band don’t go too fast let’s keep the energy contained. Once we get out there it is just like an explosion and we are always playing at 100%.  We don’t have many moments during a set where we just drop back and take a moment to breathe.  In the bridge in “Waves” there is a moment where everyone drops out and it is just me and Eric. That was really a special moment. I always think about that moment when I picture live music coming back. It was the first time that we had ever played the song and I think the audience was psyched to hear a new song and it was kind of a sentimental little moment. It was really cool.     

Key Tracks: Don’t Want Me, West Side Highway, Waves