It’s time to separate the “Sloan” from The Meligrove Band.
Meligrove Band bassist Mike Small says comparisons between the two veteran Can-indie bands are no longer relevant.
“I don’t think we really sound much like them,” Small explains during an interview about the Meligroves’ fifth and newest album, Bones Of Things. “There was a point where we kinda did [sound alike] because we were copying the same ’60s bands that they had previously copied, but, like, when it comes up I want to say, ‘Which Sloan album?'”
Brian O’Reilly, the Meligrove Band guitarist who replaced the band’s former guitarist Andrew Scott in 2009 — an Andrew Scott who’s different from the Andrew Scott in Sloan — attempts to answer Small’s rhetorical question.
“The Sloan album that sounds like KISS or the Sloan album that sounds like The Beatles?” says O’Reilly. “Grunge Sloan?”
“The hardcore seven-inch Sloan?” Small continues. “As a lifelong Sloan fan I can say that Sloan changed so much.”
“Sloan don’t even sound like Sloan anymore,” O’Reilly adds. “And I don’t know if you’ve sounded like Sloan since, like, 2001.”
There certainly are similarities between The Meligrove Band and Sloan. Both are four-pieces and both have multiple songwriters. Both have mastered the art of high-spirited jangle rock and both are survivors (17 and 23 years, respectively) of a Canadian music scene that’s ruthlessly unforgiving to those whose names aren’t The Tragically Hip, Nickelback or Blue Rodeo.
That said, Small has a point.
The Meligrove Band aren’t like Sloan. They’re their own band. And Bones Of Things ably continues the distinct sonic path Small, O’Reilly as well as band members Jason Nunes and Darcy Rego have created for themselves over the years.
The 10 songs on Bones Of Things sound far more like logical progressions — lineal descendants — of a sound and vibe established with the band’s now-classic 2006 adventure-rock album, Planets Conspire.
A large part of that probably has something to do with having By Divine Right’s Jose Contreras involved in the mixing, recording and production of Bones Of Things, Planets Conspire and 2010’s Shimmering Lights album.
“It’s possible,” concedes Small. “We’ve worked with him [Jose] so much and we started working with him because he was a big influence on us.
“It’s super-comfortable him and us having worked together for awhile now,” O’Reilly adds.
A big part of Bones Of Things sound can be attributed to an instrument neither Sloan or By Divine Right have really ever utilized — the mandolin. The small member of the lute family features prominently on multiple Bones Of Things songs. The genesis of the mandolin rock was simple, says O’Reilly.
“Darcy got a mandolin,” he says. “Darcy’s full of songs…”
“He was saying, ‘I did the demos on the mandolin, but obviously when we do this I’ll do them on guitar,'” says Small. “And we were all like, ‘No way man, these sound cool.'”
If anything, it’s given an Out Of Time-era R.E.M. feel to the new Meligrove record.
“‘Disappointed Mothers’ sounds a lot like ‘Losing My Religion,'” says Small. “I hadn’t thought of this before. It sounds like a guitar player picking up a mandolin and singing.”
Another song, “Woof,” is a peculiar bit of fiction-become-reality inspired by the band’s “Really Want It” music video from 2011.
“We made this music video with a lot of fake merch and there was this guy doing an unboxing video,” starts Small. “It was this stalker-y ultra-fan who had all of our merch. And the guys who made the video made all this fake stuff, too.
“Shampoo… all of these fake products … all-surface cleaner, all the weirdest merch you could think of. Anyway, there was one point where he’s like, ‘I have their entire discography’ and it showed all our real albums, but then the pile of CDs kept going with all these things, one of them was Spritz Something with a hand holding spray paint. One of them was called Woof, the word ‘woof’ in dripping bloody letters and a German shepherd’s mouth wide open. And I think Jay got this idea, ‘What if we write a song called “Woof”?’ If a seven-inch ended up happening we could do this thing where fiction becomes truth.”
So they made the song… a uniquely Meligrove Band song. Because they’re their own band.
The Meligrove Band will perform as part of the What’s In The Box? holiday concert series on Saturday, Dec. 27 at the The Drake Hotel. Also on the bill are Lay These Knight, Seas and International Zombies of Love.