[It’s] just nerve-wracking and I wasn’t very comfortable playing live and singing. But then we stopped for a couple months, and then we got back together in January with a new lineup. And it’s been nice ever since. It’s good to see how the music translates live.
5. Did I say she does everything initially by herself, for herself?
Melina: I think that’s my favorite part of what I’m doing now, playing Jay Som. Like, I like playing live and hanging out with other bands, but the recording process is the most enjoyment I get out of making music, too. I think it’s nice that you take control of the situation because it’s only you. You don’t have to have anyone else’s opinion besides yourself and it takes a lot of critical thinking, because you are also writing the music. But when you’re recording it, you also worry about, like, ‘Does this sound good?’ You start to compare it to other people’s music as well. But it’s fun.
Is it a release for you; a personal or creative release?
Oh yeah, music, writing and recording it, and doing it in general is very cathartic for me, because I have a very hard time with expressing my emotions through words. Ya know, like talking to people, I have a hard time with that. Doing that through music, with lyrics, even with poetry and playing instruments and recording that, is a release itself. It has just helped me, all of it. Listening to it as well. It’s always there for you.
How long does it usually take you to write a song?
Usually I have an idea that pops into my head. Usually the best ideas are the ones that come up randomly. Like I’ll just be sitting in my car and I’ll think of a melody line or a bass hook. Then I record it on my iPhone; keep it in my voice memos. Then I’ll go home — I have a notebook where I write everything. Just like a stream-of-consciousness writing. Just phrases or words; a theme of the song. Mostly I just start with a chord progression and from there on, I write it. Lyrics are always last. It’s hard to convey emotions, and putting it in musical form can be even harder. Because I feel like writing music and showing it to people is when you’re most vulnerable. Then I start layering more with instruments and then I get the general idea, and then I record it. Then I rock out! Rock out with my socks out.
6. The upcoming tour with Mitski is her first tour as Jay Som, and first major North American Tour.
Melina: It is! This is going to be, the first official big tour that I am going to go on. I’ve been on three DIY tours with Summer Peaks. The first one was in the Pacific Northwest, we went to Washington and Oregon and California. Second one, same thing, and around California. The last one was mostly Northern and Southern California. It’s very tedious setting up shows for tours, by yourself, even if you have the help of three other people that are in your band. You have to do it months before, most of the time people don’t email you back, because you’re unknown or they’re really busy or they’re like, ‘Yeah, let’s set something up’ and three months later they’re like, ‘Hey, it fell through,’ or the venue’s gone or don’t want to set it up for you. A lot of bad things happen, but they’re usually fun because you’re with your friends and you meet a lot of fun people that are also doing their DIY touring.
But on this next tour, you’re not really going to be with your friends.
Yeah! I am going to be myself. I think my manager, Chad, is the only person who’s going to be there for the first show then we’re gonna hit the road. I am OK with that; I love meeting new people. I completely admire Mitski and Japanese Breakfast. They’re incredible and I am just going to see them for free! That’s great.
7. She’s not only in one great band, but two.
Melina: Well, the first one ever was Summer Peaks. Zach, Daniel, and Dylan are in it. I’ve known Daniel and Zach since high school. We’ve all been playing music together for a long time. We were in band together, and jazz combos together. We just, like, always played music together and then one summer, which was the year I graduated, we were just like, “Let’s just start a band.” We all listened to the same music. We all played guitar, bass, or drums. We just went from there.
After that, I joined a folk group, but it was very short-lived. I played bass for it. It was kind of like Fleet Foxes. It was cool, two dudes with beards and me, playing very emotional folk music. It wasn’t my thing, but it was really fun to be in. I’ve done collaborations with people but those always fall through. Right now I am also helping out Fil from Future Shapes by playing bass, and that’s fun. Actually I haven’t been in that many bands but I think that’s nice though. Since I know people who are in two or more bands and they’re juggling that while working. Most of the time it’s like they’re playing music that’s made by one person in the band, so you don’t get the much creative control.
It also seems scarier when it is your music.
Yeah, but it’s also really nice to work with the guys that are helping me out with Jay Som, because I’ve played with them for so long and they have a lot of experience with being in other bands. It’s really easy too, because I’m just like, ‘All right, listen to these songs, get a feel of it,’ and then we get together I just teach them their parts and they put their own spin to it. Like they have their own sound and style; I trust them with that too. I try to not be too controlling of it as well, but if it’s your own project you want it to sound good.
8. This tour is a dream come true for her.
Melina: I think I’m most excited to go to Canada, because I’ve never been and I only hear good things about it. I hear people are nice there. To be honest I am just excited in general but I’m extremely nervous. I’ve just been practicing constantly.
When I found out about it, it was like 8 in the morning and Chad calls me, and he’s like “Hey,” and I’m like, “Hey, I just woke up.” [He says] “So I got some good news. You’re going to go on the Mitski tour.” I think he said “I’d like to formally offer you to play the Mitski summer tour.” And I was like “What!?” I sat up in my bed, I was like waking up, and was like, “This is too much, Chad.” It was very surprising and still hasn’t hit me yet, even though it’s, like, really close. She’s very nice though. From that one time I met her, [she’s] very elegant, articulate, intelligent, she’s so sweet, her music is amazing. It’s an honor to be a part of this.
9. Look at what she doodled!
10. You can see her live, with the full band, for one last time before she heads off on tour this Saturday.
Trails and Ways, Hazel English, Jay Som
Swedish American Hall
June 4, 2016