A year ago I wrote a review of a Melodramas gig I went to in Southampton and here’s a snippet from it:

The Melodramas rocked people’s socks off and nearly almost rocked a finger off their guitarist Robert. The Melodramas created a raucous, getting this alternative looking crowd clapping and cheering very conventionally. This exciting band is made up of Southampton University student Sam, his brother Matt, Gregory and Robert. Their set list of songs such as Elephant and The Antidote has hints of their inspirations- The New York Dolls and Blur, to name a couple, but there is also the sound of the exotic.

I can still remember feeling buzzed after that gig. If you get a chance to see them, I say go! They have some gigs lined up on their myspace. I recently  spoke to Sam about what the band’s been up to since then and the short answer is -loads!

Sam Woolway: Hello

The Wonder: hey Sam, how are you?

SW: I’m good thanks, yourself?

TW: I’m good. Just watched the England match. well, I say watched…lol

SW: Ahh I missed it, I had band practice. What was the score?

TW: an uneventful 0-0

SW: Ha ha. Sounds like a barrel of fun

TW: I think you’ve been having more fun lately, tbh. lol. how was band practice?

SW: Ha ha it was ok. We’re preparing to record our album so it just involves me listening to a metronome and making sure I don’t speed up or slow down. It’s harder than it sounds…

TW: lol. I’m sure it is. Would you say playing the drums is your wonder, what excites you?

SW: It’s definitely something I enjoy but I enjoy playing piano too so I can’t really say that playing drums is something I enjoy more. I think the thing I like the most is seeing a song come together, hearing the whole thing constructed. There’s a good feeling behind coming up with an idea in your head and then having a room of people play it and enjoy it.

I said the word “enjoy” far too many times in that paragraph…

TW: lol. That’s alright! You sound passionate about what you do. You’ve been going on tour in Asia and Australia. It must be amazing having thousands of people coming to see you play!

SW: Oh yeah, it’s incredible. We’ve been doing things in Asia in conjunction with Tiger Beer and they definitely know how to put on an event. We did a great show in Guangzhou, China in August and thousands of people showed up and really got into it and it’s great to know that, while you may not necessarily be the reason that they turned up, you know they’re the reason they stayed. And I know that because they come up to us at the end to tell us :p

Having said that though after the Tiger Translate (Tiger Beer) stuff we went to Vietnam and did the whole thing off our own backs and that worked out really well.

We had good crowds who came to see us and were as enthusiastic as ever and the same goes for Australia, it’s great to see people enjoying what we do.

TW: That’s so cool. Out of the places you went to, where was your favourite place to perform?

SW: It sounds a little pretentious but my favourite gig we’ve played was for Chaoyang Park Festival in Beijing in China. We played a show on a Saturday night in front of over 10,000 people as the sun was going down and every single person loved it. After we played the organisers had to keep us backstage for our own safety because people were trying to mob us. I was up for getting groped by some Chinese people but alas…

I wasn’t allowed and maybe it was for the best. Although we’ve played some great places since I don’t think anything tops that evening in my mind.

TW: oh that’s crazy! Is it weird being famous?!

SW: Ha ha. I wouldn’t use the word famous…But it’s definitely a rush knowing people enjoy it. When we were in Vietnam in September I walked into a bar one night and a guy had a photo of me on his phone. That was weird. And a little embarrassing because I was wearing the same shirt…But it’s something I wouldn’t change for the world.

TW: that’s so cool. Now I keep saying the word cool! lol. Is it a bit of a culture shock going on tour?

SW: Oh sure. Sometimes it’s great, sometimes it’s horrible. I’m not going to sit here and say something cliché, like ‘life on the road is hard, man’ but it definitely has its unglamorous sides.

In terms of culture shock I would imagine it’s similar to a lot of travelling. I’d never really travelled until a year ago, I’ve never been to Scotland for example, but when we go places that don’t speak English we always get a guide and translator to ease the process. If I lived in Russia and tried to get a haircut I would probably struggle. But when I’m in another country where someone orders food for me and tells to stick it in my mouth then I’m more than happy to do that. If you pardon that expression…

TW: Well, my next question is is it a culture shock coming back home?

SW: It’s always a shock coming back to the English weather. Whenever we’ve played abroad it’s always been hot countries- Kuwait, Australia, Vietnam, China and Cambodia. Everytime it’s been the in 30s, but in terms of culture shock, unfortunately we’re never away long enough for that to be a problem. We’re away for a few days or, at a stretch, a week. In summer we did a 23 day thing across China, Cambodia, Vietnam and Australia. And though 23 days is quite a while to be away from home, that was divided between those 4 countries. So we’re never in a country enough to get any real culture. And all the time we’re there it’s either jetlag, sound checking, playing or eating. Unfortunately you don’t get to see too much of the country. But then as they say, it’s work, not a holiday, right?

TW: Right, but what a job!

SW:But I just want to make the point that I’m in no way complaining about what I do

And I’m sure there are harder jobs out there. But at the same time, it’s not really as sexy and glamorous as you’d expect.

TW: no, of course. i think the media plays a big part in making the touring seem so glamorous. there is a lot of hype around the music industry.

SW: Yeah sure. I’m sure it’s great at the top when I can pay people to do all the legwork for me and I can take my sous chef on tour. But right now we’re a long way from the top 😉

TW: i think the band has made a lot of progress. The tours you mentioned in Asia with Tiger Beer and Australia are great achievements. but going to the beginning, how did the band come together?

SW: Well Matt, the singer is my older brother so I’ve known him all my life. Rob, the guitarist, was the guitarist in an older band we had but he was recommended to my brother through a mutual guitar teacher. And Rob is friends with Greg, the bassist, from college. So we came together as friends really. We’re four quite different people, which makes it interesting but something about it must work

TW: well, I think the great songs you’re making shows that it does work. I really like the track Elephant.

SW: Oh thanks very much 🙂 We’re recording that one for our album. So make sure you get a copy when it’s released :p

TW: oh definitely! Are you recording at the moment?

SW: Not yet. We’re going up to a studio in Oxford on Tuesday to being pre-production, which is basically playing all our stuff to our producer for about 12 hours and him sitting there and going ‘ok, how about you do this?’ and generally making it better. We begin recording the first half of the album in November

TW: who’s producing the album?

SW: A producer called Sam Williams. He did the first two (and the good two) Supergrass albums and has recently worked with The Go Team, Noisettes, Plan B and others.

TW: wow! amazing company!

SW: Yeah definitely, it’s not really the kind of thing you can turn down.

TW: what’s the band’s writing process like? What inspires you guys?

SW: Well like I was saying we’re four quite different people so we each have wildly different influences, from hair metal to nasty electronica. But generally someone will come in with chords or structures and the rest will add their parts and gradually over a succession of practices, the song will take shape and eventually be done. Then we’ll tour it for a bit and see what reaction it gets and then probably change it, make it shorter, tighter and better and start over.

That’s what’s so exciting about the pre production. It’s someone who’s removed enough from it to have fresh opinions.

TW: It’s interesting how writing a song is quite a long process, with songs evolving and changing. It’s exciting that you have this freedom to express yourself. And music is such an amazing platform for expression.

SW: Yeah, you can convey a whole lot of emotion in such a short amount of time

A whole array of feelings. A smorgassboard if you will.

TW: lol. brilliant description. So what do you do to relax?

SW: well at the moment I’m technically unemployed so it’s not exactly difficult to find time to relax. But I have been trying to do more than just music recently. In uni I got into cooking, making a different meal from scratch everyday and that was a great way of clearing my mind of music. Because although it’s fun, it did get a bit much sometimes. I was studying music, living with music students and playing in a band at the weekends.

TW: music overload!

SW: I always felt that if I were doing a biology degree I wouldn’t go home and read about biology, talk about biology and discuss in every weekend. You need to do more

So to answer your question: cooking, reading, swimming and tomorrow I’m starting a course in Mandarin Chinese.

TW: ah, then there’ll be no need for the translator!

SW: Exactly. Chinese is easy, right? I’ll be fluent in no time.

TW: haha. why not? thanks Sam for the interview! it was good to catch up!