Weekender: Melt discusses lives as student-musicians and new ‘West Side Highway’ EP

The cover of Melt's debut EP, "West Side Highway," is pictured. via Melt

“Adrenaline and excitement and exhaustion” was how Marlo Shankweiler described her and her bandmates’ “double [lives].” Awesome” and “intense” were some of the words used by Veronica Stewart-Frommer, but there is likely no better way to describe the band Melt than “sensational.”

When sitting down for a March 26 phone interview with three members of the dynamic and groovy seven-member group, it became clear just how amazing their music and double lives as musicians and college students truly are.

The band’s roots are in New York City, starting four years ago, but now scattered across numerous universities and institutions. With Tufts junior Veronica Stewart-Frommer on lead vocals, Eric Gabriel on keyboard and vocals, Shankweiler on guitar, Nick Sare on saxophone, Lucas Saur on bass, COULOU on trumpet and Josh Greenzeig on drums, the band is unique in its size and musical versatility. 

Producing a rich mix of jazz, funk, indie rock and pop, Melt achieved success with its first single “Sour Candy” (2017). After reaching the fifth spot on Billboard’s US Viral 50 Chart, “Sour Candy” launched Melt into a series of sporadic singles until their first EP “West Side Highway” dropped on Feb. 19.

Shankweiler, Gabriel and Stewart-Frommer described how the band started.

Gabriel explained how he and Stewart-Frommer “piecemealed the band together” during their senior year of high school, bringing in their friend Shankweiler and some of the musicians she knew to perform the first song that Stewart-Frommer and Gabriel had ever written together — “Sour Candy.” Hearing them laugh about the original idea for the band’s name, “Toast,” made it clear that the foundation for Melt is the friendship which started the band and holds it together still.

After winning a Battle of the Bands competition, the group chose to record “Sour Candy” and post it to YouTube, where they remembered its surprising rise from “humble beginnings” to its appearance on the front page of Reddit after its release. 

“In my high school, I would walk around the school, and teachers would just be playing it for their entire class . . . it was really a grassroots start,” Shankweiler said, speaking about the band’s humble beginnings and the type of community support that propelled “Sour Candy” to success.      

And ever since that grassroots start, Melt’s music has continued to amaze.

With an eclectic mix of musical tastes and influences combined with varying levels of musical training and education, the band members each contribute something unique to Melt’s sound. Stewart-Frommer mentioned that her powerful, but equally tender, lilting voice was completely self-taught.

“My mom had this thing where … she didn’t want me to get singing lessons, because she wanted me to just have fun,” Stewart-Frommer said.

Gabriel mentioned that he also taught himself piano.  

“I took a couple lessons here and there, but I just grew up listening to a lot of music — my dad plays piano,” he said.      

Other members, like Shankweiler and bassist Lucas Saur, had much more extensive preparation and education in music theory.     

Stewart-Frommer explained some of the reasons why she believed “Sour Candy” had touched so many people.

“’Sour Candy’… truly was just us,” she said. “We were 18 … and I think that that is still the energy we bring, honestly, just because we really fell into this opportunity.”  

Those humble beginnings, along with the group’s evident passion for music, shine through even on the more mellow tracks from Melt’s discography.

“West Side Highway” was noticeably more subtle and relaxed than some of the band’s previous releases, but still rich with ingenuity and soulful lyrics.

Stewart-Frommer explained that one of the silver linings of the pandemic was the amount of time it provided Melt’s normally scattered members to gather and produce a full EP. 

“Quarantine was one of our first opportunities in a while to spend weeks on end together, hanging out and writing,” she said. “And a lot of music came out of that.”

Gabriel attributed the toned-down nature of the EP — as compared to the rest of the group’s music — to the lack of live concerts, making the writing process more somber.        

During a regular year, though, Melt’s band members balance being college students with booking gigs and performing concerts. Stewart-Frommer touched on the difficulty of living this “double life.”   

“It’s so much to be performing, and it’s so awesome, but just the whiplash of going from that life to this life can sometimes be . . . a little overwhelming,” she said.

Shankweiler discussed the strange transition the band members had to make from concerts to school life. She described the weirdness of being in a class where the professor was “talking about ancient Greece right now, but I just played a show for 500 people.” She equated the experience to having “different personalities.”

But overall, the feelings of gratitude and pride in the music they produce continue to characterize not just their discography, but the way they speak about the whole experience. 

“It’s nice to have those kinds of two worlds going on simultaneously,” Gabriel said. “I’m in school, but then I also go off and do this crazy, fun thing every weekend.”

When asked about plans for the future, Stewart-Frommer’s answer was simple.

“I think we want to just keep having fun, and keep making music,” she said. 

They expressed enthusiasm about playing live concerts again, an experience which Gabriel said was “not refined or perfected,” but was thrilling because of that.

”The best moments, at least on stage, are when I really feel connected to the audience,” Stewart-Frommer said.     

Listening to the way the members of Melt speak of their connection to their audience, their music and each other reveals a whole new depth to their music. There is a level of intimacy in the connections they have made, and it bathes their music with refreshing new intricacies.


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