Interview: Melody’s Echo Chamber

September 26, 2012

For her Melody's Echo Chamber project, French artist Melody Prochet spent years writing songs, leaving the comforts of a traditional studio to work with Tame Impala's Kevin Parker in Perth, as well as in her childhood home in the South of France. It's a trickily raw record that sweeps you up in its layered psychedelic flourishes, with Prochet's vocals floating and weaving their way through each track. On first listen, it sounds nice, but burrowing further, there are layers of tangled instrumentation and vocal tics to uncover. We spoke to her about what made her break from her previous musical background and how alienation and new surroundings factor into the writing process. Melody's Echo Chamber is out right now on Fat Possum.

Stream: Melody's Echo Chamber's Self-Titled Debut

You have a background in music and have been doing this for a while now. What made you start fresh with Melody's Echo Chamber? I didn't over think it to be honest. I had been surrounded for many years by classicism—you know it's about formal music. So when I started recording songs for the last years I was kind of stuck in that restriction, and I tend to not be extreme enough in sound, I think it had recently clicked, and I just naturally ended up collaborating with someone a bit different, like someone with a rock and roll background, and I think we worked as complementary opposites. It was really easy and natural to work with him, and it just happened really—I didn’t think about all this.

You're talking about [Tame Impala's] Kevin Parker, right? He played on every song on the record. You say you felt restricted, did working with him on this help you let go a bit? I just needed someone to destroy my roots and put it back together. I just always write songs, but this time it was a bit different because I met [Parker] two years ago when we weren’t on tour and it just naturally happened.

Does that mean you've been working on these songs for the last two years? Or was it more like a quick burst of writing? I had a few songs when I met Kevin that were new at the time, and I played them to him, and he loved it and that’s when he said it would be cool to try and collaborate, and that was two years ago. That was maybe three songs. Then the time that we made it happen, I wrote new songs, and then I wrote a few songs in Perth while we were recording, and when he went on tour for a while and I was alone in his studio, I didn’t know at all how all his gear worked, so I just plugged my guitar in the pre amp which is really wrong, but I just did it, and it sounded really rough, and we ended up keeping that. It’s not a burst in the moment. It was like the last year-and-a-half that I wrote all these songs.

You did the bulk of the recording in both Perth and the South of France. Yeah exactly. We recorded all the instrumentals in Perth. I recorded some stuff in France that we kept.

Do you feel like the environments of these two very different places factored into the recording and songwriting? I think it did. I am not sure how. Well, Perth—it was winter in Paris and like minus ten, and I arrived and it was 37 degrees [celsius], so I had a thermal shock already. It was one of the things that made me a bit crazier. For example, you start finding Orion in a different sky, and you’re like, Oh wow. It's weird, we are on the other side of the world. It's that, and then there were all these new people around me. They were really influential. They do things and take risks in music. They were really inspiring people. Then, in the south of France, it was something else. I was in my childhood house, and my grandmother passed away there, and they are selling the house right now as I am talking, and it's really painful. When I sung there, in the living room, I put the mic on the stairs and I was standing there on my own and it was really emotional, and I think it was the right thing. It was really natural to go there.

Had you recorded vocals at that house before? No. I never did. I was convinced that you couldn’t make music in any other place than a professional studio, and that was my precedent. I went to studios and worked with professionals, and I didn’t feel like it was the right thing. And with Kevin and the way I went in the house—to me it still sounds really professional.

In a few other interviews, you mentioned that you achieved your dream sound with this album. What do you mean by that? I don’t know. Kevin totally kept to the sound I had in my head. I don’t even know where this obsession comes from. When I listen to records, I just listen to the drum sound first. I don’t know what it is—my sensitivity. I am really really obsessed with drums. But I am really bad [at drumming] myself, so I just needed someone to sculpt the sound, and Kevin was the person that fit. It is hard to explain the dream sound.

What were you listening to when you were writing? At the time I was listening to this band called Women and all the guys were listening to Spiritualized. I think I have been influenced by music, but also by art, or movies, or books, or whatever—even nature. I don’t know if you’ve seen this, but I just recently found out about this tree called the Eucalyptus rainbow tree. It is this tree that has this naturally milky colored bark, and it’s amazing.

Your first language is French, but you sing in English on the bulk of these songs. I have always been writing in English. It felt more natural as I listen to a lot of English bands and less French music, but recently I have been listening to a lot more [French artists]. I felt I wasn’t good enough to write. They are all amazing poets. You need to be really good when you write in French. Its not like English where you can sing less seriously. In French it sounds really serious really fast and I didn’t want that. I just started writing in French when I was in Perth. I just missed my language. My mumblings when I recorded my demo vocals were in French for the first time, and I was like, Oh cool, this song will be in French I guess. It was the first time, but now I tend to write in French more. I found the right balance. I write really simple lyrics, sometimes a bit childlike, but also a bit erotic. It is really new, so maybe next record it will be half-half.

Interview: Melody’s Echo Chamber