“I wouldn’t say that I’ve had the best luck with women. And after listening to the album, I suppose everyone else is going to know that as well.”
Don’t feel sorry for singer/songwriter Simon Erani, the force behind The Melloncollies and their debut album Goodbye Cruel World. He prefers to wear his real-life melancholy on his sleeve like a badge of honor. And as the band creates a unique blend of everything from 80’s synth pop to 90’s arena grunge rock, the lyrics draw creative inspiration from one of mankind’s oldest and most universal sources—a broken heart.
From the first seconds of the melodically-drenched opening track “Bullet In My Sunday,” Erani’s vocals and keyboards, Peter Claro’s guitars and bass, and Darros Sandler’s drums combine with an energy and ferocity that make this Brooklyn-based band sound like anything but a freshman act. Just as you find yourself singing along with the last chorus, the hook-laden “Simple Naïve Someone” has you believing in love again.
While Erani’s vocals may bring to mind such unabashedly clean pop singers as Bleu or Robin Wilson of The Gin Blossoms, he can also muster up the rock-and-roll rawness of Paul Westerberg of The Replacements or Dave Pirner of Soul Asylum. Such is the case with the track “You You Yeah Yeah,” a night-driving wailer in pursuit of yet another what-went-wrong. In striking contrast, a string quartet joins a lonely nylon-stringed guitar as the rock ballad “All I Want” answers that angry question with crestfallen acceptance.
“Let It Rain” picks up the pace with a driving four-on-the-floor beat reminiscent of The Cranberries hit “Dream,” and Erani once again turns a storm into a renewing baptism as he sings this open letter to an absent father. Then with the surprising edginess of Billy Corgan backed by bright crunchy guitars and Smashing Pumpkins-sized drumbeats, “Why Oh Why” hits on the irony of conflicted relationships, followed by a peaceful moment of hopeful reflection in the beautiful ballad “Maybe Someday”.
This near-optimism continues to twist through the straight-ahead rocker “Misery” and the buzzy “Criminal Girl”, then turns back to the solitary sadness of lost love in the “The Loneliest Boy”. “Money Money Money” ends the album in a raucous nosedive, with flaming guitars and double-time drums playing Oasis to Erani’s Dylan as he unveils the “real” reason for his perpetually crashing romantic life. For the diehard fans, the full-album download also includes a stunning acoustic guitar and string quartet version of “Let It Rain.”
Produced by Peter Claro and Simon Erani and mastered by Blake Morgan, Goodbye Cruel World makes Erani’s songs resonate with past angst and buried emotions while The Melloncollies simultaneously radiate with a genuine enthusiasm and sincerity rarely encountered in today’s pop/rock scene. Together with the support of their label Somme Music and new worldwide distribution through Engine Company Records, the band is poised to capture a whole new audience of freshly broken hearts around the world.
How do you describe your music to people, Simon?
I would say, heavy with mood yet surprisingly exciting. I like to think of our music as a moving contradiction- upbeat drama! When I was younger I developed a love for women that rivaled my love for music, and figured I’d might as well combine the two forces and see the result, which in turn ended up being our album, Goodbye Cruel World. If you aren’t lucky in love, I’d say our music is for you, after all- I’m in a band called the Melloncollies!
There’s a band in the seventies called the Raspberries, with Eric Carmen, I frequently have had people compare them to us. I take this as a huge compliment- have you ever heard of them? I’d say they’re right up my alley and I pay my homage to them.
Other than that, sound wise, I would have to say that our music is power pop and rock/pop. I’m a sucker for a killer love song. Our music is loaded with a raw pop sounds in our melodies and we follow a pop structure that’s simple and gives people what they want. We follow the K.I.S.S. model and I try not to think too much into it when I write, some times less is more.
Tell me about how you originally got into your craft.
It goes back to when I was six and in kindergarten. I used to play drumbeats with my hands on the table and people would always shoot me looks of surprise. My dad bought me my first set of bongos, and I start[ed] playing with them and singing songs. From there I did a few talent shows and won a few awards- even though at the time I never really saw the relevance or importance of winning them. My dad loved rock and my mom loved pop- so they put me in the middle of some sick game [of] tug-of-war growing up. My dad got me a set of drums with a mic, and I used to go nuts and play rocks songs. This, naturally, drove my mother insane, so her answer was to buy me an acoustic guitar. I started teaching myself how to play by ear and used the music my mother loved to listen to as reference, and by the way, she loved pop love songs. My father didn’t mind so much, but just to keep the game going and to annoy my mother, he bought me an electric guitar and amp! Hey, I’m not complaining, it obviously worked in my favor!
It wasn’t until I was eleven that I started to write songs and I started performing shortly after. At fifteen, I was in a band called “Night Brigade” as the singer and drummer, and we put out two records called “Got a place in my heart” and “Make Believe.” I remember I used to play the drums standing up, trying to stand out and be unique, but in time we got another drummer and I was playing guitar and singing lead vocals. I was a little kid, new and unsure of what to expect, and then college radio started playing our songs. My band was older than I was, so they would play these clubs like CBGB’s and Stone Pony, Maxes in Kansas City, which were pretty big clubs at the time that were interested in our songs. They had no clue what my age was, and one time at CBGB’S the police came and waited for me to finish my set. They scared the hell out of me and told me they could take me to jail and brought me home.
Of course my mother nearly collapsed when this happened. She had no idea I was playing clubs and warned me to not play then until I was a few years older. Especially because at that time, my father passed away and she had to take care of 5 us, and we were animals! Since then my band snuck me in a huge and large amp case. When my mom found out again she used to scream and run after me with her slipper and whack me. When her birthday came around, I bought her the softest pair of slippers because there was no way I was going to stop playing. And here I am- with the Melloncollies and haven’t looked back.
What is your favorite thing to do in the whole wide world?
Now that I’m older, and hopefully wiser, I would say being on the beach and swimming in the ocean. There’s something at peace with the world when you’re laying there. I really appreciate it and love it. I have a really hectic life- I run two businesses and rarely get any time to myself, between writing music and keeping both companies on their feet. So if there’s a chance I can get to snag some alone time in the ocean, I’m there, with do not disturb all over my face.
What is your biggest challenge when it comes to running your business?
The biggest challenge in running your business is running your business. I run two companies, Somme Institute, and Somme Music, and I swear it’s like I’m the energizer bunny banging on those drums all day. Not to mention, they’re in completely different fields and industries. I’m also an artist on our label, which also cuts into my time with the Melloncollies. It’s not just running the business- it’s finding the balance!
Music isn’t what it used to be anymore and that is terrifying and exciting at same time. I feel this is also the time for independent artists to shine. The last decade really flipped the music industry and everyone is searching for the next best business model. We live in a world that’s searching “in-the cloud” and beefed up on smart phones that you can watch YouTube on. Everyone is scratching their heads trying to figure out how to survive all the changes, while independent artists are like, “Okay, where have you been?” You have to be innovative when you’re strictly indie and work twice as hard as the major labels- we have a constant contingency plan.
I have a small team at Somme Music, and we’re always working, and luckily, we set up our worldwide distribution with Engine Company Records and that really propelled us to where we needed to be. It’s the connections you make while you’re running a business that can make or break you. The hardest part is working with what you have. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but absolutely challenging. We brainstorm every day on how to make our company stand on its feet with our resources. It also makes the breaks you get, like working with Engine, really appreciated.
When you were a kid, what did you think you were going to be when you grew up?
That's a good question, I really never thought of it when I was young. I was always getting into trouble and always in the principal's office. All I was doing was avoiding my mother’s slippers when I was coming home. I guess I always knew in the back of my mind I was going to do something in music. My strength was always my song writing and it was always a dream of mine to be like Burt Bacharach and Hal David (who wrote songs for Dionne Warwick who had many number one hits in the late 60’s and 70’s.) I guess that’s every songwriters dream, though.
In what way has your community impacted your development as a musician?
I don’t like to think myself as a product of my environment. I’ve always done my own thing, listened to music, and wrote songs. Music was always in my life, and that’s really all I needed. I don’t see that being any different if I was born in Guam, or if I was raised in Alabama. I hope this isn’t boring, I know some people love to hear a good “rags to riches” story but music is really the only thing that fuels me. I’m from a very tight-knit community in NYC, they’re always willing to support the Melloncollies and their work, which is great. The best I can say in recent years is juggling the time of being in fast-paced New York and running two companies. It has really matured my songwriting, being in a hectic city forces you to concentrate on your art.
What other artists out there do you love?
Bob Dylan has influenced me in many different ways. I think he is one of the best songwriters of all time. His mark on music has impacted millions of aspiring artists. I love Elvis because he’s the king, and I’m not one to disrespect royalty. I also really love Elvis Costello, and always keep him in the back of my mind when I’m writing material. I would say off our latest album “Bullet In My Sunday” and “You You Yeah Yeah” echo this influence, and the album has the upbeat power pop feel that the Raspberries so cleverly mastered. On the other end of the scope is Barry White. I know it’s totally different, Dylan vs. White, but I’m sure everyone has their own eclectic mixes on their iPods. The reason why I love these artists is because they had a vision. Any great musician you see out there, past or present, has a vision, and they never surrender it. How can you not love an artist with a vision? It makes [their] music even more entertaining and pushes me to polish my own.
What does your future hold?
Lots and lots of planning. The Melloncollies are going to follow up Goodbye Cruel World and experiment with different sounds and types of music. It’s going to be a great time and I can’t wait to see the finished product. I love getting in the room with the guys and seeing what we bring to the table.
As for Somme Music, we’re definitely looking to grow and build our company. We’re keep our eyes peeled for artists that want to raise the bar and are committed to growing and their art. We want to be a label after artists' own hearts and can expand our roster. Especially in New York City, which I think is the greatest city in the world, we want to help as many talented musicians as possible.
And hopefully there will be some time to be on the beach…