Oct 13th, 2017
If Nothing Valley were a real place, it’d be mossy, verdant, and a little bit strange.
Melkbelly, formed by vets of Chicago’s experimental and DIY scene champions, organized noise and thoughtful freneticism on its debut full-length, Nothing Valley, fusing dreamy vocal lines and cantankerous guitar racket. Its songs clang and bang in stripped-down production that highlights the band’s sharp edges; multi-faceted slabs of sound serve harmonious, immediate songs. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that the band members’ tastes run obscure–The Hecks, Lightning Bolt, and jazz drummer Paal Nilssen-Love and, as they tell us, “bands and musicians that draw on a sense of adventure.” The quartet’s membership overlaps with several Chicago noise and experimental bands and art collectives.
An efficient one-day recording session resulted in Melkbelly’s first EP, 2014’s Pennsylvania, which opened the door to touring and opening slots for Speedy Ortiz, Magik Markers and Built to Spill, and led to The Chicago Reader calling Melkbelly “one of the most exciting new sounds out of Chicago.” Next, Melkbelly got back to writing and working, recording a pair of 7-inches with Dave Vettraino at Chicago’s Public House where it had made its first recordings ever for Public House’s Digital Singles Series and a Public House compilation tape. The sessions gave the band a chance to deepen its collaboration with Vettraino.
Miranda writes most of Melkbelly’s tunes on guitar and brings them to the band who puts them through the ringer, where they morph into a Melkbelly arrangement. Often, however, the band will take a guitar riff or two from an open jam recorded at practice and spin it into a song.
Nothing Valley was recorded in early 2016 in Vettraino’s basement studio to 8-track analog tape. Fresh off a West Coast tour, the band let the hours on the road and missed art tourism opportunities at Spiral Jetty shape the songs as well as the recording process itself, writing half the album material in the studio. Nothing Valley breezes gust fresh and forcefully.
1. Off The Lot
2. Kid Kreative
4. Greedy Gull
6. Middle Of
7. Twin Looking Motherfucker
9. Return To Pan Candy Mountain
• North American publicity by Pitch Perfect
• College and non-comm radio promotion by Terrorbird
• Limited edition orange-colored vinyl
• LP comes with exclusive Nothing Valley poster
• Vinyl includes free digital download
• Inaugural release for Wax Nine Records (headed by Sadie Dupuis of Speedy Ortiz)
• September tour dates with Protomartyr + an appearance at Hopscotch Festival
• Music videos in the works
Noisy, subversively catchy and rhythmically sophisticated Chicago quartet Melkbelly emerged from Chicago’s DIY spaces with its experimental instincts intact in songs. Melkbelly’s members live and breathe Chicago’s art and music underground where their paths crossed and alliances were forged. Vocalist/guitarist Miranda Winters played solo in folk rock project reddelicious. Brothers Bart and Liam Winters (the tall fellas playing guitar and bass in Melkbelly) ran an influential show space in Chicago. Drawn together by their passion for East Coast noise, particularly the flavor originating from Miranda’s previous homebase of Providence, RI, Miranda and Bart of Coffin Ships recruited James Wetzel, who studied jazz drums in college, from improvisational free-drum/noise duo Ree-Yees. This new group of friends orbiting the loft and art scene, began collaborating on each other’s projects, formalizing in a more guitar-driven quartet Melkbelly in 2014. Melkbelly ramped up its Chicago activity and an East Coast foray that included opening slots for Xylouris White, Black Pus, and a gig at the soon to be closed Death By Audio that left band members buzzing about the possibilities.
Melkbelly’s debut EP Pennsylvania came out that same year. Engineered by Cooper Crain of Cave/Bitchin’ Bajas, the record came easily. “It all kind of just fell out. They were the first six songs we ever wrote. It was almost like an exercise and it was recorded in just a day,” says Wetzel. The Chicago Reader enthused for single “Doomspringa” with its “noisy guitar freak-outs” and “beautifully melodic verses” and compared Melkbelly, accurately, to a hybrid of the Breeders and Lightning Bolt.
In 2016, the band tested the waters with new material, recording two 7-inch singles with Dave Vettraino at Chicago’s Public House—the band had previously contributed to Public House’s Digital Single Series and a tape compilation–while continuing to tour. Inspired by the geography of a West Coast tour, shared band experiences, the van “as a magical place” and failed touristic detours at a meteor crater (it was closed) and Spiral Jetty (not van-friendly), the band gathered material written by Miranda and spawned from recorded jams for its next album. In early 2017, Melkbelly recorded Nothing Valley with Vettraino, writing about half the album in the studio and tracking it to 8-track analog tape.
Nothing Valley isn’t just Melkbelly’s debut, it is the anticipated inaugural release for Wax Nine Records (a sister label to Carpark Records) headed by Sadie Dupuis of Speedy Ortiz–who’s been a Melkbelly superfan ever since proclaiming their “Bathroom at the Beach” 7″ 2015’s Song of the Summer for The Talkhouse.