You think you have soul? Well, you might not have as much as Melly Frances and the Distilled Spirits, who sport the motto “I’ve got more soul than you” on their debut album Nine Pound Hammer Heart.
Melly’s a twenty-something soul singer who wanted to bring together a band so she could ditch the guitar and open mics, and focus on singing her heart out. She gathered together Tom Cusimano who plays the six and twelve strings and slide guitar, Murf McCree on harmonicas, Matt –aka- Bruno on bass, and Matt Miller on the drums.
We’re talking to Melly today to learn a little more about this new SD local group. And trust you me, they are worth listening to.
So you've got quite the plethora of genres under your belt- how does a 27 year old have so much experience?
“I love classic vocalists from Bessie Smith & Billie Holiday to Etta James to Robert Plant and everything in between, it has had a huge influence on my range since it was such a variety of music.”
How long have you been singing?
“In front of people since I was 22, but I have always sung. But I was too shy to get in front of people prior to that.
Oh that’s tough, how did you get over your shyness?
“Mostly at parties and karaoke.”
So this statement is kind of bold: "Ive got more soul than you do," what makes someone have "soul" in your opinion?
“Soul in the song is about what you as a person know/feel in yourself and having the courage to do what you really should do based on those things, regardless of what others think. People with soul in music or politics are the ones that have the guts to stand on their own and do what they believe is right.”
Who are some people in music and politics you believe have soul in this sense?
“Music-wise: Nina Simone, Eddie Vedder, Van Morrison, Ray LaMontagne, Otis Redding. Political: General population that lobbies for change in environmental & equality policies.”
What kind of music were you listening to in your youth compared to now?
“Growing up I listened to a lot of country (classic like Johnny Cash & Emmylou Harris) but now it’s a mix of things; a lot of Rock'n'roll mostly, for instance "Sleepy Sun" & "Dead Confederates" & "The Black Crowes" & “Led Zeppelin."
What are your plans as a band? Do you want to stay local or are you planning to tour eventually?
“As a band we have great ambitions, we would love to tour nationally/internationally, but know that it is a building process. Right now we are focusing on getting bigger and better gigs so we can get in front of more people and hopefully by doing that we get to tour.”
Well you guys sound really good, I’m sure you'll be there in no time. Is it hard to balance playing shows with life's other responsibilities?
“That is always difficult, none of us are wealthy so we all work varies jobs, temp, etc that equate to full-time jobs. And a few of us have significant others, so the first thing is to find what times work for rehearsal regularly, which we have down to a once or twice a week thing. Gigs aren't as often right now, but we are working on it, and will always make time for gigs!”
Tell me a bit about the name- The distilled spirits are supposed to signify what about the rest of the band?
“Distilled Spirits is a combo of a free spirit attitude and the extra curricular activity drinking habits with a mix of the fact that the Distilled Spirits just sounds cool!”
So you're writing all of the songs? Where are you coming up with content mostly? Obviously some of the lyrics have a country twang, and living in SD we don't see a lot of bootlegger's balls or farms. What inspires the songs?
“I do write the songs, they are a combination of places I've been, what I've done, but all with a twist for the sake of a good story. I cite Emmylou Harris and Johnny Cash's, and the blues greats ability to tell a great story as major influences. Bessie Smith is a huge influence on a song like "He Caught Fire".
What is the most serious song on the album and what is it about?
“All I Seen - is about when I once saw a guy get shot in Golden Hill, obviously a very shocking experience!”
Can you tell me one interesting thing about each band member we otherwise might never know?
“Melly - Is not technically a US citizen, but is here legally!
Murf - Never wears shoes
Matt - Always uses his blinker
Bruno - Is an avid rock climber
Tom - Once lost all of his belongings in a U-Haul fire in the middle of a highway
Alright people, Melly and her gang are working their way up to hopefully playing at Humphrey’s soon… but in the mean time, you can catch them this Sunday night at the HOB Homegrown show. It’s house of blues, it’s Americana, it’s free, what’s not to love?
Maybe Mels (that’s what I’ve decided to call her) will even bring her awesome dog Zero. See you there.
By Tracy Petrucci