SF's Melted Toys on Its South Bay Background, Befriending Girls (the Band), and Accidentally Sounding Like Felt
Melted Toys in a haze.
Brian Wakefield, Daniel Rosado, and Steven Harkins make up the San Francisco trio Melted Toys. With only an EP to their name -- Washed & Dried, on Underwater Peoples -- they've already scored a fair amount of coverage on various blogs. On screen and on record, they come off as self-effacing guys whose South Bay roots come through in melody-dense songs tailored for late-night drives on the 280. While they're tight-lipped when it comes to personal information, tracks like "Come On" don't need much context to stand out. Drizzly guitar lines play out over a kinda nerdy drum machine; the melodies are as affirming and baroque as anything Felt did, while the production and pacing bring to mind the strangely underappreciated Duster -- another band with San Jose connections. The band members insist they're not conscious of influences when they write, and that's totally believable. More than musical references, Melted Toys' music seems intended to communicate the pleasure of making music with friends you've known for a long time. Melted Toys will be playing a benefit for the Dolores Shelter Program this Saturday at El Rio.
Have you guys been involved in other projects, or is Melted Toys the first band for you all?
We have been playing music together since we were in high school. There were many projects before this, but we always changed up instruments -- there was a time when Steven (vox, guitar) was playing drums and even Daniel would play bass. Eventually we switched it around enough, it finally clicked, and we started making the sounds we wanted to.
You all grew up in Santa Clara, and MT's music has a laidback sprawl that reminds me of that place. Where do you live now, and has that impacted how you make music?
The three of us live in the Mission district together. Growing up in the suburbs only makes you want to find a way out, otherwise you just get stuck. We are products of our environment as much as everyone else is. Santa Clara/San Jose has a weird transitory feel to it because it's between S.F. and Santa Cruz. When we were younger, we would just drive to a different place to experience something strange or to see a show in a more thriving art/music scene.
You're often described as synth pop, but the Washed & Dried EP makes me think of guitar bands like Felt and The Durutti Column. How did you learn to write such sweet riffs?
Daniel has a lot to do with that, and he is more classically trained as far as music-theory stuff goes. We just like lush sounds and try our best to make things sound a certain way that we find pleasing. The term synth pop kind of makes me cringe. Just because we use keyboards a little doesn't make us a synth pop band, does it? It's just not a box I consider us to be in.
Felt and Durutti Column are personal faves of mine, but neither Daniel nor Steven consider that a direct influence. (I swear, Daniel is not even that into Felt! But people always say how he reminds them of that band -- it's just because of the clean guitar tones we use.) It's great stuff, but we really just go into our rehearsal space with open minds, ready to try anything and everything we possibly can.
What do you all do to afford your rent?
Struggle! If anyone knows of any high-paying jobs with little or no work so we can make music, please contact us ASAP.
Are you currently working on new material?
Yeah. It feels so relieving to work on new music. I am personally really happy with it and have never felt so invested in anything in my entire life. In a way, it's taken us almost eight years to write this stuff, since we've been playing together that long. In all of our own ways it is the best place to be. And since we wrote the EP over a year ago, we have not had much time to write more material, but we have been in a really good groove recently. We hope the LP will be out early next year -- no definite plans yet.
You're opening for Girls in L.A. How'd you hook up with that band? Any other bands you feel a special affinity with?
We met JR [bass player/producer Chet "JR" White] through mutual friends -- our friend Matt Kallman plays keys for them and Ryan (from Dominant Legs) played for them too, so we were close to them by proximity. I guess the timing was just right, and we finally met JR when he came to a random show we played at a college. JR and Chris [Owens, Girls' singer/songwriter] have been so kind to us -- I wish more bands treated each other the way those guys do to us (very, very nicely, supportive). We have worked with JR in the studio and he is a mastermind as far as recording goes. They just asked us if we wanted to play this great show in L.A. -- how could we say no?
Pretty much every connection/friend/label, etc., has been through our close buds Young Prisms. We all grew up together in the Bay Area music scene: Steven is Gio [Betteo, Young Prisms bass player]'s cousin, so they have known each other their whole lives and we all would play shows when we were in some of our first bands. Through Gio we met Matt Kallman and Ryan, as well as Phil and Corey from Terry Malts, who are some of the most supportive people to us since our very first show. Bands like Real Estate, The Memories, Speculator/Cool Angels, Dominant Legs, Weekend, and James Ferraro have all been really warm and inspiring to us. Oh, and Matt Fishbeck from Holy Shit, he's been really kind to us since early on as well. It feels really great to be surrounded by so many musicians I respect as people and artists.