On a first, careless, listen, Stockholm four-piece Melby might seem like a charming, fun little jangle-pop band. Pay a little more attention however, and you’ll find their waters run a lot deeper than that. The band (Matilda Wiezell, Are Engen Steinsholm, David Jehrlander and Teo Jernkvist) have all the flash and sparkle of your favourite indie band, but add an ability to touch moods and feelings with a meaning beyond most of their peers. Their guitars, drums and synths rattle, roll and flicker around each other, all held together by the soul-shiver in Wiezell’s vocals, to make immaculate little guitar-pop gems, equally dusted with sadness and sugar.
Melby’s debut album None Of This Makes Me Worry was released in 2019, and took them on tour in Scandinavia, Germany and the UK, as well as earning them slots at prestigious showcase festivals like Norway’s by:Larm and Hamburg’s Reeperbahn. Now after a couple of years of beavering away, they’re back with the follow-up Looks Like A Map.
The band had already started to work on some new songs after the debut came out, but when the pandemic struck, it threw their plans into flux. Having just been about to head out on tour to Germany, they were left back in Stockholm, wondering what to do. Unable to meet up in the early months, they started to work separately, mailing song ideas back and forth. “[Writing was a way to] have something that felt meaningful during the pandemic”, says guitarist Steinsholm. “It was the only thing that felt meaningful at all, because nothing else was possible”. When things opened up a little, they reconvened back in the studio with long-time engineer Alexander Eldefors, but having begun separately, and still being a bit restricted in their ability to play together, the writing process had morphed into something different. Instead of playing the songs together, they made full use of the studio to construct them piece-by-piece. “The way we wrote songs before, we rehearsed them a lot, before they ended up on a record”, says Wiezell. “Now we worked the other way around, just building them in the studio. It was more experimental”. “I thought that was really fun, just experimenting with sounds, and building piece-by-piece”, adds Steinsholm. “That’s something we hadn’t done before”.
That change in writing style is immediately recognisable upon listening to the album. Opener “Hammers” sounds like a Melby song, but also one that walks paths the bands have never walked before, sun-soaked indie that gallops along, but also swerves at times into darkness and unease. Overall Looks Like A Map sounds like a band expanding their range and reaching for the new – they retain their gift for glittering melodies, but the music here is less structured, less restricted than that they’ve made before, constantly shapeshifting and morphing, and embracing a psychedelic fluidity where nothing feels set in stone. At times Wiezell disappears from view altogether, while the music takes the lead, synth and guitar lines taking the listener on an adventure. Overall however, she steers the songs, a more compelling and captivating presence than ever before, a candle in the dark trying to figure out the world around her and her place in it.
The band themselves feel they’ve spread their wings a lot more on Looks Like A Map. “When you’re making your first album, you tend to pick the songs that are easiest to like, easiest to grasp for people” says Jehrlander. “I think we’ve done that less this time, so we can explore more”. Are says: “I used to be self-conscious about this. I thought we should have a more coherent sound on an album. Now I’ve been able to let that go, and say that if we make it together at the same time, it will be coherent enough to be an album”. “It’s a consequence of being three songwriters too”, adds David. “We’re not afraid to try different sounds. It’s more about whether we feel something for a song. If we do, we record it”.
Trying to find yourself, to figure out your life and what you should be doing with it, is the album’s major theme, one that partially inspired the title (“It’s about seeing your own life and where you’re heading, from above. Where this road is going” says Are). “It’s personal development”, says Matilda. “Many of the songs have that theme”. “We’re in a bit of a different place in our lives, compared to the first album” says Steinsholm. “Back then, we had more of an outside view of the adult world. More of a feeling of wanting to stay away from that forever. This one is more about accepting that you have to find a way to participate in that world, without feeling like shit”. Other influences come through the record, and even bubble to the surface on a couple of songs, the hazy, melancholic “Tuesday” and the sprawling, epic closer “Other Nations”. “When writing the songs ’Other Nations’, I was listening to a podcast about Carl Jung and alchemy, and a lot of the lines in the lyrics are references to alchemy”, says Steinsholm. Matilda says: “I was influenced as well by the book Lonely City, by Olivia Lang. It’s about different artists and their lives, and just generally about loneliness and how it affects people. It felt really resonant, during the pandemic. It was during the second year of corona I read it, and I was really bored of being alone. It was a big comfort to me”.
Finding comfort in a sea of uncertainty might be a good way to describe Looks Like A Map. The record captures Melby at a moment where they’re growing as people and as a band, expanding the reach of their sonic horizons, and taking in deeper and heavier themes, trying to find a home in an often-alienating world. The music they made around that has a little touch of sorcery around it, sometimes soft as smoke, sometimes woozy and dream-blurred, sometimes crashing and explosive. But even through all that evolution, the heart and the soul have remained the same, and Looks Like A Map still has that Melby-feeling, of a band who put all of themselves into everything they make. It’s a new high for the band, and one that hints at even bigger things to come.
released October 21, 2022
Bio by Austin Maloney
Produced by Alexander Eldefors
All tracks composed by Teo Jernkvist Zürcher, David Jehrlander, Are Engen Steinsholm, Matilda Wiezell, Alexander Eldefors