Melonade à la Mélonade

Future Funk is one of the liveliest subgenres of Vaporwave. In fact, the scene’s sheer popularity sometimes threatens to eclipse its originator. And it's not hard to see the appeal. Future Funk is fun, preppy, sparky and catchy. It drops the cynicism often found in Vaporwave, in favour of earnest, grooves, bops and slaps. If it sounds good, then it feels good. We sat down with one of the rising stars of the genre, and creator of Æ2's album of the month Mélonade, to talk through his process, his influences, and why that album is just so darn catchy. 

Hey there Mélonade, thanks a lot for joining us today. Shall we start things off by talking a bit about the history of the Mélonade album?

Great to be here, thanks a lot. So the album was announced on April 13th, actually on Record Store Day, and is releasing in May. Originally it was released as a cassette on Business Casual but the Æ2 release is the first time it’s going to be on vinyl. The cassette version had 9 tracks but there’ll be 11 on this Æ2 vinyl.

On the cassette, there’s two tracks, the first one which is On My Mind, and the other, Not Just Good. Those won’t be appearing on the vinyl but there’ll be two new songs, and two bonus remixes- so that takes it up to 11 tracks.

I like to keep my albums on the shorter side, like a bite-size nugget of upbeat goodness. And what I heard from other people is that the length made them want to go back and listen to Mélonade again multiple times, which is great. 

Yeah, I definitely agree with that. Also, one of the strengths of Mélonade is that while it works really well as an album, each of the individual tracks are really strong. 

Yeah, I’ve obviously been involved pretty heavily in all the tracks, it’s very much a Mélonade album. So I didn’t bring on a lot of collaborators in that sense. But I did get to work with some really great artists on certain songs. I think bringing in collaborators helps to bring in new diversity, new sounds.

So I’m very thankful for the work other people have put into the album. Like as an example, Extra which I did with Otoyo, we worked together on that and she’s really proud of it and so am I.

The original idea for the song was hers. Like, this is the sample and this is how we should cut it up. It was taking it in kind of a House direction, a French House style. Then I took that sample and concept and I did the drums and the mixing and the arranging. Otoyo does great work honestly, she does some Hip Hop styled music too, she’s great at chopping stuff up.

Pop Up! is another artist who’s going to be on the vinyl, he’s been around for a long time in the scene. He’s from Brazil and he makes really upbeat stuff, he’s just a really great artist. He did the chops on Feeling Like, cutting up the vocals. It’s just a great track along with all the other collaborations.

And so then, was it you who put that huge beat on Feeling Like? How did you build the song together?

Yeah, it’s a very mixed process.

So, one person will pitch an idea to the other with a particular sample, or something they’ve chopped up. Then the other artist will work on the idea and we’ll kind of keep passing it from there. We’ll send it from one person to the other, each adding bits, so the collab bounces back and forth.

It’s not contained to like, “I only do the drums and you only do the samples.” It’s a team effort and it allows it to move organically, piece by piece, swap it over. That’s kind of how we did it.

I feel like if you’re going to do a collab, one person shouldn’t just take the other person’s song and do a slight edit. Instead, let’s work together on the song, it’s a community thing. So, the end result is, similar to Feeling Like, you can’t really tell where in the collab I end and Pop Up! begins, it’s a mesh. 

That makes a lot of sense, what about the other artists on the vinyl? 

There’s another artist Kujo who is appearing on the song Keep It Up! He’s an artist who lives near me in Dundee. He’s a good buddy of mine and he’s recently dipped into more Vaporwave stuff.

So while some of the other artists on the album are kind of doing a Future Funk or House thing, he takes a more Vaporwave kind of view to things.

It’s ironic that Vaporwave is such a huge internet genre but you’re working with people who live right close by you.

Yeah, I guess that’s funny. We did meet online but we both study here in Dundee. We ended up meeting up and collaborating it and it was just super fun. It’s great to work with someone like Pop Up! in Brazil and then also Kujo who is in the same town as me.

Can I ask about Bitwise Angel? It’s probably my favourite song on the record. I definitely hear a Chiptune influence in there.

Yeah, that probably comes from how I produced the song: it’s got Bitcrush on it. That gave it a slightly more aggressive sound. The sample, for anyone wondering, is Angel Face by Arabesque. I took the synth line from that and the Bitcrush was used to isolate it. To take out any extra sounds that came from the sample. I then layered the same melody with a lead synth on top.

It definitely has a kind of Chiptuney vibe, I do like dripping other electronic music types into my work. So that sound ended up being closer to Electro House, but with a big French House bassline on it. There’s actually going to be a remix of that track on the vinyl by OB99.

And Mere will be doing a remix of Dreams We Share. I’ve been buddies with him for a long time. My first album, The Memory Collective was put out on Cerise Records which is run by him. He started that little Bandcamp label and we had a bunch of people on there messing about with French House and stuff.

So when you were working on Mélonade did you reach out to artists you’d worked with in the past- and try to work with them again?

Yes, if I like their sound sure. Sometimes I’m working on a sample or a song, and I can’t quite work out how the story is going to end. Maybe I’m working on the drums or something- but I can’t figure out how to finish it off. I’ll take that to one of my collaborators and ask if they want to work on it together. For Feeling Like Pop Up! did a really great choppy-effect on the vocals.

Honestly, it all comes down to if I like their sound, doesn’t matter if the artist has 2 followers or 2 million. Kujo only started this year, they’ve got 2 or 3 songs finished, but they lent a really great sound to the remix they did for Mélonade.

That kind of leads me into my next question. Mélonade has got that really strong Future Funk vibe, how did you get into the genre? 

Like how I grew up with music and got into Future Funk? My starting point was actually French House.

The first thing I was listening to was Daft Punk, I’ve been a huge fan of them for years, and then it kind of branches from there. From Daft Punk to French House to Funky House. Then one day I’m browsing YouTube and I found the Artzie Music channel and that kind of introduced me to Future Funk specifically. 

So, my primary influence is French House, all the other kind of Vaporwave genres might influence me slightly, there’s an influence there, but it’s primarily that House background that drives me.

Yeah working through your discography, it’s mostly House based at the start and then with each release, you’re kind of working through developing your sound and those niche influences start to come to the surface.

When I started out making music I would just kind of open up FL Studio and say, “hey, what do I want to make?” So, the starting point was, “I want to make some French House.” The Disco sample, the funky snippet. That was my goal.

Then through iterating that over new projects and albums you start to get dribs and drabs of the Vaporwave and Future Funk coming in.

I feel like that Vaporwave influence starts to come in more around your Dream Plaza album? It’s got that kind of Vaporwave aesthetic going on.

Yeah with Dream Plaza I wanted to make one big Vaporwave Chillhop project. Developing it I wanted to make it kind of a dream-like sounding album. So, you start with that Hip Hop beat, you pitch it down and you pitch it up, you add reverb. Which are all Vaporwave techniques.

And then relating it back to Mélonade, with that release I still wanted to make French House style music, but returning to that liquid analogy, I’ve learnt how to really drip the influence of all those different genres, Future Funk, Vaporwave, Chillhop, into my work to give it real diversity.

So you could say there’s this progression throughout your discography, with Mélonade as the culmination.

Yeah, culmination, that’s a good way to describe it. It really is a culmination of all the things I’ve learned and been through, every track feels quality.

It doesn’t matter how long it takes to make an album, as long as it’s quality. This album took years to make. Dreams We Share goes back to 2016, the collabs took a couple of months each. I wanted to make 110% sure that everything was good. I wanted every kick, ever clap to be perfectly mixed. I definitely wanna stress that.

Yeah, that really comes across, there’s a real thickness to the sound of the album. That works perfectly for Future Funk.

Yeah, that thick sound (thicc with 2 cs, of course, haha) I would say that comes from the French House influence. From a production point of view, the Future Funk genre is all about compression. There’s usually a really compressed sound and lots of producers want to do it, and that’s fine. But for me, I try to only use compression when it’s needed. I really try not to overuse it. I want to give everything a nice amount of space. So the drums and the samples can play at the same time and everything’s not getting crushed. I want that dynamic range and space for the listener to hear. So, from a production point of view that lack of compression is what leads to that thickness.

Tell me about the album cover, it’s a striking image. 

Oh yes, I want to give a shout-out to the artist, Moka Yume. He’s done a nice label and back cover for the vinyl. You’ve got a melon on the front in transparent green and the label on the inside will be red with black seeds- so the record itself is like a slice of melon!

The cover kind of came about due to it being self-titled- obviously I had to go with a melon design. I just asked Moka, “can you make something nice and colourful that has a melon on it”, that was the brief. He did an amazing job- with the melonade and the glass. He’s a really great artist.

Also, shout out to Juan (Ʋ founder) for putting the vinyl together, he’s put some really great work into it. It was all very organised and very professional. You can tell a lot of effort was put in.

So going back to the influence question. Which specific artists have influenced you, maybe especially within Vaporwave or Future Funk? 

Well like I hinted at before, on the House side definitely Daft Punk. Old school French House like Modjo, their track Chillin'. Hip-Hop, Vaporwave. Flamingosis- who does a lot of work with samples, is big into Hip Hop beats. Jinsang, Chill-Hop, Lo-fi stuff. Mere and Pop Up! obviously. I learnt a lot from them and teaming up with other artists.

So I guess I’m influenced by a mixture of popular artists and the artists around me.

Sim Gretina, he’s a well-known internet producer. He’s got various projects under the names Peggy Suave and Frenssu. He doesn’t get as much credit as he deserves but he’s insanely talented. The Phantom’s Revenge is great. Louis La Roche. He’s part of the French House, slightly Future Funk scene, a bit of New Disco. He makes really great original stuff, I actually started out my French House career by sampling a song of his. 

I do kind of want to ask this, but you mentioned Dundee. You’re from Scotland, right?

Yeah.

Do you think being from Scotland has any influence on the music you make? 

Oh, I can see what you mean because Scotland wouldn’t usually spring to mind as a very Future Funk kind of place, haha.

Well, the Future Funk fanbase and producer base is so spread out. You can even take Mélonade as an example of that. Like you have Pop Up! from Brazil, Otoyo from America, Binary Stars- they’re from America too. OB99 is from France and then I’m from Scotland. And in the UK Vaporwave scene, there’s been a huge development and growth of artists.

So, in fact, Scotland has some of the biggest Future Funk artists it seems. You’ve got Tanuki, who made the song Baby Baby. That’s probably the most listened to Future Funk song ever, it’s iconic. ConsciousThoughts- he’s from Glasgow, he’s got a ton of followers. Ev.Exi had Remember, his recent big vinyl release on Coraspect Records. He takes it in more of an electronic French House direction.

Like I said before, it comes down to someone’s sound, so for me at some point it was inevitable I’d collab with UK artists- but for what we’re doing it doesn’t matter where they are.

So what’s next for you? What’s next for Mélonade? 

I know this interview will go out along with the vinyl release of Mélonade in May. So some of this will already be out by then. I’ve got a new EP coming out on Corospect Records called K​-​Hits 97 FM. That came out on March 9th. It’s got this kind of a groovy Hip Hop upbeat vibe. It’s kind of a short passion project.

After that, I’ve got a live show I’m going to be playing in July. It’s going to be a big Future Funk show in London with loads of UK artists. Watch out on my social media for details, as I’ll be posting dates and tickets as soon as we’ve got it all confirmed. It’s going to be awesome.

And in terms of my own music, I’m going to slightly move away from sampling materials. In 2017 I did an all original work called Solo and that album was a really good step for me in terms of discovering my own unique sound. It was a really great learning experience for things like structure and arrangements.

So, I want to focus on making an EP, if not an album, of high-quality original stuff. To kind of revisit that idea.

I’ve also got a song called Feelings Fade that I’m planning on remastering. I want to remaster the drums on that, get some live instruments in and some live singers to redo the vocals. Other than that, make some original French House, Electronic. Really mostly moving away from samples and into original stuff. I really wanna make an Electro Swing song, haha. 

But I’m not leaving samples completely yet. I’ve got a project called Kaiju Club, it’s a duo of me and Otoyo, we released a small EP a while ago and now we’re doing an album. So I guess it’s kind of like Mélonade will be moving into original work with no samples, but Kaiju Club will continue the use of samples in my music. 

It’s funny you mention that, because I did think there was a little tinge of Electro Swing on some bits of the Mélonade album.

Yeah, Corsage has that really funky bass thanks to Binary Stars. The groove on that, wow son. The way he made that song really groove is impressive.

But really releasing this Mélonade album on vinyl, it’s an exciting time. My Mum’s gonna buy one, which is nice haha. Hopefully, things continue to be good.

Really my goal is to improve, just to improve with each new record I put out. When I started out, getting a following was less important to me than just making music I was pleased with. I made the thing I wanted and I aimed to do a good job on it for me. Then I sit down, I take in the feedback. And it’s like Okay, that was good- what went well, what can I improve on.

My focus is always to improve, and that’s what I’ll continue to do.

 

Sam L. Barker is a freelance writer and marketer living in Cambridge, UK. He writes about music, technology and memory. 

 

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