By Alex HudsonLate last year, we learned that West Coast indie pop vet Rose Melberg (the Softies, Tiger Trap, Go Sailor) had formed a new band called Brave Irene. On March 15, the group will drop their self-titled album via Slumberland. Unlike Melberg's recent acoustic solo work, however, Brave Irene showcases the Vancouver-based songwriter at her noisiest and most upbeat.
"'I want to make noise.' It started out like that," laughs Melberg in a recent Exclaim! interview. "I want to be in a band. I want it to be loud. I want to use my electric guitar. I want to use my distortion pedal."
She and keyboardist Caitlin Gilroy first discussed starting a band while out for breakfast in 2009, later recruiting bassist Amanda Pezzutto (Apollo Ghosts), keyboardist Jessica Wilkin and drummer Laura Hatfield to round out the lineup. "I just can't believe we actually did it," Melberg says. "That's what's so awesome. How many times do you sit down with someone and be like, 'Let's totally start a band'? I have like 500 bands in town already, in my mind."
The five women quickly developed a chemistry that extended beyond the music that they were creating. "We could goof around, be ourselves, gab, gossip, chat, be amongst friends," recalls Gilroy. "And every once in a while play a song."
This energy is translated into a fast, fun album, with eight tracks that race by in 18 minutes of pounding drums, bubbling keyboards and soaring harmonies. "No Fun" kicks off the album with a blast of loud guitars and carnivalesque organ, as Melberg complains, "I've had enough / Of this kind of love / It's no fun / How could you be so cruel to me?"
"Bank Holiday" is equally poignant, as the songwriter imagines meeting a lover outside a closed store. Of that song, Melberg says, "It was an actual day where I didn't realize everything was going to be closed and I went out. And so began the story. It's not just poetry. It was real life. I imaged 4th Avenue -- West 4th."
The tracks were recorded at Vancouver's JC/DC Studios with producer Dave Carswell. While the members of Brave Irene are thrilled with the results of the session, the future of the band is unclear. Two of the five musicians are currently overseas, as Hatfield is going to school in Sweden and Wilkin is in India.
"It took, like, six months for the band to get together and then we were a band for three months," explains Melberg. "Everyone in the band is irreplaceable. It wouldn't be Brave Irene without each of us. With Jessica and Laura gone, I can't imagine trying to play without them."
Nevertheless, both Melberg and Gilroy hope that Brave Irene will reform when all of the members are back in the same city. "I don't really think of this an EP. I think of it as an unfinished album," the singer says of the new release. "I feel like there's four more songs that never happened that would have completed it."
Brave Irene will be released as a 45 RPM twelve-inch record. Mail order copies (as well as ones purchased directly from the group) will be pressed on white vinyl. The three band members still living in Vancouver are hoping to perform as a trio for a special album release party, although the date is yet to be confirmed.
Listen to the tracks "No Fun" and "Longest Day" below.