Imagine perfectly poised vintage future-pop. A sound where surf harmonies walk hand in hand with soundtrack music and dreamscaped analogue ambience aches to the flow of classic West coast melodies. These are the nu-psychedelic tones of mellow where the past and future fuse in a mind melting moog-drenched fantasy.
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mellow were found in September 1997 around the trio of Stephane Luginbuhl, Pierre Begon-Lours and Anglo-French singer Patrick Woodcock in order to work on a few songs already demoed by the vocalist. Patrick himself had previously worked with Air’s Nicolas Godin (an architecture student like Godin, Patrick co-wrote “Ce Matin La,” which was to eventually turn-up on Air’s Moon Safari album) and also played guitar on Parisian trip-hopper Alex Gopher’s critically acclaimed debut single.
At first, the relationship between Patrick and Pierre was purely functional. Pierre, a studio engineer who had once played in a band with Patrick’s brother, had suggested that he help re-record Patrick’s tracks for higher quality. However, as soon as work started he felt a deep affinity with the nu-psychedelic sound. He quickly invited Stephane, another engineer friend along to hear the work in progress. He immediately fell in love with what he heard, the notion of a recording trio was hatched and mellow was born.
Recording reconvened at Pierre’s house in Paris where the two producers, previously known for their work with dub-dance outfit Ollano (among many others), helped the ideas evolve in directions that none of them had previously envisaged
“All we aimed to do was to make a record that we would like.” Explains Patrick, “There was no marketing policy, no stringent plans, just a notion of a sound we all liked.”
That sound was the early psychedelia of artists like Kevin Ayers, Syd Barrett, and the Beatles, the film soundtracks of Morricone and then moog overtures of contemporary artists like Stereolab and Californian bands like the Virgins. Yet rather than using these influences to create a simple retro pastiche, the trio have taken the textures and ambience of those bands and updated them with an ear for today’s out rock shape shifts and electronic excursions.
“We’re not a retro act trying to recreate the past," says Patrick. “We’ve got no problem with the new. We just like to listen to old stuff and discover fresh things in it. And another thing, we don’t just use old machines like Lenny Kravitz, so we can try and sound like we’re from the 60s. We use new gear because we live in the 90s.”
Soon after the trio’s first tracks were finished, they were approached by the Parisian independent label Atmospheriques who they signed to despite competition from a number of labels. Much of the interest had been generated by the fact that mellow’s studio adventures had blossomed into a seven piece live act. Eschewing the chance to tread the boards on their native Paris, mellow’s debut gig was in Brighton at the Big Beat Boutique. Thus spearheading a new movement in Paris of gigging bands grown from the foundations of studio culture, but approaching the live set-up with a fluidity not normally associated with a gig.
The single, “Mellow,” was released in the autumn of 1998. It immediately gained acclaim from the French press, most notably in the major music title “Les Inrockuptibles,” who not only invited them to play alongside Air, Lo-Fidelity Allstars and Sean Lennon on the music paper’s own festival tour, but also voted them as the number one act to watch in 1999. The single also caught the attention of one Roman Ford Coppola (son of legendary director Francis) who offered to direct the bands first video for “Another Mellow Winter.”
mellow’s unique musical vision is fully explored with the band’s debut album on CyberOctave called another mellow spring. From the analogue pulses and bad trip discordance of “Lovely Light,” through the “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” style Mellotron refrains of “Mellow.” This is an album which oozes hazy summer warmth soaked in fine wine and various chemicals. Check the rolling thunder of the moog epic, “Mellow (Organic Version),” for the perfect soundtrack to Dr. Timothy Leary’s last voyage, while “Violet” is the sound of nostalgia melting through the cracks of contemporary pop.
mellow produce a sound which has as much in common with California and Glasgow as it does Versailles. They create vintage pop overtures rooted in the original summer of love but still reaching for the stars of tomorrow. They’re at the forefront of the burgeoning nu-psychedelic sound which threatens to soundtrack the turn of the new millennium.
mellow—checking Beck’s head through Pink Floyd’s stethoscope.
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