Have you ever said something a little bit concerning and then followed it up with a ‘lol’ so your friends don’t worry? You’d probably enjoy Melaleuca.
The Meanjin locals are masters of the melancholy rock anthem, cleverly combining subtle lyricism and soaring harmonies to create some of the most vulnerable, introspective guitar rock you’ve ever heard. Jane Millroy and Andy Francis share the vocals in equal parts, with Isaac Rogers on bass and Matt Millward providing the drums. It's nostalgic and feel good, even with the heavier lyrics.
They’re a staple of the Brisbane scene, and 2022 has seen the band kicking goals in all areas- playing festivals like BIGSOUND and headlining Mountain Goat Valley Crawl, as well as supporting acts such as Alex Lahey and The Buoys. Their debut ep Self-Esteem is another formidable success from the band. Equal parts upbeat and vulnerable, five powerful tracks come together to form a cohesive, emotionally driven body of work, and an exciting look at what Melaleuca can do.
Holding true to the aptly titled theme of self-esteem, the songs reflect on the trials and tribulations of life, romance, and mental illness, coming together to form an insanely relatable body of work.
“They said they saw me Tuesday
I recall darting the other way
I don’t like how I look sometimes”
Lead single 'Sharks vs Dolphins' is a triumph- a staple of Melaleuca's live sets, it's a total treat to hear this one recorded. With gritty, rolling guitar and a growing lyrical sincerity as the song progresses, it's a wistful confessional to the feeling of not really liking yourself that works incredibly well. The emotion in Jane's voice is palpable as she sings of self-destructive patterns, enhanced by powerful guitar riffs and harmonies.
As the ep progresses, Andy and Jane switch seamlessly between lead and backing vocals. I absolutely love how they handle this- in moments when the songs feel pretty heavy, the load is somewhat lightened by the audible support of the other, making the hard experiences feel less isolating.
Failure, which was released early this year, is followed by 'Grocery Store'- which contains some of my favourite songwriting on the album. Upon first listen it seems a bit simpler lyrically than some of their other songs, but I think one of my favourite things about Melaleuca is how much they say in what they don't. They utilise seemingly self-contained scenarios to communicate larger concepts incredibly well- something that makes their last track 'Rising' so emotive as well.
The music in 'Grocery Store' has sort of a summery, upbeat feel reminiscent of that classic Aussie indie beach rock vibe while simultaneously exploring some heavier themes of mental health struggles, as Jane sings of feeling numb in the grocery store, and struggling with things like taking out the bins.
"Bags under my eyes it’s almost sunrise
Flies in the kitchen
I didn’t take the bins out, last night"
Our penultimate song is previously released single Point of Normal- another highly personal track from the band, with this one being written by Andy and earnestly describing struggles with mental health and ADHD. Feelings of frustration and nostalgia in the lyrics intermingle with soaring guitar, punchy drums and solid, driving bass lines. They really drive home that metaphor of getting to that 'point of normal' and how hard it can be, making the effort to get to a healthy and functional place.
The EP draws to a close with ‘Rising’, and this has got to be my favourite on the album. The songwriting is incredible- large, overwhelming feelings are communicated so effectively by the small, noticeable changes such as the physical sensation of water hitting. It's melancholy, vulnerable and dream-like, steeped in metaphor and emotion, and fortified by a stirring guitar performance. It's a fitting end to an already strong album that explores such personal and intimate themes while keeping the good vibes going the whole way through.
If you're in or around Meanjin you can catch Melaleuca live at The Zoo on the 9th December. Tickets are available here.