Genre: Alternative Rock
Line-up: Melyssa Shannon (Vocals), Jonny Woods (Guitar, Vocals), Aaron Black (Guitar, Keyboards), Anton Hughes (Bass)
What They Say: “If R51 stay on this trajectory, there is only one way they are headed. Upwards” – Al Gilmore, Chordblossom.com
◀ Q & A ▶
▶ What’s the story behind your stage name?
▶ When did you start playing music and how would you describe your sound?
Strictly speaking, R51 in its current sense hasn’t existed prior to Early 2013 (Melyssa, Jonny and Anton have been making music together since around 2007/2008) however “Boxkite” would be a marker for our *first* release as a definitive lineup.
We all listen to different stuff, and so accordingly, there’s not one or two bands we could clearly say we all agree as being the “go-to” band for what we want to be like, but there’s a pool of colourful stuff that we all agree on. A tagline that has stuck is “Shoegaze and Dreampop inspired broody pop music with Alt Rock riff tinges” and we don’t think that strictly far off what we go for.
Shimmery choruses with hooks separate us from being too textural, but having clear pop melodies with vast walls of stuff going on both harmonically and rhythmically is what we like.
▶ What music have you put out so far?
Our first self-produced single “Boxkite” was released along with a riffy b-side “I Could Kill You Sometimes” in June 2013. We went through a quick lineup juggle when Aaron joined that summer and we did a whole host of gigging through to the second single “Slowhound” with it’s b-side “Skelf” which was released on Valentine’s day 2014.
These were met with awesome reviews, and because we produced them ourselves on borrowed equipment, it was a bit of a relief to release them into the world and for the feedback to be so lovely.
▶ Is there a particular live show which stands out amongst all the rest?
We can always safely say that our own headline shows are the most stressful (followed immediately by a massive sense of relief when you walk off stage) and with that in mind our single launch for Slowhound in Aether and Echo, Belfast in May 2014 will go down as a big one for us on the effort-ometer.
We had visuals choreographed to match the set, along with some lighting and other stuff that a band like us has always really dreamt of having control over but never had the chance. The crowd response was amazing and we felt on top form, getting the opportunity to have the show featured on BBC ATL and having a show done our way was just monumental for us. The icing on the cake was having our local heroes Master and Dog play as guests, which we were just so chuffed about.
▶ What has been the highlight of the journey so far?
Up until now we hadn’t been outside NI as a band together, and in June 2014 we went on our first long journey to play in Inverness at the goNORTH festival. This was an exercise in not only self promoting ourselves in a brand new town, it was also an experiment to see if we could all survive in our band minivan towing gear for 5 hours straight, and live in a 1 bed apartment for two days without killing each other.
It was an incredible success and failure all at once. We arrived to the show with our backline in tow only to find out we would have to play with the house backline, and as our luck would have it, one song in and the amp Aaron was to play blew, leaving him guitar-less on our strictly 30 minute showcase set in front of movers and shakers of the highlands.
We made do, our manager dragging in our own amps from the trailer while Melyssa and Jonny held the fort, cables being thrown left right and centre and we managed to play our ender song “I Could Kill You Sometimes” with the determination that we wouldn’t be beaten by bad luck.
Feeling rough after the show, Aaron felt terrible, and the band supported each other so well, banding together like brothers and sister and the morale was picked up by us just being so tight amidst the nightmare we had just had travelled 280 miles for.
We hung out like a rock band, partied like a rock band and when we got terrible stuff happen, we held it together and came home closer than we thought we ever would be.
▶ You are in control of forming a 4 piece ‘super group’ – who is in it and what do they do?
Naoko Yamano, singer from Shonen Knife on Vocals – (Awesome fun)
Dave Hawes, Bassist from Catherine Wheel on Bass – (He knows how to groove!)
Jimmy Chamberlin from Smashing Pumpkins on drums – (Terrifying skillz)
Stevie Lennox from Pigsaspeople on guitars. – (God.)
▶ If you were to go on a world tour and you could pick any 3 acts come along, who would they be?
RunawayGO because they are lovely and make each other laugh,
Slowdive for all round lovely noise,
Tera Melos for the cool factor.
▶ What would be the 3 strangest things on your rider if you were able to make any demand?
As massive Prince fans, we defend him when people say he’s a bit nuts, and when we heard he puts “one single red grape under a pillow” half way down the dressing room rider, we found out was so that it was his way to be sure they had read and paid attention to the whole thing, if he found the red grape. We would do that.
Batteries for a baby head theremin & a backup baby head theremin.
5 pairs of Swimming trunks to fit us all in case we decide to go for a swim.
▶ Who has been your biggest inspiration as a musician?
We found this question really hard to answer, mainly because influences change and we all have extremely varied tastes. If by biggest, it means “Earliest” then we think the following few people are close,
Melyssa – Peter Gabriel, Marilyn Manson, Cyndi Lauper, Erasure and Marillion
Jonny – Prince, Smashing Pumpkins, Heavy Metal from the 70’s, and Dreampop from the 90’s
Aaron – Maybeshewill, Biffy Clyro, and the last two decades of post rock music.
Anton – Jaco Pastorious, his childhood schoolteachers encouragement, and Straight ahead bassists around the world.
▶ Is there a particular aim or goal which you hope to achieve through music?