INTERVIEW BY JOE FITZPATRICK
PHOTOS BY SHERVIN LAINEZ, JEWEL PEACH, AND BRAD RHODES
There are very few bands making music that are more willing to give than MELODIME from Leesburg. Founded by brothers Sammy (keys/bass) and Tyler (drums) Duis, along with their friend Brad Rhodes, the band has been all about writing good songs from the heart since they formed in a barn on their family farm. Since 2006, the band has released three full-length albums, as well as two albums of B-sides, including their most recent record Where the Sinners & the Saints Collide, which was funded by their incredibly supportive and growing fan base, and they have decided to use all profits made from the record to give the gift of music to impoverished communities through their foundation Now I Play Along Too. The band’s fourth member, Jon Wiley (guitar/BGVs) joined the group last year to round out their unique sound, and he has helped bring MELODIME to the next level with his passion for music and his level of showmanship on his guitar. We spoke with Tyler Duis and Jon Wiley more about their foundation, the motivation behind their music, and how their lives help create the music they make.
According to your YouTube page that MELODIME means memories in the form of sound. What is your favorite memory with this band?
Tyler: Playing South by Southwest in 2011 was a big one. We had just received the mixes for 3 Reasons for Fighting while we were there, and hearing them for the first time was awesome. Also, playing the 9:30 Club in DC was cool. We have played there a total of four times now, but it’s awesome every time.
Jon: I am only eight or nine months in with this band, but we played The Rock Boat, which is a cruise ship that has a ton of rock bands perform, and while I was on the side stage watching one of the bands perform, I looked over my shoulder and saw all of COLLECTIVE SOUL standing to my left and the members of TONIC to my right. Before I joined the band, I was playing in cover bands in small clubs, and it was such a cool, surreal moment. I thought, “What the hell have I gotten myself into?” (laughs).
I read in your band bio that 100% of the profits you make from your album Where the Sinners & the Saints Collide will be going to a non-profit foundation your band started called Now I Play Along Too. Can you tell me more about that?
Tyler: The background story to that was that our grandfather was from a very poor family, and they were barely getting by. One day a stranger dropped off a bunch of instruments at their home, and the family learned to play the instruments and formed a family band. They quickly became known as the town musicians and raised money to help their family survive. Brad initiated the idea for the foundation right before we recorded the album, and the rest is history.
I know your father is a pastor. Did he help you set up the foundation?
Tyler: We actually use his church to practice now, and with his help we have access to missionaries all over the world. We are really grateful and humbled to be able to help people, and we are seeing how it goes.
With the money from your album being donated, how are you paying for your other expenses while you are on the road?
Tyler: We make money from shows and merch so that helps to keep the band functioning. It works out pretty well.
Can your fans make donations to your foundation at your shows as well?
Tyler: We sell foundation t-shirts and accept donations.
Your bio also said that this album starts where your previous album 3 Reasons for Fighting left off. Where is that exactly?
Tyler: I wish we had Brad here for this one (laughs).
Jon: I wasn’t in the band when the album was being written, but from my perspective as a listener, there is a sense of unrest and fighting to move forward on 3 Reasons for Fighting. With the new album, that unrest is still there and continuing to move forward but being more experienced. We do well at times and we fail at times despite our failings and shortcomings.
Does that have a religious meaning behind it?
Tyler: Some of it is more personal than religious.
Jon: We were all raised in the church, so it is real to us. We are not writing about just one thing. We write about our lives, and everything creeps in. It’s part of who we are.
When you guys are touring, where is your favorite place to visit other than Virginia?
Tyler: Personally, I love Knoxville. The town and the people there are much more relaxed. It’s a peaceful and fun place to play.
Jon: I love being in New York City, but I hate getting there. It has a unique quality to it, like there is a sense of something brewing. Every time we play there the crowd keeps getting bigger and bigger. There are so many people there it’s ridiculous. That city has so much potential.
Your bio also mentions that “MELODIME is what’s missing in music today”. What are your thoughts on the music scene in Virginia, and how is your band making things better?
Jon: We are trying to make things better. I feel like in this scene, everybody knows the pop Top 40 world, but no so much the “underground” bands. The “musicians” that play Top 40 for the mainstream are awful and boring songwriters. It’s really good to see how far good songwriting can go. We hope we can bridge the gap between the Top 40 and the “underground”. We just want to write good songs.
Tyler: I think we are pretty alone in our sound.
Jon: It’s pretty uncool to be a rock band, but that immediately sets us apart.
What is it about your music that sets your band apart from other rock bands?
Tyler: Brad has a very distinct voice, and our music is also very piano driven.
Jon: The only way to describe us is as a rock band, but rock music can mean anything from MUMFORD AND SONS to VAMPIRE WEEKEND. We are a band with a loud distorted guitar, big drums, and piano, and that’s what works for us.
What is the most original gift your band has ever received from one of your fans? I saw you received a cake shaped like a guitar once.
Jon: The guitar cake was really cool. The person who made it spent four days on it. Most of the awesome gifts go to Brad (laughs).
When your band isn’t busy touring or writing music, what do you guys like to do in your free time?
Jon: I am always playing more music just to pass the time. I love playing jazz, blues, and bluegrass.
Tyler: When we are at home, I am usually working on our farm out in Leesburg. I am actually planting Christmas trees right now.
Do you have any announcements or last words you would like to share?
Jon: On our next run of tour, we will be in Virginia at Jammin Java on April 19th, and we will be doing an instrument drive for our foundation at that show. If you bring a new or used instrument in good, working condition, you will get into the show for free. We are heading to Haiti for a couple weeks in June, and we are trying to get as many instruments together as we can. We have three big instruments already, and more funds to spend from our record sales. Please come out and donate an instrument if you can!