Eryl Prys Jones laughs when he attempts to explains the name of new project MÊL. Now he’s had time to reflect, the vocalist and songwriter reckons the English translation ‘Honey‘ sounds not unlike a R&B-lite girl band from the 1990s, snuggled in alongside All Saints or Eternal.
He may have a point, but a natural subtle sweetness runs through what we’ve heard from MÊL so far, and consequently it suits very well indeed.
Eryl refers to his previous psych garage folk group Jen Jeniro as a ‘school band’ but after packing in an album, two EPs and a single, we suggest they were rather more. MÊL shares common values, rhythmic and gently, pleasingly melodic, low and sobering vocals sketching out darker shadings, and produced by fellow former Jen Jeniro member Llŷr Pari.
In these lockdown weeks Eryl is all about writing and working on songs, hoping a time comes soon where MÊL‘s five piece line-up can meet up and rehearse. He performed a stripped down version of ‘Mêl i Gyd‘ for his label Libertino’s Lightbulb sessions (‘Without the safety net of musicians to help me out!’), on the run up to MÊL’s live debut for real in the autumn.
‘It’s been so long since I’ve done anything like this. I didn’t realize that I was missing it but now that I’ve started again, I’m enjoying it,’ he says.
November’s debut single ‘Mêl i Gyd’ came out of a walk in Lyn Parc in Gwydir Forest near Llanrwst, observing the beauty of the natural world around him. Of course growing up and living in a rural area bleeds into his songwriting.
‘Where you live will influence what you write about I suppose someone who lives in the middle of nowhere isn’t gonna write naturally anyway gangsta rap about street gangs shooting each other over drugs. And people living in the middle of a city will struggle to get a rural head on. So it’s natural, I’m comfortable where I live, I know quite a lot about it, it’s history, it’s natural it comes out in the songs.’
Second single ‘Plisgyn‘ (Shell or Shells) is a curious combination, the sort that shouldn’t really work dare we say? There’s an almost Brazilian danceability in there, an unexpected avenue to meander down.
‘I know what you mean (laughs) I think there’s two parts to it. The verses are quite tropical-ish in their vibe and the rhythm is quite not Brazilian but something similar. We were struggling with the melody how we were going to accompany it. We started with a rigid beat, it sounded quite cheesy so then I did a demo in the shed banging a paint tub, a makeshift bongo. A continuous repetitive beat like that and it worked alright. So we stuck with that (pauses) but on a proper instrument.’
Lyrically, the song bemoans the human nature of grumbling about dissatisfaction with the world, but then doing nothing about it. It’s part of how we get to be as adults, annoyed but unwilling to do anything about it. Raging and fuming but then sitting down to watch Coronation Street is pretty much universal no matter where you live, I suggest.
‘Take to the streets? Ah no, there’s the sofa, Facebook!’
The press release insists the song is no rant, yet the translation reveals something rather more of a steel fist in a velvet glove. The niceness, the easiness of the arrangements conceals the essential message.
‘Recently more things have been popping up how little regard Westminster has for us as a country or nation. A lot of people have started grumbling about it, noticing it and it’s started to turn into a little bit of a movement. So people are starting to take a little more interest in themselves and where we stand. So that sparked it really. Got me thinking about it.’
So ‘Plisgyn‘ is a bit ranty after all, then?
‘To be honest the words to this song are quite ranty but shrouded in vagueness, ambiguity. The samba rhythm is a mask for the lyrical content quite damning but the melody and rhythm suggest otherwise. Listen properly and you might have a think…’
MÊL play FOCUS Wales in October.