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As leader of the six-piece "chamber pop" band Melomane (French for "lover of melody," roughly), musical wunderkind Pierre de Gaillande has a certain way of handling musicians who forget to play their parts during rehearsal. He shoots them a sharp look and then begins insistently hum-hollering the bit until it gets played. It's not that de Gaillande's a tyrant, because he's not; it's just that he knows these majestic pop songs in their entirety. If his own able hands weren't so tied up wrangling myriad sounds from his electric guitar, he'd surely be waving a conductor's wand or at least wagging a finger in the direction of his fellow musicians.
"It's hardthere are no rules for a six-piece pop band," he says, and so as main songwriter and engine behind the dynamic operation he acts as de facto band leader, although of late, he claims, things have become something of a democracy.
A veteran of numerous rock bands (Creedle, Morning Glories, and C Gibbs Review, with whom he toured the States opening for watered-down acts like Everclear and Mellencamp), de Gaillande grew tired of playing rock. He'd seen just about every last exciting way two guitars could come together to convey a theme. "If I hear a melody and I write it on a guitar that doesn't necessarily mean I want to hear it on a guitar," he declares.
Hence the current lineup: cello, keyboard, guitar, bass, trumpet, drums, and the dual haunting vocals of former couple de Gaillande and bassist Daria Klotz (God Is My Co-Pilot, Kings County Queens). In the real world, things might not have been so perfect, but onstage, the pair's voices form a blissful union, his deep and mournful, hers mellow and angelic, the combination alternately chilling and soothing.
It's this versatilityoften displayed within one songthat makes the mercurial band so spellbinding. Melomane breathe life into their music by raising the specter of chaos. At times, the instruments are unwieldy and disparate, sounding almost as if there's an orchestra tuning up in the middle of a rock song, but then they inevitably coalesce into a lush and ebullient refrain.
As a rule, the spirit of the melody conceals darker lyrical content. The up-tempo, bouncy "All the Northern Birds," from the band's 2000 release Resolvo (Rubric Records), tells the grisly story of a man who escapes his past by slicing off his fingerprints. "Blood on the limestone/Blood on the shirt/I am a new man/This didn't hurt" goes the refrain. "Fifteen Steps" (heard in an episode of MTV's The Osbournes) is a vivacious, carnivalesque Creole stomp about getting drunk and eloping to Las Vegas (which de Gaillande did in his youth). Featured on "Fifteen Steps" are the baritone sax stylings of Australia's Paula Henderson (formerly of Gogol Bordello, currently of all-female instrumental group Moisturizer and Reverend Vince Anderson). Henderson often sits in when the group performs their songs live.
"We've been getting amazing responses," says de Gaillande, of the band's recent shows, despite the decided Strokes-ian leanings of today's music-club crowds. "You don't go to a Melomane show to watch a bunch of people jump around. You go because you want to hear something different."