Melroys' 'Walls Will Fall' will be released Saturday

Friday, October 27, 2006

A little more than four years have passed since The Melroys released their first, and most recent, CD -- a self-titled collection called simply "The Melroys."

When the disc came out, it won new fans locally and nationally for the band that labeled its sound "Beatlebilly" and made a splash on Americana radio stations across the country.

A lot has happened to The Melroys in those four years. Following the death of their frontman and primary songwriter Randy Leiner in February 2005, there was talk that the band might not continue on.

But The Melroys reformed, turned into a three-piece and, more than six months after Leiner's death, returned to the studio. The result was "Walls Will Fall," a 12-song disc (13 counting the hidden track) that features a rebuilt Melroys.

"We're a lot edgier, and we have more of an edge live," said Mike Enderle, The Melroys' drummer since the band's beginning in the late 1990s. "Of course, the vocals are different without the three-part harmony. But rather than try to re-create that sound, we decided to play the hand that was dealt to us. ...

"I think it's the nature of a three-piece band. It's just natural for three pieces to sound like that."

The hand dealt the Melroys was one none of them saw coming. Leiner's death was unexpected, and band members put a lot of thought into how they would shape their musical futures. In the end they decided to go on as a three-piece with Enderle on drums, original bassist Gregg Hopkins and Randy Leiner's son, Jordan, on guitar.

Even the name, "Walls Will Fall," reflects the tragedy, said Hopkins.

"That sort of relays where we are right now," he said.

The walls fell down around the band, and those remaining had to build them back up.

Where Randy Leiner used to provide lead vocals, Jordan and Enderle now share the duties. Where there was once a rhythm guitar and lead guitar, now there is one. The Melroys haven't become a power trio, but they're much closer to one than they used to be.

"Walls Will Fall" still bears the mark of the band's former frontman, though. Of the disc's 12 songs, all but three were written primarily by Leiner -- the country-twinged "Revved Up and Ready to Go" by Cape Girardeau native and George Jones keyboardist Kent Goodson, the previously released "Bring Back My Cadillac" by Jordan Leiner and a Tom Petty cover, "The Apartment Song."

On those songs written by Randy Leiner, a few even use tracks recorded before he died -- tracks which the band would play along with when recording the rest of the album tracks. "Walls Will Fall" also features a hidden track called "Here Comes the Train," an acoustic number with a haunting sound and lyrics that say "I know that deep down inside such a good love has died, and I cry." The song is all Randy, guitar and vocals.

"That was one of our favorites," said Enderle. "It was just a demo of Randy doing a song. I don't know if we were ever going to work that up, but Jordan liked it a lot, so we decided to put it on there.

"I wouldn't call it a tribute. It's just a song of his. It's a real personal, up front thing that we just wanted to say."

Jordan Leiner said playing along in the studio with tracks his father recorded before his death was both eerie and satisfying. Some of the tracks were recorded only 8 to 10 hours before Randy's death, Jordan said.

"It was a much more sentimental performance than finding some stuff scrapped around in the basement," said Jordan. "It took me a real long time to listen to it and be constructive about it ... but in the end it felt real good to play with it."

Hopkins said that the band's configuration is different now, but "Walls Will Fall" represents a continuation of the Melroys sound, not a departure from that sound.

"I think it's pretty much a continuation of what we did before," said Hopkins. "Obviously ... Jordan's on it, each ingredient in the recipe is gong to change a little bit, but I think the sound overall, the type of songs, stayed the same. People that have listened to it, people familiar with first one, seem to think it's a natural progression. It's different for sure, it's not like just another CD of the first kind of sound.

"I don't think anybody that liked the first one will be disappointed by what they hear on this one."

But the Melroys are a new band -- one that re-formed after what was possible the biggest setback imaginable. And while they honor the memory of their former frontman, they don't want to capitalize off the tragedy, said Enderle.

The last thing the band wants to do is try to use their hardship to sell CDs and gain recognition, Enderle said. "We had to second guess ourselves about putting Randy's vocal on there," he said.

But the Melroys do hope to repeat the success of their first CD with "Walls Will Fall." Enderle said they'll shop songs around after the holidays to get the new configuration of the band on Americana radio again.

They may even tour. And Enderle said the band hasn't ruled out the possibility of brining someone in to make The Melroys a four-piece again. For now, the current formula is working, though.

For the foreseeable future, we had different ideas when Randy passed away what to do with the band ... but now it's worked out pretty well.

"We're not shutting the door or anything, but we'll just go this way until something comes along," Enderle said.

msanders@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 182

Want to go?

What: Melroys CD release party

When: 9 p.m. Saturday

Where: Broussard's

Info: 334-7235

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