Melkbelly Break Down Their Noisy LP “PITH” Track by Track
The Chicago group’s four members detail the writing and recording process for their second LP.
As with many of the groups who’ve been traversing Chicago’s underground scene for the past decade, Melkbelly are hard to classify. They’ve slowly pivoted from bizarro lo-fi noise into, well, a slightly more polished version of bizarro lo-fi noise, writing songs with titles like “Twin Lookin Motherfucker” and “Kissing Under Some Bats.” Miranda Winters’ deceptively calm vocals float alongside a largely indistinguishable wall of grunge guitar (courtesy of Bart Winters) and bass (Liam Winters), and James Wetzel’s Lightning Bolt–like percussion.
With PITH continuing down the path initiated on their 2017 debut—slightly less erratic than their Pennsylvania EP, though equally as peculiar—the band has certainly undergone some creative and personal growth over the past few years. Along with a stream of the LP, out today, below you can walk through the record’s eleven songs track by track with the whole band. Find out which Melkbelly song makes the cut for the Voyager Spacecraft, and which one was most inspired by the Blue Man Group.
PITH is out now via Wax Nine—order it here.
Miranda: This is a song about losing a friend physically versus losing a friend emotionally—it’s a sad Venn diagram.
Liam: Miranda calls the bass during the verse on this track “prom bass” after the original bass line was much more aggressive.
Bart: A friend of ours says he likes to get stoned and listen to this track on repeat, which to me is the highest compliment you can give.
James: If there were one Melkbelly song selected for the golden record sent out on the Voyager Spacecraft, it would be “THC.”
2. “Sickeningly Teeth”
James: Teeth is a tempo experiment—it pushes and pulls itself apart as the song progresses. It once was a ten-minute song that got chopped down significantly in the recording/mixing process.
Bart: Usually we kinda tear apart the melodic parts of the songs Miranda brings to the band, but we decided to lean into it on the chorus for this one. I miss the ending that just continued to slow down for another three minutes.
Bart: Not something that we overtly discussed, but on most of these tracks we tried to pull back a little during sections of songs to allow for more variety in the song. On “LCR,” one of the guitar takes is pulled from the opening verse, leaving just Miranda’s sparse rhythm guitar. Felt weird at first but ended up working, in my opinion.
Miranda: This is one of those songs that just fell out super fast which usually makes me nervous. We were happy with how basic it was and fought to keep it simple.
4. “Little Bug”
Miranda: When we were in Berlin I was feeling real low and ended up at the apartment alone for a while. I was laying on my bed pitying myself when this moth showed up and wouldn’t leave me alone. The frustration inspired me to get up and start writing “Little Bug.”
5. “Humid Heart”
James: The oldest song on the record. Been playing this one for years and years and years.
6. “Kissing Under Some Bats”
Bart: This was originally not an eight-minute song, but during recording we started messing around with repeating the last note, stretching it past the point of being obnoxious or gimmicky (we hope) into a more meditative thing (Miranda still may not like this track). We are not reinventing the wheel, but, as with most Melkbelly songs, we don’t really have any goals for song genre or song length. It’s really just whatever we’ve been listening to lately or is rattling around in the back of our skulls.
7. “Season of the Goose”
Bart: We had a lot of challenges with this song. Initially it was James’ aggressive beat, then it was whether we should keep Bart’s synth-like guitar riff in the beginning. Developing this song was the complete opposite of something like “LCR.” We experimented with altering almost every aspect of the song at some point. I really like how it turned out, and its position on the album right after “Kissing Under some Bats.”
James: I’m a huge advocate of “the riff” at the top of this song. It almost didn’t make the cut, but thank god it did.
8. “Mr. Coda”
James: The best song on the record. Liam’s time to shine. It was fun to experiment with the second half of this track. There’s some Moog Prodigy bass line that’s being triggered/gated by the kick drum. And some Serge synth drone wobble in the background. When we figure out how to play this one live, it will be great.
Liam: Miranda had a very specific vision of the bass tone for this song. I tried a lot of different options until we agreed on something passable. I don’t think it was what she wanted, but I’m happy with how this song turned out.
9. “Stone Your Friends”
Miranda: This was a song that took a lot of playing before it felt comfortable. It’s about shopping at the mall.
10. “Take H20”
James: Oldie but goodie. Blue Man Group inspiration throughout (think “Rods and Cones”).
Bart: We played this song live for the first time at the Pitchfork Music Festival. It was one of the easiest to record because we had been playing it for so dang long, but also I think we were a little bored with the song by the time we recorded it so we ended up going back to the recording and changing/adding additional instrumentation. I think we tried to channel Oozing Wound during the little jam-out.
Bart: Just a simple song that highlights Miranda’s voice and proves James can play the drums softly.