The production level is incredible here, and having Ben’s expertise on things like drum patterns… I’m still pretty amateur at producing that myself, so they just sound a bazillion times better. The vocals – it’s a lot easier to do stacked vocals, the effects, all things like that. Just having another ear, that has been really important for me.
Four days into her sessions at Red Bull Studios Auckland, Wellington born and Auckland raised jazz vocalist and producer Rebecca Melrose is buzzing about what she’s captured with studio engineer Ben Lawson, self-penned tracks that represent a lifetime’s worth of preparation.
Having moved north to Auckland City with her family in ’97, Melrose’s first singing gig was with the Holy Trinity Cathedral Choir, and it was to be the only place she sang publicly till she sang for some mates as a 15 year-old – albeit with them hidden behind a piano so as not to throw her.
By her own description, Melrose was “super shy about singing”, but she chose to throw herself in the deep end early on to break the back of her fears about public performance. First up she auditioned for the school musical, The Who’s Tommy, scoring the prized role of the Acid Queen, and then went on to play in a series of school bands before taking her love of big band jazz to university, enrolling in a music degree with a jazz major.
Jazz chops aside though, don’t mistake Melrose as a pure jazz head – she cites classic rockers like Neil Young and Led Zeppelin as big influences and even throws Dead Kennedys and The Clash in the mix.
“I always wanted to start a punk band, actually,” she admits, “I just don’t have the voice for it though. Vocally, I’ve always leaned towards jazz, soul, r&b kind of stuff.”
All those latter influences were called upon during Melrose’s time in local rhythm and blues outfit Sal Valentine and the Babyshakes. Three years in their ranks allowed her to well and truly see off any residual shyness, and by then she was ready to step out solo under the alias Miloux.
Now gigging with a loop pedal and a big tom drum, the early Milou shows saw Melrose set her jazz-infused vocals against electronic textures, taking cues from artists like Grimes and Purity Ring. Synthesisers, drum pads and other electronic equipment allowed her to experiment with vocal layering and manipulation, before she recruited a guitarist, bass player and drummer to put extra flesh on the bones of her solo material.
At Red Bull Studio, Miloux is once again a one-woman band, with only herself and Ben Lawson layering up the tracks. Melrose was first invited to Red Bull to record a single, ‘Me and Mine’, and then asked back to work on an EP after that jazz-tinged percussion and synth-driven track proved so potent.
This time Melrose has five new cuts ready to commit to tape and some strong ideas on the balance of ingredients and influences that we’ll hear when this fresh set is released.
“I suppose the way that I’d explain it is the tracks themselves and what I write is all electronic-based,” she says. “But the vocal elements are 100% jazz/soul. That’s just the way my voice leans and that’s what my technique is. I think it fits together really nicely.”