Brad Rhodes is bringing his indie-rock band, Melodime, to Pittsburgh for a show tonight at the Hard Rock Cafe on the South Side.
Literally. I mean, he is driving the band’s bus on the interstate toward Western Pennsylvania while being interviewed on his cell phone.
“The other guys are in the back,” he says.
The other guys are the Duis brothers, Sam (keyboards) and Tyler (drums), and guitarist Jon Wiley. Mr. Wiley is the new guy.
“Tyler and I were introduced by a mutual friend when we were seniors in high school,” Mr. Rhodes recalls from the band’s formation eight years ago in northern Virginia. “I’d been writing some songs, and then a couple months later Sammy joined right in and we started gigging right away. It was our first band. We committed from the very beginning. We’re in it for the long haul.”
For the longest time, Melodime was just them — a trio that would bring in guest musicians to round out the sound on their recordings. Mr. Wiley, who attended Duquesne and still has friends here in town, joined them about six months ago.
“Over the eight years that we’ve been together, we’ve added a few people here and there,” says Mr. Rhodes, who fronts the band on guitar and vocals. “We were kind of, I don’t know, in search of our sound, and wanted something a little bit bigger and it never quite worked out. In the past two years, we really wanted to add a permanent fourth member on lead guitar, mainly because all the recordings that we’ve put out, we have somebody playing those parts and we wanted to be able to recreate that live and have that energy for our live shows.
“We finally found the proper fit for what we’re doing, and it’s been great ever since. He’s sitting behind me eavesdropping on our conversation right now, trying to take any compliments I throw at him.”
This isn’t Melodime’s first visit to Pittsburgh. They played at The Smiling Moose on the South Side a couple of months ago, when Mr. Wiley — a veteran of several other bands — was just settling into place.
“Having a fourth member takes a little bit of pressure off everybody’s shoulders playing live,” Mr. Rhodes says. “So we’re able to approach things a little more relaxed and with more energy.”
The band’s growth is also reflected in its sound.
“I think in the beginning we were all kind of like starry-eyed and we just wanted to be in a band,” Mr. Rhodes says. “We didn’t have as much of a vision then, other than the fact that we knew that we didn’t want it to be a hobby. We wanted to do it for a living. And now, moving forward … the vision has evolved. Finally, after eight years, I feel like we’re at a point of knowing what we are doing. It’s in our wheelhouse right now, and that’s a good thing.”
“We’ve been saying alternative rock or indie rock,” Mr. Rhodes says, cringing at the invitation to label themselves. “There’s definitely some Southern elements involved with it. We’ve always had a tough time placing it in a genre, and I think it’s a good problem to have. It shows that we’re a little bit different from some of the other stuff that’s out there.”
Most of what they’ll play tonight will be from their new album, “Where The Sinners & The Saints Collide,” which they released in October. But there will be songs from their first two albums as well.
“We try to mix it all together,” Mr. Rhodes says. “When we go back and listen to our [first] albums, it must have been six years ago, the sound has definitely changed from that. We try to keep it interesting for us when we’re on the road, so we’re always sort of changing up certain live versions of songs, certain jams in between songs, just to try to make every night different. Just so we don’t go crazy playing the exact same song like clockwork every single night.
“We’re definitely not like a jam band or anything. We’re not going to play certain songs for 12 minutes. For the most part, we keep it to the record unless we’ve written an extra live part in advance. Occasionally, we’ll go off, but it depends on the vibe.”
The current tour has given Melodime a chance to expand its fan base. Suddenly, Mr. Rhodes looks out into the crowd and sees people singing along with him.
“Man, that’s the coolest feeling, I think,” he says. “That’s just started to happen recently and, I don’t know, it gives us a sense of validation that what we’re writing is actually something that people want to listen to. To have people listen to the albums and memorizing the words and coming to shows. … We feel like we’re getting some momentum. It’s exciting.”
And there’s another element to the band’s growth. The guys have started a nonprofit charity called Now I Play Along Too.
“We give instruments and music education to underprivileged kids,” Mr. Rhodes says. “The way we do that is by taking 100 percent of the profits from our newest album, ‘Where The Sinners & The Saints Collide,’ and all of that goes to the charity. We don’t pocket a dime from our album sales.
“It’s definitely kind of risky, but I think we’re doing it at the right time. We’re just getting used to [success] now, so hopefully down the road we can sell a lot more music and in turn help the charity even more. We’ve never gotten used to making a lot of money, so this is a good time for us to do something like this.”
All the more reason to check out Melodime at the Hard Rock Cafe, 230 W. Station Square Drive, tonight at 8. Joining them on the bill are Courrier, Nick Barilla, and Nameless in August. Admission is $10.
Dan Majors: firstname.lastname@example.org.