Since releasing Bon Voyage over four years ago, Melody Prochet has significantly restructured her life. Born from a period of trauma and recovery following a serious accident, the follow-up to Melody’s Echo Chamber’s breakthrough 2012 self-titled debut was a lavish, restlessly adventurous record whose sonic explorations rarely settled in one place for long; even at 33 minutes, it made for heavy and strangely chaotic experience. Having relocated to the French Alps, Prochet has been focusing on her life as a mother and is studying to be an art therapist. Craving silence and disenchanted by the artist’s lifestyle, she admits that she doesn’t listen to much music anymore, except for ambient. Still, creativity continues to play an important role in her life: “I mainly get my inspiration from my emotional overflow,” she explains. “As much as I can do the mindset work, I still have this hypersensitivity. It’s the most familiar way I get to deal with it. It’s sort of a catharsis, a spiritual experience to create for me.”
This Friday, Melody’s Echo Chamber will return with her third album, Emotional Eternal. It’s not hard to draw a connection between the record and the rest of her discography: like Bon Voyage, it was initially recorded in the outskirts of Stockholm with Swedish psych-rock fixtures Fredrik Swahn of the Amazing and Dungen’s Reine Fiske, who Prochet was introduced to back in 2011 through Melody’s Echo Chamber producer Kevin Parker. But while their take on the genre remains as captivating and playful as ever, the decision to trade Bon Voyage’s maximalism for a sense of simplicity has resulted in a more grounding and focused LP. Rather than inviting us to get lost in a psychedelic dream, she looks for poetry and wonder in the world around her.
We caught up with Melody’s Echo Chamber to talk about the inspirations behind her new album, Emotional Eternal, including natural sanctuaries, The Alchemist, Sigur Rós, and art therapy.
Jim Harrison’s Poetry: ‘Barking’, ‘Winter, Spring’
Why did you choose these two poems in particular?
I’m not sure. It’s so abstract. I think just the simplicity and the essence is my favourite in these poems. There are so many others, but I read them yesterday and I was like, “Yeah, these ones.” Maybe you can have some insight. It’s always hard to go into introspection when you’re doing these interviews. You need some distance to understand why you did that. There is actually a film about his life called Only the Earth Is Eternal, which is amazing because it resonates with my album title, too.
One thing that struck me about these poems is the way he addresses the natural world, which is also a theme on Emotional Eternal. I noted down a line from each poem. The first is: “Yesterday I got a call from the outside world but I said no in thunder.”
Oh yeah, this is exactly how I feel. [laughs]
And the other one is: “Each year it is a surprise that the world can turn green again.”
Yeah, that’s also – I know why I chose them, now that you read it back.
I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily just something that resonates in lockdown, but I think it’s it speaks to themes of isolation and living in a rural place and the conflict that maybe arises from that.
Yeah, you’re completely right. But it’s also – I don’t like to talk about darker places I can go, but I think Jim Harrison suffered from those, too, as much as any human being. I think nature can soothe any sorrow. When you watch a beautiful landscape and you’re really hurting, it has this magical, purificating [quality].
Because it’s something that comes up in both poems, I was wondering if you’re emotionally affected by the changing of the seasons?
I think I am, probably. I really need the seasons. I was just thinking yesterday how crazy progressive everything is in nature. It’s such a slow process – that resonates with the conflict between modern societies and my own need of a slow pace. [laughs] I’m just such a slow person – in my understanding, in my productivity, everything. I need stillness. In nature, everything is very progressive and takes its time, and there are all these notions of cycles and circularity. I love that. And I love to return to that and get grounded. I think people tend to forget about it living in the city. When you say it like this it’s super cliche, people kind of cringe a little. But it’s crazy how humans tend to forget about how good it feels to take your time.
The TV documentary Unsere Wälder: Die Sprache der Bäume
From what I understand, this is a documentary about the slow evolution and development of the forests in Central Europe, so it relates to what you were just saying.
I was really amazed by that one. I don’t think we’ve ever learned about it at school, how in the forest, the trees communicate. Silently, of course, it’s invisible for us. But they send each other chemical messages, and there’s this whole fungi system, and some stronger trees will give some sap, the liquid they have inside, to smaller, more fragile trees. In the surface, the forest can seem like a collection of individuals, but below ground, they’re united. There’s this guy I work with who says that the forest is a system that flourishes from sharing, and I fell in love with that idea. It’s so smart and avant-garde compared to how we humans work. It’s such a solidarity system, and I can’t believe we don’t learn about it.
I also watched this documentary and I saw this footage of a tree in 3D in an underground roots system, and I was like, “Wow, what was that?” That footage is amazing, I wish I could do that for a video. And we just asked [David Corfield] if he wanted to reproduce it for us, and he was like, “Great idea.” And we got that great video for ‘Personal Message’. I was pretty happy with that one.
The TV Documentary The Zimov Hypothesis
This is another nature documentary, which posits that the future of our planet depends on the introduction of large herbivores in the Siberian tundra to slow down the permafrost thawing. What was it that struck you about it?
It’s so epic, the story. I guess the mammoth project conducted by this individual. His faith and conviction really inspired me. How beautifully extreme – he’s sacrificing his own his family life and a lot of things for that conviction. And to slow down the melting of the permafrost is huge. The story just truly inspired me. I don’t know why it resonated so much. I love the stories about people really doing some extreme choices of lifestyle and fight for something, for nature. And I don’t have that quality of fighting for something. I can’t believe how our government has slowly manipulated the crowds to not be able to rebel ourselves anymore. And I am concerned about it, but I am not made to be a rebel. I do a lot to have a healthy and good lifestyle for the planet, but I’m really inspired by people who are more extreme.
Do you find that music as a form of expression is kind of rebellious, in that it allows you to project more confidence and speak in a voice that can inspire people in a similar way?
For me, it’s my way of expressing myself. As you can hear, the language is difficult for me to speak, so it’s just a way of expressing my emotion. But I don’t know if it has some kind of beneficial effect. People tell me it helps them, which is amazing and I’m glad it does. But I don’t think music is as important as what the stories I’m telling you about. [laughs] But maybe, I don’t know. It’s like the butterfly effect, if someone listened to your music and it soothes him, maybe he will act differently. I have no idea.
Béla Bartok’s ‘Romanian Folk Dances’
This is the first musical entry on the list. How did you originally come across this piece?
I think it was when I was young at the music school. I can’t really remember the first time I heard it. But I know that when my daughter was born, I was singing that, and I think the doctors thought I was kind of nuts. But I think the folklore is something that really moves me, and it’s bonding myself and Reine Fiske, my collaborator, and also Swan, we have this common love for the folklore. And it’s funny because I read recently about Béla Bartok that he was actually a specialist of folklore. If you read his biography, you can see he did research about how different cultures and people have bonded over similar kinds of folklore and how it affects health as well. I should dig deeper into that, but I’m intrigued by that. Because Reine, he’s able to play Turkish-style in such a natural way, which amazed me because I’m like, how can someone Swedish play that kind of folkloric instrument from such a different country? The emotion folklore transmits is so beautiful and inspiring for me.
Having deepened that relationship with your collaborators, did you find yourself drawing inspiration from folklore in a different way on this album?
I don’t know what it is, but I find this record actually kind of folk. Not folklore, but folk-ish, more psychedelic folk, more stripped down. I think also the fact that I have been living and cultivating this kind of ordinary lifestyle and working – I’m working in a retirement home and I meet real people. Because I used to be around musicians, artists, and it’s a world of representation and imagery and poetry, but in my stance is not very authentic. And I think authenticity is something that really attracts me. I have really authentic relationships, and Reine and the people I’ve been working with are deeply authentic. [laughs] And that’s why I will probably never be a celebrity.
This one ties into ‘Personal Message’, which you have said is about a “natural sanctuary” near your house in the south of France. Can you describe what draws you to that place?
That particular place was a peninsula, near the sea. It’s kind of a pinkish sea, very virgin nature. At the time, something very disenchanting happened, so I would go there, kind of aching, sending wishes to the shore to feel better. And I just got instant soothing back from nature. I didn’t feel much better, but still I was amazed by how beautiful the earth can be. And you just don’t feel that lonely anymore.
All these natural sanctuaries are always big spaces, open, deserted. There’s not many human beings in them – none, actually. It’s funny because I did this video for ‘Alma’ where I had this idea of going to all the places I’ve wanted to go, so I told the video artist all the sceneries I wanted to be in the video, and it was only places of pure, beautiful nature where there’s nothing else. These are really my favourite places, and I try to create these other worlds in the music, too.
Do you ever write when you are in those places? Or do you try to separate yourself completely from your creative impulses?
I think I never really control my creativity. Most of the time, when I’m walking in those places in the forest behind my house, I just go clear my mind because I have so many thoughts, this roulette of thoughts, like everyone, this noise in my mind. And when I walk in the nature, it slowly spreads out, it gets out of my mind, and I have space for creative ideas to pop up like that. When I’m walking for half an hour and my mind is all clear, that’s when it works. But also sometimes nothing happens in the moment, it happens later. But this just helps to clear up your mind from all the overflow of information and emotion, also, because on your phone, your computer, your TV – I don’t own a TV, but there’s so much information and emotional information as well. All those mad stories and tragedy and drama. It’s always existed, but now you just get the whole weight of it. So I try to get out as much as possible.
I think Emotional Eternal is such a striking title, and it’s taken from the line, “Nature gives and then takes back/ It makes me emotional eternal.” When you talk about being emotional eternal, does that have any specific significance for you?
I think it’s multiple – I still think about circularity of life, but also, I think there’s a darker thing behind, maybe even death as a theme. But I’m not sure yet.
Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist
I’ve always really loved the idea of being a shepherd. [laughs] Or the shepherd metaphor, I’ve always really loved. It’s the story of this shepherd that has a dream that he finds a treasure under the pyramids of Egypt, so he goes there on the trip. And I love all the very poetic things that happen on the journey, but for me, I love the idea of letting your soul go on this adventure to the unknown, to let yourself into the unknown. But then I realized I’ve always being on a quest to other worlds and I’ve always been moving around in the world and living in very beautiful, epic landscapes and having lots of adventures. But going back to the origin as well, because he goes to the pyramid and he realizes the treasure has been under his sheep all along, so he goes back. I just love this idea, and I felt a similar thing, because I moved back to not far from where I was born.
For me, it’s the ‘Pyramids in the Cloud’ song that got inspired by that. And I recently went to Egypt, I had no idea I would go there with my family. And I got to walk in the pyramids. It’s funny because I had written the story and the title the year before. I always get these kind of anticipating visions in my lyrics, so that’s always intriguing.
As far as I remember, the story is also about this the idea of being taken away by dreams and then being brought back to reality, in a sense. What does it mean for you to carry on dreaming – to quote your song ‘The Hypnotist’ – now that you’re sort of back where you came from?
What a good question. I wish I had three hours to think about it and then tell you something interesting. I think something very simple that I study in art therapy is to get your brain to breathe, which is a very difficult thing. And when you get your brain to breathe, you actually have this little canal of creativity that can flow. I think for me, the reverie is in the mind, the brain, the body, and when it gets obstructed by life crises, society, pressure, you can’t do anything. So I guess for me the work is to get that flow thing going. There’s so many things to do and it’s different from one person to another. But to carry on dreaming – I used to really wander in my dreams and I was kind of trapped in my reverie sometimes. That’s why I needed to restructure my life and get grounded, because I feel I was being trapped in the dream.
What does Sigur Rós’ music mean to you at this point in your life? Is there any song or album that was especially inspirational to you for this album?
The funny thing is that the album [Ágætis byrjun], the artwork is a foetus, that was already something interesting. This one just evokes my family bubble. And it’s special because [‘Svefn-g-englar’] is my partner’s reverie song. I kind of discovered the music like that. It’s just really landscape-y and free. It has so much space, and I kind of feel my music has always been a little too separated from myself. I’ve tried to work on that. I think I can even go further in that kind of liberation of giving the music space for other people. Like, Bon Voyage was very intimate and personal and it was very hard for people to welcome it. Some people really connected with it, but for some it was just difficult. With Sigur Rós, there’s more space, and it allows that breather in your brain that I was mentioning earlier. It’s really beautiful and singular. I’ve never heard anything like it. We really got influenced by that at the moment of the recording, especially for the electric guitar bow thing.
Do you have your own reverie song at the moment?
I mostly listen to meditative music now. I’ve had crushes on music, like the band Crumb, or even Tom Misch, the album What Kind of Music. They kind of remind me of my past somehow, that’s why I like them. But looking into the future, I think I prefer more silent landscapes. But also because I have children, very noisy children. I can’t take the noise anymore. [laughs]
I’ve been studying, filling my brain with art therapy, which is really fascinating work about the psyche and the link with art and creativity. I had an experience myself where I needed to unblock my brain and get a breather, so I actually experienced art therapy. Actually, I have no idea if it worked or if it did something, which is also the concept of my school, is that you don’t know if it says anything or not. My school focuses on the ephemeral concept, so you don’t ask the person to create or produce anything, it’s just a poetic, ephemeral experience. And that allows your mind to get air, to breathe and get the flow going.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and length.