It’s been a hell of a couple of weeks for the industrious four-piece hailing from Chicago. While Melkbelly would normally be found tearing up smaller clubs and DIY venues, they now find themselves playing Pitchfork Music Festival, a week prior to opening up for the Foo Fighters at Wrigley Field.
Melkbelly’s noise rock backbone is countered with euphonious choruses and held together by an explosively sporadic drummer trained in jazz. The thunderous quartet opened up the red stage on Friday of the festival, indisputably earning the title of the loudest band at Pitchfork this year.
The day after their set, we gathered around a wet and muddy picnic table, where I laid out a couple of Goose Island Old Man Grumpy Pale Ales and Next Coast IPA’s. There was one glaringly obvious takeaway from our conversation: Melkbelly really wants to brew a collaboration beer.
But before we can get to that—hint, hint to all the brewers out there—a few questions.
Where’s your favorite place to have a beer in Chicago?
Liam Winters (bassist): We live in Pilsen, so Skylark is one of my favorite bars. All their beers are cheap. You can get a [3 Floyds] Zombie Dust there for five bucks.
Bart Winters (guitarist): I like the bar Cody’s. It’s just a cool corner bar and they have a good jukebox.
James Wetzel (drummer): I would say Map Room is a great spot. I used to live right by there. Or Ola’s.
Miranda Winters (guitarist, vocalist): I like drinking beers at the Empty Bottle and Stella’s, which is really close.
What’s your favorite local brewery?
Liam: I’d say Middle Brow, but also I work for them. They’re making a lot of good, interesting beers. They give a lot of money to charity. Each beer has a specific charity that they donate profits to.
James: I would say Whiner. They just put out a watermelon saison that’s really good and refreshing.
Miranda: Marz brewery, because my favorite kinds of beers are beers that don’t taste like beer, or are really funky. They do lots of funky stuff.
Bart: Half Acre is probably what I drink the most. It’s also pretty cool that Revolution has grown so much but has stayed local.
If you could share one beer with any musician, who would it be?
Liam: Bart, you answered this question yesterday when you said you wanted to hang out with Kanye West. You were looking to have a convo with him and talk about some shit. Set some stuff straight.
Bart: Yeah, I’d like to talk to Kanye West and find out what’s really going on. I wanna have a beer with him, look him in the eye, and be like ‘Whats up? What’s wrong? Come back to Chicago.’ We’d have a beer and we’d figure it out. He’d be back on the right path.
James: I would say Elvin Jones, so I could pick his brain a little bit. He’s one of my favorite drummers of all time.
Miranda: Britney Spears, because I think we would get along really well.
Liam: I’m going to say Brian Eno. If you follow him on Twitter, he’s always giving sage-like advice. He’s really smart and could probably help me out. I got a lot of shit going on. Brian Eno would put me on the right path.
Have you guys ever thought about doing a Melkbelly collaboration beer?
Liam: We’ve been trying to make it happen.
Miranda: Yes, for as long as we’ve been a band.
Bart: We’ve approached multiple breweries.
Liam: It’s kind of sad how many breweries we’ve casually talked to about it, and then no one ever calls back.
James: It’s almost as if I just wanted a band so that I could get a collaboration beer.
Miranda: Once we do it, we can quit music.
Liam: It’s like, ‘Come on, help us out!’
Miranda: Make a beer for us!
It is my goal to get you guys a beer collaboration. I think we can make it happen.
Liam: At the very least, maybe it’ll push Middle Brow to do this because they’ll get jealous as hell.
When you’re playing a huge room or a field like this, it’s so cool just to feel like the sound is in a place where it’s supposed to be.”
What’s your favorite venue to play in Chicago?
Liam: I mean, I love the Empty Bottle. Thalia Hall is awesome too. The hideout is great, especially in the summer when you can hang outside. We just did a little DJ set with Middle Brow, Miranda and I at Sleeping Village.
Miranda: It’s gorgeous. The sound is amazing, and it’s all ADA accessible.
Liam: They have an obscene amount of beers on tap, too.
What does it feel like going from playing all these smaller venues and DIY shows to opening up for the Foo Fighters next week?
Miranda: It feels very bizarre, but it’s a lot of fun.
Liam: You know what’s weird is going from playing these DIY shows to playing Wrigley, you spend all this time dealing with guest list shit. We’re like fighting about dumb stuff like that didn’t exist before, which sucks. But yeah, obviously, playing the shows is a blast. Even just doing Pitchfork and hearing yourself going through the PA is awesome.
James: Lately we’ve gotten to play at some of the bigger venues, when we were on tour alongside The Breeders. It’s nice to hear our sound in those big rooms. We’re used to playing small rooms, where we’re super loud and we refuse to turn down. It gets claustrophobic sonically, which is OK sometimes, but when you’re playing a huge room or a field like this, it’s so cool just to feel like the sound is in a place where it’s supposed to be. This is the biggest field we’ve ever played.
What was the experience of playing Pitchfork like?
Miranda: It’s fucking fantastic! I feel so lucky to be able to do it. I feel lucky and really happy.
Bart: It’s very convenient. We all live in Pilsen so it only took like five minutes to get here.
Liam: Bart and I have been coming to this since it was Intonation so it feels great.
James: The last two weeks, I’ve been biking to our practices in the evening just down Lake St. and biking past the field. Everytime I look at it, I’m like ‘Woah! We’re gonna be playing there.’ It’s pretty surreal.
Miranda: Yeah it’s absolutely nuts.
Whats some of your favorite local chicago bands currently?
Miranda: Nnamdi [Ogbonnaya] for sure.
James: The Hecks
Miranda: Lala Lala
Liam: The Meat Wave boys. Oozing Wound.
James: Paper Mice
Bart: The Funs. Dim.
Outside of local Chicago music, what do you listen to in your downtime?
Miranda: Well for my birthday, Liam got me Protomartyr’s last EP. I’m loving it. Also, a lot of Liz Phair lately, too. Snail Mail’s new record, she done blowed up.
Liam: Yeah, she’s probably got a beer coming.
James: I’ve been listening to a lot of Aphex Twin lately. Also, a lot of Miles Davis.
Bart: Chaka Khan in preparation for tomorrow night. I always listen to Cave. Drag City just put all of their stuff on Spotify.
James: DJ Rashad. Chicago footwork juke. Good summer music.
Liam: I listen to a lot of Protomartyr. Also, I was listening to the new Breeders album a bunch.
Are you currently working on new music?
Miranda: Yeah, we are going to be recording in October. We are gonna go out of town to do it in Bloomington, Indiana at Russian Recording.
Liam: We’re recording with Lil Bub’s dad. That cat from the internet.
Miranda: Get on Instagram and look out for a bunch of selfies with Lil Bub.
Liam: We’ll be looking to release that album at some point, which you know, if that coincided with a beer release, I think that would be good for us.
Bart: Everybody wins.