Mel and Josh: Out of the Living Room and into the Recording Studio
Mel Hsu ’13 and Josh Smith ’11, widely known on campus in past years as the musical duo Mel and Josh, aren’t letting Smith’s graduation stop them from making their unique, personal music: the two are releasing an album, entitled Analog, just in time for senior week next month. If you’re a freshman and never got to experience one of Mel and Josh’s incredibly and widely popular living room shows, this is your chance. In addition to collaborating, the two also pursue separate musical ventures and released their own albums: Smith with the Concert Gs and Hsu as a solo artist. Still, when the two combine their musical powers, something completely different and equally special comes out.
However, the two say that this album is a departure from their past music, although it still retains its delicate, private feel.
“It’s really different from anything we’ve ever done,” Hsu said. “I would say if you were listening to my album from last year and Josh’s album from last year, try to imagine a hybrid—and it’s not really that.”
Smith qualified Hsu’s statement, emphasizing that the album does not sound at all like the Concert Gs.
“I will say that it won’t be a complete curveball to anyone whose a fan of either of our musics,” he said. “But it’s true—anyone who listens to the Concert Gs, do not expect it to sound like that….It’s much more organic; it’s much more acoustic; it’s a lot more stripped down. The songs are more naked.”
From a musical perspective, the songs on this album are exceptional because they are something new for both musicians. Still, it is not only on a technical level that this album is special: the songs are also incredibly personal and mean a lot to each artist.
“I would say that in a certain way they’re intimate—that’s a word that she and I use over and over again to describe our music,” Smith said. “It ends up being a very personal album...[It] kind of marks things that the two of us have gone through over the past few years.”
With songs that mean so much, it’s not a surprise that the album title, Analog, is also dripping with symbolism. The word has two meanings: as analog, an older style of recording music on a cassette tape, and as analogue, something that is analgous, or equivalent to something else.
On the (digitally-recorded) album’s relation to the first definition, Smith said, “[Analog recording] really symbolizes a certain aesthetic that we hold dear to us. It more symbolizes something organic, that this album is a product of friendship and honesty...and also because it’s a sonic aesthetic that’s very stripped down.”
But in another sense, the album represents an analogue: Smith and Hsu.
“We were kind of struck by the fact that for one, it’s [the album], kind of an analogue of a person or a thing that’s seen as comparable to something else,” Smith said, “often something that you might not think is something similar like, Mel and I. Our friendship and our artistic partnership are part of a million synchronicities that none of us would have expected.”
It is precisely because the two believe that the music they make together is so important that they decided to make the album they’ve dreamed of making together ever since they started collaborating two years ago, despite Smith having graduated last year.
“It’s tougher, but we just really felt invested in this project,” Smith said. “For us, it really is a culmination of everything we’ve put into this partnership for the past few years.”
However, the distance was not the only obstacle to the creation of this album—the other was financial. It is very expensive to record, produce, and release an album independently, especially if it’s high-quality. They also did not want to have to put a price on their music. They wanted their album to be accessible to everyone, and they understand the way the music industry works now. Everything is free, and, if it’s not free, a good portion of people will not listen to it. In order to realize their dream. Smith and Hsu needed to somehow raise and recoup $3,800—and that’s if they didn’t compensate any of the other musicians that collaborated with them on this project.
So, they did what most people in our generation would do: turn to the internet. They started a Kickstarter page (a website that facilitates online donations to fund projects) and sent out a plea to their fans and friends. Amazingly, within three days, they reached and exceeded their goal. Currently (at the time of this article), they’ve managed to raise $4,333 from 86 donors.
“People are very supportive and extremely generous,” Hsu said.
Smith shared the sentiment.
“I have to say I am totally blown away,” he said. “Neither of us have ever taken for granted the support that we’ve had…I don’t really have words for it honestly—what it means to be able to ask people for help on making our passion a reality and, in only days, having people essentially allow us to do what we love.”
Keep your eye out for the album release coming up in three weeks. Though Smith has moved on from college, Wesleyan is where their partnership started, Wesleyan is where most of their devoted fan base is rooted, and it’s been their experiences at Wesleyan that fueled a lot of the songwriting in the album. In short, this album is very Wesleyan, and as students here, you’ll be able to identify with it on another level.
“We’re excited to share it with Wesleyan because a lot of it comes from Wesleyan,” Hsu said. “We’re really excited to bring it back to Wes.”