>> When an artist releases their first material to the public it often serves as an exciting and interesting indicator of what to expect from them in the future. It gives a glimpse at the bricks an artist is using to build the foundation that becomes their identity. In the case of Rochester-based experimental rock/post-hardcore band, Pomelo, their self-titled EP, released in May of 2019, serves this introductory purpose. Layered with compelling rock riffs, groove-based instrumental jams, intriguing time signatures, vocals ranging from whispers to shouts, Pomelo’s first EP concludes a definitive, yet unpolished energy.
Pomelo is rounded out by guitarist/vocalist Adam Maida, drummer Travis Johansen, and bassist Erik Happ. Adam and Travis had been working on music together since 2012 with a rotating cast of members. Both have been a part of the music scene in Rochester for over 15 years, with Adam being alumni of hardcore act Like Wolves and Travis playing in various bands such as pop-punk act Claire Danes and current pop-sensation KOPPS. Travis and Adam eventually recruited Erik, who is also a member of the band False Pockets, as they needed a bass player. The trio coming together officially finalized the project after stalling out over the years.
Pomelo takes inspiration from a variety of genres, ranging from weird 90’s post-hardcore similar to alternative-rock act The Jesus Lizard, to 70’s hard rock, and even elements of heavy metal. The members of Pomelo have a large palate for music that clearly comes across when listening to their jams. It is easy to tell they have no intention of being pigeonholed to a single genre. Travis explains he wants people who hear them to be confused by the infusion of sounds, leaving the listener with an expanded mindset on the boundaries of a band's sound.
While self-recording their EP, which began as an almost “nightmarish” experience as certain recording microphones and drives weren’t working, the band ended up feeling the process went as smooth as it could have gone. Adam describes the EP as “lo-fi, but it’s also a demo EP- an example of what we’re writing." The EP opens with “Objectivist,” which starts with a catchy guitar-driven riff that eventually finds the rest of the band grooving along throughout into an interesting outro. The second track, “Clementine,” finds Adam initially whispering along the eerie instrumentation of the track while eventually shouting about searching for solace in the chorus which reminds me of Fear Before the March of Flames in their epic experimental rock/post-hardcore album 'The Always Open Mouth.' The band makes a conscious decision to not have the vocals be louder than other instrumentation, explaining that “the lyrics are no less or more important than the rest of the music." This pays off as the band showcases their instrumental chops throughout the EP, which demands attention just as much as a catchy line or chorus. While many ears may find the grit or edge to the unpolished sound of Pomelo polarizing the band feels it best represents their experimental sound. As Adam explains, “nothing in this world is fucking perfect, so why should we pretend that our sound is anything but imperfect?” And Travis adds that the choice “captured the rawness” of their sound. One of the standout tracks of the record, “Herbicide,” finds the band at their peak, shifting grooves and adding intensity throughout the track with various little guitar licks that are unnoticeable until multiple listens. The track also reflects the cover art (also done by Adam) which features a hyper-focalized, seemingly drugged-out eyeball with a color spectrum taking over the eye that represents “a lot of themes in the EP about media hysteria and fear mongering present in society." Ultimately, the EP takes listeners on a trip with various twists and turns that serves as a mere sample of the experiment Pomelo is conducting.
Pomelo are currently in the midst of writing more music, and as bassist Erik explains, they simply want to “make some records, play some shows, and have some fun." Be on the lookout for Pomelo as they continue to cultivate an interesting sound and play shows in the Western New York area. Pomelo is supporting Druse at Bug Jar on February 7th. You can listen to their music here.