Ryan Smith, lead guitarist and primary songwriter of the Melismatics, has fond memories of Cincinnati.
"We're good friends with 500 Miles to Memphis," he said. "I love the old Southgate House. I love the new one, too. It's really fun playing in this really old building that used to be something else."
With plenty of Southgate stops notched on their belts, The Melismatics have built a strong following in the Queen City. This Thursday, they return here to play the MidPoint Music Festival, in advance support of their new album, Rising Tide, due out October 1st.
"It's a different record for us. There's more space on the record," Smith reported. "I feel like we were very careful not to overfill. We left more breathing room in [the layers of the songs]. We just let the music breathe a little more."
Melisma, of course, is modulating notes over one lyric syllable – it’s the technique that makes Middle Eastern vocal styling, or Mariah Carey, distinctive.
“We definitely have melisma in our music, but we didn't name our band because we thought we sounded melismatic,” Smith clarified, laughing. "For our first show, we had no name. And it was a vocab word on a test. I thought eventually we'd pick another name, so I told the club we were called The Melismatics, and it stuck. We never changed it."
The Melismatics are known more for harmony than any namesake warble: Smith and multi-intrumentalist Kathie "Pony" Hixon-Smith are married. That, he asserted, gives the band an edge in performance:
"A lot of people think that working with a spouse is a dangerous thing, but I feel like playing on stage, it's almost blissful,” Smith said. “There's a chemistry that you get singing with your significant other. I think we work together well creatively because of that super deep connection we've got. You don't have to mince words, you don't have to play softball. I feel like we've got a good rhythm going together. Especially when we're working out arrangements for guitar parts. That's one of the hardest things -- knowing how to work with each other and not step over each other."
Smith feels that layered vocals are the band’s strength. He is enamored of Brian Wilson – the new album’s title track, he said, is thoroughly Wilsonesque:
“It's hard to pull off live. We're still working that out. On that one, we just let it kind of go."
"We experimented with the instrumentation that we use, but at the core of it, it's the combination of Pony's vocals and my vocals,” Smith intimated. “And now Mark [Wade], our bass player, is singing too. It's a mix of power pop; there [are] element[s] of New Wave and post-punk. Whatever we want to explore, we just do it. We don't try to stick to any formula."