Andy Kaulkin doesn’t remember where he started that day, but his Spotify rabbit hole eventually led him to The Melodic, a British band as influenced by classic American folk as with African and South American beats. He was instantly hooked.
“A lot of times when people are embracing older forms of music, they do it in this academic way,” says Kaulkin, the CEO of ANTI- record label, home to albums from Neko Case, Tom Waits and, as of this week, The Melodic’s debut LP, “Effra Parade.” “They’ve internalized this stuff, but they’re just doing their thing. They definitely sound like they’re from London.”
The Melodic’s primary songwriters — Rudi Schmidt and Huw Williams — grew up in Brixton, where Schmidt says they were taken by the area’s multicultural music, particularly the reggae and Jamaican jazz bands. In their early teens, they started making electronic music together. By the time Schmidt was 17, the two were pursuing acoustic instruments. In his early 20s, Schmidt was exposed to the 10-string charango at his friend’s house. The guitarlike instrument, along with the melodica, have become the backbone of the band’s sound.
“For me, finding the charango was very much like coming home to an instrument,” says Schmidt, now 25. “I’ve had my hand at a lot of different instruments. But that was the one that I really felt I connected with very quickly and felt like I could express myself more freely than other instruments.”
On paper, it’s tempting to lump these harmony-happy acoustic folkies in with the current class of kids mining olde-time music. But there are few actual similarities between The Melodic and Mumford & Sons, the Lumineers, or Seattle’s Fleet Foxes. Mumford and Sons and The Lumineers are rock bands with banjos, while The Melodic is a pack of 20-somethings with a passion for folk and a proclivity for dance. The band’s sound has more similarities to its contemporaries in Beirut, or “Graceland”-era Paul Simon: It is inspired by ethnic and vintage melodies but not beholden to them.
Schmidt says he gets the comparisons a lot and doesn’t mind them. Mumford and the Lumineers, he says, are today’s acoustic torchbearers, which makes them similar, broadly speaking, if extremely different when you spin their LPs.
“The fact that we have such a concentration on bass and the groove of the music that sets us aside,” Schmidt says. “We try and create a kind of like a folk groove that you can dance to, and which references different kinds of groove-based dance music.”
9 p.m. Tuesday, Sunset Tavern, 5433 Ballard Ave. N.W., Seattle; $7 (206-784-4880 or sunsettavern.com)