On Friday, November 6, Hydra Melody, of San Antonio, Texas made dinner plans that I happily crashed as I joined them in Cincinnati, Ohio at Bogart’s, located in the Short Vine district. Hydra Melody is currently supporting Everclear on their Sparkle and Fade 20th Anniversary tour. Jordan Berlanga, Taylor Ferguson, Matt Gomez, Jason Harari and Manny Prince make up the five-piece alternative rock band and are ready and eager to deliver their full-length album Nocturna to fans nationwide. Jordan, Matt, Manny and I chatted about the album, their sound, and what it’s like to share the stage with an iconic 90’s band.
Jordan Berlanga provides lead vocals, guitar and keyboards while Matt Gomez handles drums. Manny Prince takes care of additional percussion (including auxiliary) and manages the synthesizer. “It’s been pretty crazy, I’m not going to lie,” Berlanga says of touring with Everclear. He recalls watching their music videos and thinking not only how cool it was, but what it would be like to achieve the musicianship that Everclear has obtained. Jordan is a huge fan of So Much for the Afterglow, learning to play drums from this record. To be up there on stage, watch from the back of the house, and mingle with the guys from Everclear on the daily has been a surreal experiece for Jordan, Matt and Manny. This is not Hydra Melody’s first time touring, as they provided opening support for Third Eye Blind in 2013.
Their set list includes much of Nocturna, the bands’ first full-length album. Several EP’s have been released but Hydra Melody in the past. Now, all tracks are condensed into one album. Their sound has a blended balance of guitar and keyboard/keyboard synth. “It’s something that has shaped through the years,” Berlanga says. Manny Prince has helped expand the role of synthesizer in Hydra Melody’s sound. Formerly, Prince was strictly percussion and the keyboard sound took on an unexpected (yet welcome) sound. Matt, Jordan and Manny also explain that radio influence played a part in their evolving sound due to synth layers appearing in alternative music. “It’s pop rock in the digital realm,” Jordan explains.
Hydra Melody’s use of percussion is an artistic collaboration between Matt Gomez and Manny Prince. “You have to balance it out,” says Gomez when discussing playing on the cymbals versus on the drumheads. While Prince provides additional drums and auxiliary, Gomez can add the heavy percussive elements, channeling some inner Metallica.
The four of us discussed layering, composition and performing their set live. In particular, where is the line of complexity drawn? “How am I going to sing and play this at the same time?” Berlanga tells me, when asked about composition of tracks and how those tracks transfer to an audience. “Computers and midi controls allow endless possibility of reproduction live,” I am assured. “ ‘Devil In Disguise’ is the most difficult track to perform live,” Prince says of the complex layering involved in this particular track. Another element that makes the track unique is the metamorphosis it went through before the finished product was developed that appeared on the record.
Hydra Melody first debuted Nocturna at the Fashion meets Music Festival in 2014. The festival was held in Columbus, Ohio. Manny said that, “Playing through the record almost felt new.” After having taken a break from recording, performing it live was untouched territory.
There are so many physical and mental demands placed on performers during a set list. Fortunately, for Hydra Melody, they have tailored their set so that “no individual song is mentally or physically taxing in the set as a whole. Each song is pretty well balanced out,” Berlanga comments. During a set, he [Berlanga] is always thinking ahead and the mentality of it can be exhausting coupled with the adrenaline. Decompression after a show is necessary. The ‘this is next’ mentality takes over when performing. “When we first started playing together, our sound was more experimental which created challenging performances,” Gomez recollects. “We’re now more consistent and comforting. We’ve grown a lot.” Growing up together is a true testament as all of the guys have been in marching band together on the drum line in high school. Jason Harari and Taylor Ferguson, who have been with Hydra Melody for four year, have previous band experience. Over the years, lineups change and the five of them have ended up together.
As Matt Gomez previously commented, the beginning sound of Hydra Melody was experimental and progressive. Was hydra a derivative of five members? “In a way, yes,” Jordan begins. The five of them were learning to play together and learning to be in a band. “It was five or six different solos on top of each other happening at one time. That’s five different things happening to create one song; that’s Hydra Melody.” He concludes. They themselves were the instruments, playing the instruments.
Currently, Hydra Melody is halfway through their tour with Everclear. They have a music video for “Honey” from Nocturna to be released soon online. The nationwide release of Nocturna will be coming in January/February of 2016 and a vinyl release is also expected. Currently, the record is only available on tour. Hydra Melody has big plans for 2016, returning to the studio to work on new material as well as returning to the road. Click here for all Hydra Melody updates. Connect with the band on Facebook and Twitter
All photos and Logo ©Hydra Melody and Josh Huskin
Written by: Amanda Knight @AmandaJill82