With a sound that meets in the middle of a collision between experimental noise rock, pop grunge, math rock, and classic indie rock, the Chicago quartet Melkbelly utilized well-worn sounds of the past and transform them into something fresh, thanks to the energy and skill they apply to the process. After learning their craft on a series of singles ad EPs, they made their debut on the national stage with 2017's abrasively poppy Nothing Valley, then returned in 2020 with a more expansive and dramatic take on the sound they had established.
The band formed toward the end of 2013, with all the members coming from seemingly disparate backgrounds. Vocalist and guitarist Miranda Winters had previously performed folk-rock music under the moniker reddelicious, and brothers Bart and Liam Winters ran a show space in Chicago before taking up guitar and bass in the band. To complete the lineup, they recruited James Wetzel of noise duo Ree-Yees, who had studied jazz drums in college. Beginning in Chicago's D.I.Y. spaces, the fledgling band secured opening slots for avant-rock duo Xylouris White and Brian Chippendale's solo project Black Pus.
The band set about recording its debut EP with Bitchin' Bajas' Cooper Crain in 2014. The process took just a day for recording and a day for mixing. The resulting six-track Pennsylvania EP drew comparisons to the Breeders and Lightning Bolt, as it combined the rock-focused melodicism of the former with the chaotic noise of the latter. Melkbelly continued to hone their sound with a series of singles, and 2015 saw the release of the abrasive tracks "Piss Wizard" and "Bathroom at the Beach." In 2016 they teamed up with Dave Vettraino to record the 7" "Elk Mountain" and "Mount Kool Kid" at Chicago's Public House.
Taking a more leisurely approach to what would become their debut long-player, they once again teamed up with Vettraino and wrote much of the record in the studio, tracking it to eight-track analog tape. The band's debut full-length, Nothing Valley, appeared in October 2017, and it marked the first release for Sadie Dupuis' (Speedy Ortiz) Wax Nine Records, a sister label to Carpark.
After two years of almost solid touring, the group decamped to Russian Recording studio in Bloomington, Indiana to work on their second album in two sessions held six months apart. Working with Vettraino again and utilizing the studio's vintage synths and tube mikes, the band crafted a more experimental take on the sounds of their debut. PITH was released in April 2020 on Wax Nine. ~ Bekki Bemrose