Although Spring was short lived, a new brand of Chicago is sprouting from the concrete. Carmelo Cianflone [chan-flow-nay], better known as Melo Makes Music, is a voice to get familiar with. Since releasing his debut project Sessions (2015), his music has evolved into an amorphous collection of sounds. With a new album in the works, Melo seeks to change the perception of progressive music.
Carmelo grew up on Chicago’s South Side by the lake, 90th and Essex, and attended De La Salle Institute in the historic Bronzeville neighborhood. Coming up, he played guitar and piano and received healthy doses of bands like Nirvana and Nine Inch Nails, both strong influences in his music today. In the early days of Melo’s career, he was rapping. Back then, his songs carried an undeniable hip hop vibe; still outside of the box as far as traditional 90’s hip hop is concerned, but you could tell his hunger for reverence as an MC outweighed that of simply being known as an artist. “Disguise”, produced by long time collaborator Martin Sky, shows Melo as a strong metaphoric rapper. “Yeah after Sessions, I was really looking at myself creatively. Analyzing myself, critiquing myself, kind of out of body, looking at myself in third person, and realized I wanted to make something I truly liked.”
Unhappy with his early music, Melo decided to be more honest with himself and pull influences from the music he enjoyed listening to as a consumer. This inspired the creation of a pop-punk, post-grunge band, one that never quite made it off the starting line. This new endeavor was a chance for Melo to blend his favorite sounds of grunge and rap on one platform over his own compositions. After recording an album’s worth of music, the group disbanded before choosing a name, leaving Melo with a bunch of unreleased material. Ultimately, this trial gave way to what you hear now, formless songwriting rooted in hip hop with an array of rock n roll qualities; the inverse to some of his early endeavors, but a style he’s comfortable with.
I got acquainted with Melo’s sound last year, shortly after his band fell apart. He was frustrated, but the release of “Murphy’s Law” introduced Melo to many and breathed new life into his music career. Along with Ju, producer Martin Sky and additional vocals from Tatiana Hazel, the song was delightfully enigmatic; I didn’t have a clue as to what to call it when I first heard it, I just knew I loved every minute of it. Melo kicked off the track, “If it all go wrong hold tight, no wrong times two ain’t right, no a plane with no fuel can’t take flight…” and at that moment I knew there was something special about him. All those years of introspection came spilling over the beat, production that felt specially made for him.
Before the music, Melo and Martin Sky attended grammar school together. Around late 2015 at Columbia College, they began discussing music which lead to their recurring collaborations. Since then they’ve worked with familiar names like Ravyn Lenae, Kweku Collins, and Taylor Bennett among others. Melo recently got off a tour with Taylor, where he felt the rush of performing in front of a sold out crowd for the first time. He also learned how tiring touring can be, but most notably he learned how to make fans.
It’s important for artists like Melo to have a platform in Chicago. He represents the forgotten; the people from neighborhoods that birthed drill music, but don’t exactly fit into that narrative. There are ingredients of street music in his catalog, but Melo doesn’t allow that to define him. Instead, Melo makes music deeply rooted in his unique upbringing. He’s not telling anyone else’s story. He can touch all the major points of different music we love to hear, but he does it in a way that makes sense personally above all else. After eliminating any doubt and negative thoughts regarding his craft, music became his source of therapy. This sentiment is what makes him so hard to categorize.
Things have been moving quickly for Melo and his career looks more precocious than ever. Aside from getting sick on the tour bus, he came home with a great first tour experience, and just in time for another sold out crowd at Schuba’s where he opened up for Femdot this past Sunday. Looking to drop his next project and proper debut Nomads sometime this year, you can expect to get to know Melo a lot better real soon. In the meantime, we patiently wait for Melo to make more music.