San Francisco band Melted Toys congeal a sound that molds West Coast romanticism with a sound influenced by natural habitat and spiritual credence. The band’s new self titled album dropped this month and is loaded with a visceral sounds.
We caught up with frontman Steven Harkins to talk about overcoming unfortunate circumstances in a San Francisco Bart station his recent journey to Asia.
Melted Toys are currently on a U.S. tour. Their next scheduled local gig is at the Noise Pop Block Party on August 23.
Your first EP, Washed and Dried, came out in 2011. What have been some of the setbacks in releasing your new self-titled EP?
Initially, I moved to Los Angeles so it was a little difficult for us to get together, but I was still writing and it wasn’t too much of a big deal. I would come up to San Francisco on a bus and would usually just carry lots of stuff and belongings.
One of the times I was coming up I was heading over to Brian’s place and was at the Bart station. I had this tote bag that had my computer and hard drive. I didn’t feel that I was missing weight and realized when I got to Brian’s that I was missing my tote bag that had everything we’d been working on up to that point. That was the biggest setback.
How did you collect yourself after that?
It took a bit of time to regroup and realize how much we were missing and lost. I had to get a computer again because I have a lot of programs that I use when I record.
I was listening to the songs a lot so it was easy for me to recreate them because but it took us a while because I was also just about to go on a trip to Asia with my girlfriend, and we all have day jobs so we couldn’t really focus on recording and everything so quickly.
Do you think that because you’re all high school friends it was easier to rally and move forward from what could have devastated other bands?
Definitely. We’re pretty much like brothers. We understand each other on a pretty deep level. No one got angry that it happened, immediately we were like ‘we can’t dwell on this, try not to think about it and start piecing everything back together.’
We had some interest from labels that fell through because of that, so that could have been devastating, but it’s not that big of a deal to us. We’ve been playing together for a while just for fun. It’s something we all just like to do.
When Melted Toys happened it was just like a stroke of luck. We never expected to release anything. We never thought of it seriously and we still don’t.
When you traveled to Tokyo and Taipei, did you envision the kind of inspiration you received?
Not at all. My girlfriend and I had been talking a lot about visiting her family, which I wouldn’t have met otherwise. We talked about it a lot when we’d go visit her parents and were just expressing this interest in visiting where they were from.
Her father invited me and basically paid for our trip and we were able to explore parts of Taiwan and Beijing and Tokyo, but Taipei had the biggest impact on me. That’s where I wrote what would become half the album. I was just there to relax and explore these places and the songs just sort of came out.
I realized how much my environment influences and motivates me. My girlfriend’s dad used to be in bands when he was a teenager. He had an acoustic in their apartment and I would just pick it up and play it. I wanted to encapsulate what I was feeling at the time even just for myself. I wasn’t planning on putting them on the record.
What were some of the biggest cultural differences that you found on that trip?
Being there felt very familiar for me. It was more like noticing a lot of similar feelings that I have growing up in San Francisco and Santa Clara. Obviously, they’re different places but there’s just this vibe that you felt closer to nature. Even though it’s a big city, it’s surrounded by these beautiful mountains. That’s always been a thing in my life where I like locations surrounded by mountains.
I always daydreamed a lot and sort of imagined what’s beyond what you see. There was something mysterious about it. It’s more just like the feeling it gave me.
Have you thought about moving there?
I’m thinking about going back to Taiwan just to hang out there for a bit. It definitely inspires me so much being over there. San Francisco is my favorite place in the world, and it’s still my favorite place, but Taiwan just felt like I could definitely live there. It’s like the perfect place.
There’s a town on the outskirts called Jlufen. I guess it was what inspired Hayao Miyazaki’s “In a Spirited Way,” and while we were driving to this little village in the mountains I felt like looking out the window and everything just felt like it was where it should be in it’s place. I don’t really think about things like that. I was just in this perfect moment.
That inspired me so much and I wrote a song immediately when we came back, called “Joy Fit.” I just wanted to keep that feeling that I had.
How entrenched did you immerse yourself in the music scene there?
We tried but we were more interested in the historical and natural parts of Taiwan, but we did go to this place called the Wall where bands like Radio Department and Mono and Deerhoof played. We went and there was nothing really happening.
I know there are a lot of underground musicians playing small places like galleries and stuff, but we didn’t spend too much time seeking that, unfortunately.