A beloved Moncton folk-pop duo is back for round two.
Originally formed in 1998, Mel & Tina – Melanie Keith and Tina Gautreau – quickly amassed a dedicated fan base throughout the region, routinely playing upwards of 100+ shows per year before ultimately parting ways a short two years later as creative differences began to creep into the picture.
Fortunately for their fans, that wasn’t the end of the group. The duo’s second act began a few years ago, and comes with something they didn’t deliver the first time around: an album of original music.
Mel & Tina will celebrate the release of their long-awaited debut effort Mel & Tina and the MagneTics at the Tide & Boar Gastropub on Friday, Oct. 16.
Asked if it was a sense of nostalgia driving their efforts to finally make a record, Keith says it did play into their decision somewhat, just not exclusively so.
“This album is important for a couple of reasons. There is the nostalgic aspect of having finally recorded a bunch of songs that we wrote more than 15 years ago, but we were also insistent about bringing new material to the table as well. It’s like the best of both worlds,” Keith says.
Recorded in Moncton with engineer John Maher, Keith says the recording of Mel & Tina and the MagneTics came together rather effortlessly, something she credits to the musical chemistry that she shares with Gautreau.
“Our sound was very fluid and well defined from the outset, which enabled a lot of this release to write itself, so to speak,” Keith offers.
The fact that Keith and Gautreau are able to speak about a proper Mel & Tina album is not something that either of them is taking for granted.
After having first jammed following their meeting at a hockey rink in 1998 (“How Canadian is that?” Keith quips), Gautreau says the pair immediately musically clicked.
“It was our voices and the harmonies we were able to sing,” she says. “It was this sudden, but really easy connection we made. It only made sense that we would choose to pursue it beyond that hockey tournament.”
It wasn’t just the duo that picked up on their musical chemistry. Mel & Tina soon became one of the province’s most in-demand acts, playing the Lieutenant-Governor’s mansion for the turn of the century New Year’s Eve party, in addition to appearances at the East Coast Music Awards and at various clubs around the Metro Moncton area.
As quickly as their star had risen over the course of a short two years, things fell apart in an almost rapid fashion as miscommunication plagued Keith, Gautreau and their management team.
Although the pair would find their way back to friendship after having gone their separate ways, they ended up taking rather divergent paths before finding their way back to making music together.
After the release of a solo record in 2003, Gautreau willingly withdrew from the local music scene in efforts to recalibrate her path.
“I ended up taking a break in 2005 and not really getting back into music until Mel and I began playing again a couple of years ago. I was still writing music and playing with others, but I also needed to step away from things for awhile to help gain some perspective,” Gautreau says.
Keith was anything but dormant in the time that she and Gautreau spent apart. In 2004, she released a record with Robin Anne Ettles entitled Imitating Hercules while in 2009, Keith took centre stage with her solo record Mel Keith & The Strombachs.
When they began regularly performing together again, Gautreau says that making an album wasn’t at the top of their minds, but is elated that they have finally arrived at this point, even if it is 15 years late.
“It’s funny how things happen. I wanted to get back into music, so when Mel and I began talking about playing again, I just didn’t happen to see making a record as a necessity. I had been out of the loop for so long, making an album wasn’t something high on my priority list. I came to realize that our time apart also helped to fuel the excitement about making a record and being involved with music again. It definitely helped bring a new energy to the project.”
In addition to the pair’s irrefutable harmonies on their record, one distinctly unique aspect of Mel & Tina and the MagneTics is that it features songs sung in both French and English.
According to Keith, the decision to undertake making the record a bilingual affair was not something that required a lot of consideration from either her or Gautreau.
“Tina had done a lot of songwriting in French in the time that we weren’t together, so it was only natural that we would incorporate this into the music we are making now,” Keith says. “Neither of us was really sure about how it would be received, but we have been rather encouraged by the reception from the community so far.”
What: Mel & Tina and The MagneTics Album Launch
When: Friday Oct. 16, 9 p.m.
Where: Tide & Boar Gastropub, 700 Main St., Moncton
Admission is free