This is Meltdown and this is their story. Four teenage girls, Amy Heneveld, Sonia Brenner, Fiona Griffin and Raquel Vogl, got together in Washington D.C. in the mid 90’s and made some tough sounds. They released one LP in 1997 on the Portland, Oregon based label Archigramophone Records – the digital version of which is included here. Watch out you might get hit.
AMY: Meltdown started to happen in 1995, must have been the end of the summer or so. It was me, Fiona Griffin and Raquel Vogl on guitars and Sonia Brenner on drums. We had all played music together before, except for Raquel. Fiona had a red Gibson and I had a white, made in China, weird untunable guitar with metal decoration. I think Raquel had a red guitar too.
Everyone was hesitant to sing so we all avoided it and I ended up doing some, Fiona the rest. Chuck Bettis sang about how it starts in the streets and Ethan Swan sang on another song. I liked the idea of having male guest singers and hated people asking me if I sang when I told them I had a band.
I was angry and it was good to express it. We started and ended every show with the track called “Intro” and I really enjoyed that, and the looks on peoples faces. I remember in particular one show where we opened for a more well known (all boy) band at the Black Cat (was it Fugazi?) and this sea of bewildered boys in baseball caps just stared back at us. Also, once Raquel spit into the audience and it went into her friend’s eye and it got all infected, but I don’t know if she would want me to tell you that.
We wrote all of our songs together – an interesting process that I now look back on with wonder. We were friends and it just all made sense. We broke up because three of us were going to college.
SONIA: One thing I loved about Meltdown was that although we had three guitars, each guitar was a unique voice. I love that I can listen to the songs and hear the different voices of the guitars, which to me are so expressive of who Raquel, Amy, and Fiona are as people and artists. These voices managed to be both respectful of each other and assertive. I remember, for example, when we were recording “Nightbird Nightmare” and Amy sang first– a sweet but strange, wordless, “ba-ba-ba-ba-baaaaaah!” Raquel and I felt like the sweetness needed some wild, angry sounds. We went into the recording room and growled and yelped and bashed on a toy piano– it felt just right!
Some of the music and lyrics (like “I’m going to melt you down to little balls of flesh”) can only be explained by the weird magic that comes from being together with friends, talking, goofing, playing off of each other.
FIONA: Although the members of Meltdown were influenced by music we had listened to throughout our teenage-hood, the goal was to make a sound that was new and all our own, and more deeply just getting to that place of self expression that doesn’t rely on other peoples’ expectations. That for me was, and still is, a large part of the fun of making music. This worked really well between the four of us because we were good friends and had all played music together in one form or another.
Amy was the first person I ever played music with–we made up a two-guitar song called “I Spy” which I still remember how to play. Then I joined a band called The Danaides with Amy and Sonia and Emily Powers, which played its first show ever with Huggy Bear. After that, Sonia, Emily and I played in a band called Modern Space Map with Raquel. Then Meltdown was born.
I really like the sound of three guitars because there is a lot of potential there, especially when backed by powerful, inventive drumming! I don’t really remember how singing and lyrics came about for me, but I was trying to have fun rather than express anything very personal through lyrics because I would have been really shy about sharing that in public at the time.
I felt the same way as Amy did about having people ask if I was a “singer” in a band. For me, playing guitar was the most important thing–we put a lot of effort into our song-writing and making non-traditional song structures, like writing lots of parts that never repeat themselves and using odd time signatures. Looking back on it, I think it must have been exciting for the audience to see teenage girls playing those songs–it seemed to provoke extreme reactions at least. People either loved it or hated it.
Like Sonia said, there was a kind of magic between the four of us that made it really fun and easy to be creative together and I think that comes through in the music.
RAQUEL: Meltdown was a tough band. We were teenage girls. We played challenging music and spent hours crafting our songs. We were tough…. and yes, I did spit in my friend’s eye and it did get infected.
Meltdown – The Map LP
El Gato Blanco ( The White Cat)
Fake Me Out
Night Bird Nightmare