There is a power in Melissa Colbert-Taylor that is otherworldly. Her voice bellows with such bravado, such unbridled passion, that it seems to warp the room around her into an inescapable vortex, drawing the audience in. She is a force of nature, a rare talent, and Athens only has one more chance to see her in action before she leaves us.
In just a few short weeks, Colbert-Taylor and her five-month-old baby boy, Sebastian, will follow husband and father Alex up to Ann Arbor, MI, where he will begin law school this fall.
But, thankfully, we get one last hurrah with her explosive psych-rock band NEVER. (Rumor has it we may also be privy to a reunion of her former band, whose name rhymes with “sleepy”â€¦ wink, wink.)
The brainchild of guitarist and circuit-bender Kris Deason (Dark Meat), NEVER was conceived as an improvisational platform for his homemade guitar pedals and noisy experimentation. Shortly after he recruited Ryan Vogle to lay down some riff-heavy guitar, Colbert-Taylor came onboard.
“One night at Flicker, I drunkenly went up to him and said, ‘I need to make music with you,” laughs Colbert-Taylor. “And then I just did my thing.”
Her thing, as it turns out, is unlike any other vocalist in town. While the band (now with Peter Alvanos behind the kit and Chris McGarvey on bass) unleashes propulsive, ’70s-inspired rock, Colbert-Taylor goes into a sort of gyrating trance. There are a few lyrics here and there, but for the most part, her delivery is all about energy. She howls to the heavens, groans in frustration, moans in ecstasy and generally captivates audiences with her raw emotion.
“I’ve always been inspired by [Pylon’s] Vanessa Briscoe Hay,” she says. “She’s always been a huge influence on me, as far as just really letting go and being cathartic and just seeing what happens when you get up there.”
It’s not all abstract and improvisational, however. Colbert-Taylor says that each NEVER song has a theme behind it, and she draws inspiration from those specific ideas for each track.
“The song we always start with is about seizures I used to have,” she says. “So, I kind of go there in my head. Other songs are critiques of scene climbing, stuff like that. Some of it’s kind of social; some of it’s political. A lot of it’s angry and expresses frustration.”
That release has been more important to Colbert-Taylor this year than ever before. If you want to hear the poster child for the feminist anthem “I Am Woman Hear Me Roar,” stream NEVER’S Nov. 11, 2011 gig at the Caledonia Lounge (available at southernshelter.com). Colbert-Taylor’s performance was particularly powerful that night, wailing and flailingâ€”and five months pregnant.
“It was something I had to doâ€¦ When you go through pregnancyâ€¦ a lot changes. All of a sudden I wasn’t going out as much anymore, and I wasn’t doing a lot of things anymore. I really needed that outlet. It really helped that I could still do it, and I kind of challenged myselfâ€¦ because I wasn’t sure.”
Colbert-Taylor tested herself over the course of a few practices to make sure she felt up to the task. The band had to tune down practices quite a bit, and take lots of breaks, but it came together beautifully.
“It worked out OK, but I knew I had to stop after that performance, because I was so sore.”
In January, the band focused its energy on recording instead, and began laying down tracks at Adam Chandler’s home studio. There was a brief hiatus after Sebastian’s arrival on Jan. 31, but by spring, the band was back on stage. They’re now wrapping up recording, as well.
Although it’s more or less the end of the road for NEVER, it’s important to bandmembers that they have a document of their work; the plan is to stream the songs for free online. (Although the group has no Internet presence to speak of at press time, Flagpole will fill you in on where and when to get the tunes once they become available.)
As to Colbert-Taylor’s future output, all that’s certain is that it’s coming. Her priorities certainly have shifted, with a focus on family first, but being a mom doesn’t mean the music stops.
“I’m probably going to lay low for a bit, but I can’t stop [making music]. There’s just no way,” she says.
“You give up a lot to be a parent, mother or fatherâ€¦ but it doesn’t mean you have to give up everything you love doing, especially art. If that’s part of what makes you happy, you’ve gotta keep doing it.”
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