21st Century Music: Mellowdrone
21st Century Music are shorter playlists and write-ups that focus on artists that have released their music since 2000. These highlight new(er) acts that continue the sound and spirit of the older acts that are highlighted on Ceremony. Click on the streaming service of your choice below to listen to the playlist as you read along. Not all songs are available on each service due to limited availability.
Few acts are as appropriately named as the band Mellowdrone. Their music is a mix of electronics and heavy guitar riffs, all delivered in power ballads or mid-tempo, evenly paced rockers. I came across them through my CMJ subscription in the early 2000s, picking up on the songs “Fall on Your Knees” and “Fashionably Uninvited,” which both stood out. I picked up the first album, Box, upon its release and it established itself as one of my most played albums of the new millennium – still getting heavy attention in my playlists to this day.
Mellowdrone was centred around Jonathan Bates, who was born in Venezuela, raised in Miami, and went to college at Berklee School of Music in Boston. A guitarist who liked to noodle with the desktop electronics available in the late 1990s and was influenced by the likes of Sparklehorse, he was invited to LA by a friend to record some demos. That trip led to him collecting guitarist and keyboard player Tony Dematteo and drummer Brian Borg along the way as bandmates, and in 1999 Mellowdrone was born.
The band would self-release four EPs over the next five years before issuing their first album, Box, in 2006. They were helped in getting signed to label 3E/Columbia after an opening spot on a Johnny Marr tour. Some of the songs from the early EPs would be included on that album. It’s an impeccable collection of modern rock songs, with Bates’ vocals resonating deeply and with slacker ennui through mesmerizing melodies, power chords, rumbling basslines, and catchy synth lines.
After a label switch and a non-album single, “Maquina,” the band released a second album, Angry Bear, on Coming Home Records in 2009. By then, after constant touring and ten years of slogging it out, Bates decided he’d had enough of the band thing, and decided to strike out solo. The result was the performing name, Big Black Delta, which has released four albums of mostly electronic music. His penchant for mood and melody are carried through in the new act.
Camila Grey (aka Camila Gutierrez) was a schoolmate of Bates’ at Berklee and ended up in LA also. She has played with several different artists and joined Mellowdrone as a bassist/keyboardist while also forming the band Uh Huh Her with Leisha Hailey. The pair issued their first EP in 2008 and has had some success over the years as an electro-pop act.
Mellowdrone, despite having songs featured in some movies and TV shows, never caught much attention which was a shame given how listenable and enjoyable the music plays. It was nice, new wave hooks but with a modern rock edge, and fit in with the mini-rock renaissance of the early ought’s. A catchy new single, “I Don’t Believe,” has appeared just this month under the name Mellowdrone, but I don’t know if it’s just Bates or a reunion of the original band. I’ll need to keep an eye and ear out for more, which would be welcome. In the meantime, I highly recommend settling into a good listen of Box and enjoying the mellow, rocker vibe of this 21st Century band.
Song - Album - Artist (Year)
- Fall On Your Knees - Glassblower EP - Mellowdrone (2001)
- Fashionably Uninvited - A Demonstration of Intellectual Property EP - Mellowdrone (2003)
- Beautiful Day - A Demonstration of Intellectual Property EP - Mellowdrone (2003)
- Oh My - Box - Mellowdrone (2006)
- Fuck It Man - Box - Mellowdrone (2006)
- Madison - Box - Mellowdrone (2006)
- Amazing - Box - Mellowdrone (2006)
- Maquina - Non-album single - Mellowdrone (2008)
- I See Red - I See Red EP - Uh Huh Her (2008)
- Alone = In Your Face - Angry Bear - Mellowdrone (2009)
- Lady In Her Underwear - Angry Bear - Mellowdrone (2009)
- Jumping Off the Pier - Angry Bear - Mellowdrone (2009)
- DMT - Angry Bear - Mellowdrone (2009)
- Money Rain Down - Big Black Delta - Big Black Delta (2013)
- Love You this Summer - Big Black Delta - Big Black Delta (2013)
- I Don't Believe It - Non-album single - Mellowdrone (2018)