By Jenna Goff
Sandy Springs native Mary Ellen Klein has had a passion for performing since her time at Ridgeview Middle School. Now, she will come full circle when her Nashville-based band Melon and the Mayhem performs at Heritage Sandy Springs’ Rhythm & Brews on June 26.
Klein is the lead singer and songwriter of the band, whose sound she describes as rough, raw rock with pop, jazz, and electronic undertones. “We wanted to produce something new that was not already out there,” she said.
But her background is much more classical. She was heavily involved in the chorus and musical theatre programs at both Ridgeview and Riverwood International Charter School.
“I started in chorus at Ridgeview, began piano lessons my freshman year at Riverwood High School, and started taking private classical voice lessons at 16. It was a very intensive musical training,” she said.
It wasn’t until Klein’s time at the University of Georgia that she grew interested in rock. She moved away from her classical roots, developed an interest in the commercial side of music, and joined bands. “After that, I couldn’t get enough,” she said.
In the summer of 2011, following her graduation from UGA with a degree in Music Business, Klein moved to Nashville to pursue performing. “We really encouraged her to go for it and try out her dream,” said her mother, Jennifer Klein.
Mary Ellen spent some time performing solo as a singer-songwriter, but she quickly felt the need to create a band. “I wanted a group that I could really develop a sound with,” she said.
She soon met some musicians from Belmont University, and together, they formed Melon and the Mayhem.
“I built on them one at a time until we had created a new sound,” Klein said.
That unique sound consists of saxophonist Ryan Swinehart, drummer Tim Provence, and guitarist Ben Faught. They released their first EP, Lights On, in 2012.
“In that EP, we wanted to capture our rock and roll sound,” Klein said. “We did very little editing.”
Their latest EP, Bluerise, released in March of this year, has a slightly different feeling. “It’s much more of a pop sound,” Klein said. “We spent almost six months editing and producing it. But it’s very much a sound that represents us as a band.”
Whereas musically, the band draws inspiration from many different sources, lyrically Mary Ellen credits Atlanta as a large influence.
“Being exposed to hip hop especially was a huge part of my development lyrically,” she said. “My music is very focused on lyrics, and hip hop has helped me in making sure the poetry is right.”
Melon and the Mayhem’s performance at Rhythm & Brews will be their second performance in the Atlanta area this year. In April, the band played a sold-out show at Steve’s Live Music during a tour of the East Coast.
But Klein takes any opportunity to come back to Atlanta that she can. “I know she is really excited to be playing back in Sandy Springs,” her mother said.
Melon and the Mayhem will be performing on the Sandy Springs Society Entertainment Lawn at the corner of Sandy Springs Place and Bluestone Road from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on June 26.