Mellow doesn't mind being compared to Air. After all, both French groups share a similar love of vintage synthesizers, swinging lounge, intergalactic swirls, and digitized flourishes. Mellow would, ho
Mellow doesn't mind being compared to Air. After all, both French groups share a similar love of vintage synthesizers, swinging lounge, intergalactic swirls, and digitized flourishes. Mellow would, however, like the comparisons to stop, but the band knows some recent career choices will render that impossible.
Air bolstered its notoriety after scoring Sofia Coppola's 2000 movie "The Virgin Suicides," and the Caroline/Astralwerks soundtrack gave the band its first appearance on The Billboard 200 (No. 161). Now Patrick Woodcock, Pierre Begon-Lours, and Stephane Luginbuhl are following that formula to success, providing much of the music for "CQ," the directorial debut from Sofia's brother, Roman, and, like Air, using the opportunity to explore its retro tendencies, as "CQ" is set in the late '60s.
"The only thing that would make us not do the soundtrack was that we thought it was not a good thing that Air had done Sophia's movie and now we're doing Roman's," says vocalist Patrick Woodcook. "You know, suddenly we're doing the other Coppola movie. It was giving people a stick to be beaten with."
The "CQ" soundtrack, released by Emperor Norton, is Mellow's second domestic album, following last year's critically lauded debut, "Another Mellow Spring" (Higher Octave). Whereas that set saw the band showing off a prog-rock appreciation and Flaming Lips-like psychedelics, "CQ" is bachelor pad swank, as much a nod to such Burt Bacharach soundtracks as "What's New Pussycat?" as the film is a tribute to such '60s camp as "Barbarella."
"We not only put aside all of our '70s and '80s influences, but any new aspect of music as well," Woodcock says. "We concentrated on something that was a part of Mellow, the 1960s part of Mellow. We don't consider this a style exercise, but it was a chance for us to emphasize a certain part of Mellow."
"CQ" is a coming-of-age story that follows a young filmmaker, Paul (Jeremy Davis), who's thrust into the production of a sci-fi sexploitation film about a super-spy named Dragonfly (model Angela Lindvall). Meanwhile, Paul is also trying to complete an autobiographical film, but a sudden obsession with Dragonfly forces his fictional world to blur with reality and high art to collide with camp.
Similarly, the soundtrack, mostly filled with short instrumentals, sees Mellow offering a playfully eloquent take on '60s kitsch. From the cool bedroom jazz of "Take Me Higher," with Red Snapper contributor Alison David in a Dionne Warwick role, to the fluffy Moog synthesizers, moonlighting acoustic guitars and brassy horn orchestrations that comprise much of the album, Mellow tackles the era with a revered care that never mimics.
"Coppola would send us tapes of the film with temporary music on them," Woodcock says. "There were these great 1960s artists that we had to be as good at, like the Rolling Stones, or [an Ennio] Morricone arrangement. We did our best to replace them with Mellow tracks."
Despite the fact that "CQ" has received lukewarm reviews, Coppola, son of "Godfather" director Francis-Ford, has a cachet that attracts a hip following; he's directed videos for the Strokes and Moby, as well as Fatboy Slim's "Praise You." Mellow, however, has no expectations of becoming the next Air.
"This isn't a wide-audience film," Woodcock says. "This isn't 'Spider-Man,' but you really can't just go out and make a 1960s album, so we saw this as giving us the opportunity to do so. Roman did our first music video, 'The Mellow Winter,' and he said he had been listening to our album a lot while he was working on the script. It was quite flattering, and that's how it started."
Mellow hopes to finish a proper second album this summer, and Woodcock says the organic feel of "CQ" has inspired the group to move in a more songwriting-oriented direction, featuring a heightened focus on acoustic guitars. At this stage, though, the band isn't sure where the album will land, as Higher Octave, a division of EMI, has been subject to massive cuts.