Saturday, March 02, 2024

Melt the Honey: An Interview with Madeline Link of Packs & Show # 1028

Toronto-based band Packs began around 2019 as a solo project for songwriter Madeline Link. A full band emerged shortly after featuring Dexter Nash (guitar), Noah O’Neil (bass) and Shane Hooper on drums. With a few singles released online, they drew the attention of Fire Talk records and then released their debut album Take The Cake in 2021 and Crispy Crunchy Nothing followed in 2023. The band’s sound has been described as lo-fi indie rock, garage rock, and drawing influences from acts such as Pavement, Guided By Voices, Sebadoh and others, Link’s lyrics often pull from a literary aesthetic, delivering character driven stories at times, or evoking meaning from the mundane moments in life by balancing wit with humour. Packs third full-length album Melt the Honey arrived in January 2024.

Recorded in Mexico over the course of 11 days by the band themselves, Melt the Honey takes a more experimental approach to aspects of Packs sound, often wandering into psych, shoe gaze and folk territory while still staying true to the sounds of the band’s first two albums. “89 Days” opens with a hazy more lethargic feel. Lyrically, Link sings “No backups for 89 days/I click on close, but the thought still remains/And as I fall asleep, I wish that I could change” touching on themes of unresolved tasks, missed opportunities and the passage of time in a poignant way. “Honey” is a more upbeat track. The album takes its title from this song. With acoustic guitars, steady drums, bass and electric guitar that cuts in and out with organ in the syrupy choruses, lyrics “Tar on the freeway marks on the wall/This is where I fall/Figuring out it's seriously what I wanted all this time” in the verses emphasize the complex layers and thrills of a new relationship.

“Pearly Whites” is a harsher sounding track, with grittier guitars and undeniable fuzzy melodies, this track sounds influenced by its surroundings being recorded in the warmer climate of Mexico. Taking on a scuzzier shoe gaze sound, this song was also one of a two that were inspired from literary works. This one draws inspiration from one of the characters from Jack Kerouac’s On The Road reflecting the acceptance and appeal of certain societal behaviours, while “HFCS” is a more lo-fi garage-sounding track. With lyrics “High fructose corn syrup” in the sugary sounding choruses, Link and Packs tackle the addictiveness of artificial based sugars over the real thing while also serving up a metaphor for authenticity. ”Take Care” is another unhurried track, pulling in psych vibes that digs into the concept of self-realization and treating yourself with the same care you give to others, especially in the early stages of a relationship.

“Paige Machine” draws its influence from another literary source Mark Twain, but in a different sense. In the 1800’s Twain backed the development of a printing device by James W. Paige, but due to the complicated nature of its design and the obsessive perfection of Paige’s nature, the machine was doomed. With lyrics such as “It'll only work once now/Cause you took it apart/And it this new configuration/Fucked up, now you gotta restart” Link plays with the lyrical phrasing in this song as country, psych and surf guitar melodies layer overtop of acoustic guitars, melodic bass and drums, adding to the unease of the situation while at the same time portraying a message of not overthinking or over doing things for fear of losing what you were trying to do creatively in the first place. This also echoes throughout the album in many ways, not just lyrically, but also musically. The crunchy sounding “Missy” is about a stray cat that would roam around the band’s practice space in Xalapa, Mexico while they recorded this album. Sung from the perspective of this cat, this seemingly simple tale drawing on themes of connection, desire and vulnerability, like many of Link’s songs can have multiple possible meanings. There is even a Spanish spoken section in the middle of the song by Lupita Rico adding further layers to this track. The burnt-out psychedelia of “Trippin’” comes in with acoustic guitars, bass and well, trippy sounding guitars that move through as the song floats forward. Drawing comparisons to Mellow Gold-era Beck, "Trippin" comes in as the second last song on this album, while “Time Loop” ends Melt the Honey.

Musically, “Time Loop” with its rolling basslines, shuffling drums, acoustic guitars and atmospheric psych influenced electric guitar lines, applies a juxtaposing optimism in-between Link’s smooth sounding vocal melodies. Lyrics such as “It’s not hopeless yet,” wander within the song itself, revelling in the possibilities despite the sometimes gloomy moments around us. Throughout Melt the Honey, the music is raw, unfiltered and unafraid to experiment. Lyrically, the songs go deep into the complex layers of emotions with a new sense of optimism, still evoking meaning from the mundane with an undeniable wit and humour. Melt the Honey reverberates with lo-fi confident honeyed rhythms, melodies and lyrics that will be hard to forget.

Listen to the interview Revolution Rock did with Madeline Link here:    
Packs Playlist (Originally Aired On March 2nd, 2024):

1.  Packs - Cheese (Crispy Crunchy Nothing- Fire Talk - 2021)
2.  Packs - HFCS (Melt the Honey - Fire Talk - 2024)
3.  Packs - Silvertongue (Take the Cake - Fire Talk - 2021)
4.  Packs - Abalone (Crispy Crunchy Nothing- Fire Talk - 2021)
5.  Packs - Honey (Melt the Honey - Fire Talk - 2024)
6.  Packs - Drink Rain (Drink Rain - Single - 2021)


7.  Packs - Sink (Ouch + B-Sides - 2021)
8.  Packs - FM (WOAH EP - Fire Talk - 2022)
9.  Packs - Clingfilm (Take the Cake - Fire Talk - 2021)


10. Packs - Hold My Hand (Take the Cake - Fire Talk - 2021)
11. Triples - Play it Again (Play It Again - 2017)
12. Triples - Summer Song (Play It Again - 2017)
13. Triples - Making Space (Big Time - 2019)
14. Lovers Touch - Weatherman (1681 D - 2017)
15. Lovers Touch - It’s Not Right (Live) (In Muted Colours - 2017)
16. Packs - 4th of July (Crispy Crunchy Nothing- Fire Talk - 2021)
17. Packs - Who Will It Be (WOAH EP - Fire Talk - 2022)
18. Packs - Hangman (Take the Cake - Fire Talk - 2021)
19. Packs - Trippin’ (Melt the Honey - Fire Talk - 2024)
20. Packs - Tightmouth (Ouch + B-Sides - 2021)
21. Packs - Cheshire Cat Grin (Ouch + B-Sides - 2021)
22. Packs - Don’t Go for the Goats Milk (WOAH EP - Fire Talk - 2022)
23. Packs - Dishwater (Crispy Crunchy Nothing- Fire Talk - 2021)
24. Packs - Divine Giggling (Take the Cake - Fire Talk - 2021)
25. Packs - Take Care (Melt the Honey - Fire Talk - 2024)

To hear this program, visit CJAM's schedule page for Revolution Rock and click the March 2 file to download/stream the episode.