Purple Melon, Painting Hollywood Purple

purple melon

By Piya Sinha-Roy

“Eric’s balls.”

“Pardon me?”

“Eric’s balls. That’s what our band name means.”

Purple Melon. That is the name being discussed on a warm sunny afternoon in a parking lot in Hollywood. A quick glance at the smug smile on the face of the owner of the above-mentioned balls that inspired the band name, indicates that this definition for the name ‘Purple Melon’ may indeed be true, although no explanation was offered regarding the choice of color.

The speaker, Owen Barry, a 27-year-old musician hailing from Essex, England, reclines on the ageing but surprisingly clean interior of the band’s decaled van. As well as being a nickname for Eric’s genitalia, Purple Melon is also a band, and presently, the four band members are congregated outside their white van by the iconic Swinghouse Studios, taking a break from rehearsing.

“Oh, I’ve had sex in here,” declares Eric Joyce, the youngest band member at 22. Hardly surprising seeing as he’s almost 6,000 miles away from home and his shaggy dark hair, Indian ethnicity and refusal to wear a shirt seems to entice the local girls.

“Tom once kicked a police officer in the face as we drove off in this van,” says Barry. Tom Hill, the blonde-haired 23-year-old lead singer of Purple Melon, jumps into the conversation excitedly as he regales the tale of kicking a drunken off-duty police officer in the face as the officer tried to get into the moving van, somewhere in Santa Monica.

Jason Ganberg, the fourth member of the British indie rock band, is sitting subdued on an amp, tapping away on his phone. As the smokers in the group finish off their cigarettes and head back to their rehearsal room at Swinghouse Studios in Hollywood, where previously the likes of Marilyn Manson and Red Hot Chili Peppers have recorded some of their most notable songs, Ganberg apologizes for being so quiet.

“I just broke up with my girlfriend,” said the dark-haired 24-year-old drummer.

Back in the rehearsal room, the playful energy among the boys is immediately transformed into a pensive seriousness. They play two new songs, “This is Life” and “Come And Get It,” and ask me which one I like better for their set opener.

The four band members of Purple Melon briskly discuss bridges, breaks, riffs and choruses. Five light bulbs of different colors swing from the rafters into the center of the rehearsal stage. As Barry plucks away more energetically on his guitar, his arm swings and hits the purple light bulb, propelling it across the stage before it swings back.

The relationship between the four band members is interesting. Barry and Joyce are the band’s extroverts, and as the oldest and youngest members of Purple Melon, they’ve formed a close fraternal relationship. Ganberg and Hill, the more introverted of the group and both around the same age at 23-24, communicate the least with each other, according to Joyce.

In between songs, it is hard to ignore the quiet, and almost tense atmosphere between the boys. “We’re all just tired,” says Barry.

From what?

“Promoting the Roxy gig.”

The gig he refers to is taking place the following day at famed rock club The Roxy, located in the heart of Hollywood’s Sunset Strip. Whereas many young musicians in a start-up band may be daunted by the thought of performing on the Strip, for Purple Melon, the Strip has become part of the band’s performing lineup. They often hosted sell-out shows at venues like The Viper Room and Key Club, and The Roxy gig is just business as usual.


It is Friday evening, hours before Purple Melon’s Roxy gig, and the boys are antsy. Hill slips out to do sound checks and Barry runs around trying to find his phone, while Ganberg complains that his throat feels a little sore. Joyce and Ganberg sit on the sofa in the artists’ room upstairs in The Roxy, getting distracted by the chaos around them.

Purple Melon arrived in Los Angeles three years ago from England, but a record release is yet to be scheduled. This seems strange, as the band has clearly put together more than enough songs for an album, and at rehearsal, they are practicing new songs.

“That’s our secret – we’re never going to release it!” jokes Joyce, with an underlying air of resignation.

The band has the advantage of being fully bankrolled by their manager, Craig Treharne, an enterprising Londoner who decided to take a chance on four English boys and make their musical ambitions come true.

The four band members seem to have an interesting relationship with their manager. With Treharne funding their Los Angeles life (the band members live together in one house), the boys are lucky to not have to work on the side to support themselves, unlike many other musicians in the city, and they can focus solely pursuing success through Purple Melon.

Although it appears Treharne is holding them until “the right moment,” as he explained before the band’s performance at The Roxy. “I want them to release the record at the right time,” he said, “You have to get the timing right.” Treharne did add that the album was almost ready, and hopefully would be released sometime later this year. As the man with the money, Treharne is holding the strings when it comes to Purple Melon’s future.

On appearances alone, the band members are all good-looking boys, each with their own take on the rocker look. Joyce once again is shirtless but partially covers up with a baggy grey cardigan, while the rest of the boys adopt the classic rocker attire of skinny jeans and skin-tight t-shirts. They all have shaggy hair in numerous shades; Ganberg’s dark locks falling across his face and partially masking his mysterious dark eyes, while Barry’s jet-black crop is juxtaposed against the piercing blue of his eyes.

While their look is easily recognizable, defining the band’s sound seems to be difficult to the band, as each member cites completely different artists, bands and sounds as their influences. Ganberg lists jazz drummer Dave Weckl as his inspiration, while Joyce listens to house music. When asked to explain Purple Melon’s unique sound, Joyce responds, “We are Brit rock.”

And what does that mean?

“I have no fucking clue,” says Joyce, with an edge of passive frustration. “But that’s what we are.”

The boys define their style as “a more old-school way of playing,” and currently, they believe they are the only British band to be based in LA, doing what they do. Joyce calls Purple Melon “a bit of a jam-band,” as Ganberg adds, “we can all play our instruments and we love playing, and that’s where it gets exciting.”

Purple Melon had an unexpectedly interesting promotion in the final season of MTV’s show “The Hills,” that saw their global fan base increase. The band was name-dropped and featured performing at a showcase that one of the show’s main stars, Audrina Partridge, attended.

“We got loads of people,” says Ganberg. “It wasn’t like, ridiculous, but we did get loads of people from around the world because “The Hills” plays everywhere.”

The shout-out was orchestrated strategically by MTV, who were scouting potential bands to use for that particular episode. When MTV enquired at The Viper Room about which band would be the perfect backdrop for Partridge’s scene, The Viper Room management informed them that Purple Melon was their best bet, due to the band’s ability to fill a venue.

“We didn’t even know as a band that MTV were going to be filming this until that morning,” Joyce said.

For critics of “The Hills,” the Purple Melon shout-out may seem like a desperate plug, but the boys are confident that their credibility remains intact, or rather, they seem unfazed by any negativity towards them.

“We haven’t sold anything yet, so we’re not worried about selling out,” deadpans Joyce, with a glint of amusement in his eyes.

To date, Purple Melon has over 49,000 fans on MySpace, 25,000 Facebook fans, and over 6,000 followers on Twitter, indicating a growing virtual fan base. Social networking seems integral to how the band interact with their fans.

“We try and interact with them as much as we can, we post statuses and questions to get people involved,” says Ganberg.

“Last year, we started posting a question a day on Facebook, things like “Which do you prefer, love or sex?” explains Joyce, as he brushes his hair away from his prominent eyebrows. “It sounds silly, but it actually works, and we had people commenting on the questions.”

Meanwhile, Barry finds his phone, and promptly runs into the adjoining room to take a call. He can be heard shouting, “I’ll come down and meet you” numerous times, before he hangs up. He comes out and apologizes, explaining that one of their fans is deaf, but was calling him to get on the guest-list for the show later that night. He dashes out again, presumably to retrieve the deaf fan, while Ganberg and Joyce’s phones are constantly ringing as more people call in to request guest list tickets for the night’s show. The four band members are unable to sit still, and as members of other bands performing that night enter the small room, the energy becomes almost tangible with testosterone.


At The Roxy later on Friday night, Purple Melon is late to go on stage. At the bar, two young men walk in and order drinks, chatting away in a distinct London accent. On further inquisition, one of the two men introduces himself as Gary and explains that he is an acquaintance of Hill’s. He decided to check out Hill’s band during his weeklong stay in Los Angeles.

“I’ve known Tom for ages now, and it’s really cool to see him here on stage in LA,” said Gary, who also revealed that it was his birthday. Gary’s companion Josh seemed less enthused, but explained that he was still recovering from attending the three-day music festival, Coachella.

(Side note: Josh turned out to be Josh Bowman, an aspiring young British actor who will be playing Miley Cyrus’ love interest in her upcoming film “So Undercover.” Josh wasn’t the only “celebrity” in attendance, with television actor Jesse Metcalfe hiding in the shadows as he watched the performances from his table set to the side of The Roxy.)

At 11.30pm, Purple Melon finally steps into the bright spotlights on a stage where icons like David Bowie have played decades before them. The Roxy has filled out considerably, with over two hundred people crowding around the intimate stage.

“It is hot up here,” quips Hill cheekily, as he tunes up his guitar. “And by that, I mean you’re all looking very sexy.” A few female screams of excitement pierce the air as the band launch into a new song, “Come And Get It,” one that they played the day before at rehearsal, and incidentally, the one I chose as my preference for their opener. It’s the perfect opener – a catchy pop-rock tune that embodies the party vibe and gets the audience dancing right away.

In comparison to the subdued seriousness of the Swinghouse Studios rehearsal the day before, the boys are full of buoyant energy on stage at The Roxy. Ganberg transforms from his quiet melancholy self, his underlying cocky arrogance manifesting into a mesmerizing drummer.

By the third song, “Please Don’t Go,” Tom starts to showcase his vocal abilities, with a melody reminiscent of feel-good 80s pop rock with a hint of edge. The song ends with a bang, perhaps on suggestion of Treharne.

“He [Treharne] is of the view that our endings have to be really snappy,” Joyce revealed prior to the gig. “Because people won’t know when to clap when we end our songs.”

Treharne’s savvy thinking seems to pay off. The crowd applauds and cheers loudly at the end of the third song and the band launch into the Aerosmith-esque “Record Player.”

Songs like “Princess Peaches” are reminiscent of English boy band McFly, if McFly knew how to play their instruments better. As Barry introduces Hill’s solo song, “Henry’s Rocket,” an almost tender moment pass between the two before Hill laughs it off, and launches into a melodic ballad that seemingly draws influence from Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

Joyce is the stud of the group, garnering the loudest female screams. Barry is the most talkative, playing up his broad Essex accent while making bawdy comments in between songs. Ganberg adopts an air of brooding mystery and opts to take a silent backseat at the drums but doesn’t hold back when it comes to playing his instrument. The boys are confident, charismatic, enticing and appealing with their four-man act, working off each other’s characters flawlessly. There is no power play in force here, as Barry leads the banter between songs, presumably because he is the oldest, and Hill takes the spotlight during the performances.

“This is our last gig before we go back into the studio,” announces Barry. “We’re coming back as a girl group called Girl Force.”

The band closes out their hour-long set with a rendition of Paul McCartney’s “Maybe I’m Amazed.” It’s hard not to think of John Lennon in this moment, who would have stood on the very same floor in front of the stage almost four decades ago, where Purple Melon’s fans have presently congregated.

The Beatles comparison is unavoidable. Four shaggy-haired Liverpudlian boys once won over the hearts of America and paved the way for mainstream rock-pop bands to come. As four shaggy-haired English boys once again take the history-laden Roxy stage in 2011, a stage where icons before them have performed when they too were aspiring musicians, Purple Melon’s ambitions may be poised for a starry road ahead.

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