One of the first bands to take the sludgy, dark sounds of heavy metal and punk and slow them down to create a guitar style that is the trademark of grunge was Melvins. Originally from the small town of Montesano, Washington, they took the band name from an unpopular dude who worked with some of the band members at the local Thriftway grocery store. When they played a concert in the parking lot of that store, a teenager named Kurt Cobain would go home and write in his diaries “This is what I want to do.” Cobain’s band Nirvana would take that guitar sound and make it a global phenomenon: a new music style called “Grunge”.
Formed in 1983, they played their first show in Seattle at the Metropolis in 1984. They’ve been together ever since, and released more than 17 albums. Melvins moved to San Francisco in the late 80s, then later to Los Angeles, but Seattle still claim the band as their own, since they were such an important part of what was known as “The Seattle Scene”. They were one of 6 bands who showcased on the first grunge compilation, Deep Six, released in 1986, so even though they’ve changed their sound a lot over the years, there’s no doubt they were a big influence on grunge.
What makes Melvins distinct as a band is not only their ability to play some of the heaviest rock music on earth, but they also have a very silly sense of humor. Goofing around in interviews and making up fake bios just to confuse everyone… Get a feel for the band’s onstage and offstage style in this radio story.
Melvins play the Crocodile May 13 and 14, and their new album, Sugar Daddy Live, drops in May. For more on the history of grunge check out the Experience Music Project’s new museum exhibit “Nirvana”. Tickets and info here. KEXP Documentaries are created by Michele Myers with assistance from John Felthous, Tiffany Grobelski, Mary Janisch and Executive Producer Kevin Cole. If you would like to follow along more closely in the creation of these radio stories, we post research materials, songs and videos on our Facebook page and on Twitter.