Latest release: Naked (Lizard King)

Thanks mainly to the ascendency of Muse, the last few years has seen a rise in the profile of new prog, spawning an interest in the works of bands like The Mars Volta, Porcupine Tree, Oceansize and Coheed and Cambria. An Australian act that could well be added to this impressive list is Melbourne band ME. They may not necessarily enjoy the label — “We like the progressive thing… not so much in prog, as the genre, but in trying not to do the same thing all the time,” says bass player Mikey Godde — but there’s few who’ve heard them could argue that they aren’t already showing the potential to stand beside such esteemed practitioners of modern rock. Like the best bands of their kind, ME is taking a sweeping array of influences and turning them into something that, while not quite yet wholly their own, is certainly coming together nicely so far.

“We’re all into various classical pieces, film scores… Danny Elfman we all love the shit out of, The Beatles, Radiohead,” Godde explains, taking a few minutes to chat before heading off to a rehearsal. “Me and the drummer are pretty obsessive on Mars Volta. They are the shit. God’s gift to humans. They make me so unbelievably happy. John Williams, the composer… lots of things that we all like. And then lots of things that everyone will give each other shit about. But the things we all meet in the middle on are why the band sounds like it does.”

On first listen, the band’s debut EP “Naked” may be difficult to get a handle on. The title track sounds like The Beatles doing a Muse song, and the others take a splash from Queen here, a little Radiohead there, some psychedelic organ-driven prog elsewhere and add in some rich, layered guitars and Luke Ferris’ Bellamy/Yorkesque wail. Not surprisingly, labels beat a path to their door, and ME recently signed to Lizard King Records, the former home of The Killers.

“They’d just been perving on us for sometime,” Godde says with a chuckle. “We played a few industry showcases and they went really well, so we got a bunch of interest from the right people. As soon as we got an offer from another person, these guys straight away gave us a sweet offer. They seemed quite nurturing for a young band so we went with them.”

The origins of the band’s members are as disparate as that of the music they play. Godde hails from the Victorian snowfields, vocalist/organist Ferris from Queensland and guitarist Damian Tapley comes from Perth. The three musicians independently drifted towards Melbourne “to find some people to play music with seriously.”

“I met Damien at a festival… some really crazy nudist hippie festival, and we met Luke at quite the opposite place: the Internet,” says Godde. “Then we found our drummer [Mike Rogers] about three years ago, and that was great because he’s fantastic. He’s one of the smartest people I’ve ever met. Things started working out about that time and we’ve just been into it and dedicated. When we first started we were rehearsing five days a week every Monday to Friday for about six months. And now we’re doing that again. That’s just what we do everyday now. It feels really nice to work on something that you care a lot about. It’s better than working full time in a job that you hate.”

There’s few who could argue with that sentiment, and with a CD about to hit and a tour with another fast-rising Aussie band, things are already starting to pay off.

“We’re gonna go on this tour with Dead Letter Circus, which is going to be crazy. The shows are selling out and stuff, so we might play more shows than we thought. And then we’re just waiting for what’s happening with Barny [Simon Barnicott – Arctic Monkeys, Kasabian] who’s our producer in the UK and then we’re going to fly out there, have a bunch of fun, record an album and go on tour.”

But where did that absurdly simple, if idiosyncratic, name come from? A band as interesting as this one must have some deep, mystical reasoning for coming up with ME.

“We had a list of a thousand names, because we’re all a bunch of pedants,”says Godde, “and we couldn’t decide on one. As soon as one of us liked one, no one else would like it. This one just made us all laugh. Someone said it as a joke and we all thought it was hilarious because it’s really confusing. Sorry to spoil the idea that there might actually be something meaningful behind it, but laughter’s pretty meaningful! It’s made us laugh a bunch of times just through the confusion it causes.”

To prove his point, he erupts into laughter, before turning serious again for just a moment.

“I’m sure we’ll come up with some bullshit answer for someone else at some point,” he says. “It symbolises our narcissism, or something like that. But that one I gave you is the truth!”