Melissa Bryan
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Melissa Bryan

Austin, Texas, United States | SELF

Austin, Texas, United States | SELF
Band Pop Rock


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"Melissa Bryan - Return of the Woman"

Melissa Bryan’s ‘Return of the Woman’ is available for free via Bandcamp below.

If you happen to follow me on twitter you may have noticed I tweeted about Melissa Bryan, calling her my alter-ego. My reason for the comment is because this album is probably what I would create if I were as rocking and kick-ass as she is. (Note: I too would “eat Republicans for breakfast” – especially if they were hot.) After hearing it, I ran home to my wife and made her listen to it. As soon as the first song played she immediately nodded her head and a look of dread blanketed her face. I could hear her inner thoughts and they said, “Shit. I’m going to be hearing her sing this non-stop, never getting the tune or lyrics right.”

Whatever, I am totally getting Melissa’s lyrics dead on. “This JOB is contagious!” Wifey: “For the love of God, I am positive she’s not singing that!” Whatever. As Melissa would say, “I’m blessed with all this badness!”

“Oh yeah, All right, ho hum, tonight” partnered with a drink and a smile is all you need to know about how to survive the mundane 9-5 according to Melissa. Til Night is Melissa’s kick-off track on ‘Return of the Woman’ and the fun doesn’t stop there. The album is rocking, fun, political, and borderline communicable. Let me start off and admit that this album is not for everyone, which is good. I kind of don’t want to share it with the masses. I would rather enjoy it for myself, share it with those I know, and enjoy the fun times while listening to it.

This is scream-along chic music at its most fun. There isn’t a deadbeat song on the album. Instead it’s cleverly written, wittily played, and spontaneously infused with a bit of feminism. I would do a song by song analysis but my wife is annoyed with me singing each song as loud as I can and I might be faced with divorce papers if I don’t stop soon. For those who don’t know, when you’re reviewing songs/albums you tend to play them over and over and a few more times after that. So, me singing, “Fishy Face Ladies! And their bulging eyes!” isn’t as sexy as I think it is. I don’t know why. I totally rock Melissa Bryan.

So about Melissa’s unmistakable voice: I wonder how many people will think of the 70's singer Melanie Safka? Seriously, I love Melanie’s ‘Animal Crackers’ song among her other known hits. Mmm. . . animal cracker pizza.

Melissa’s voice is so unique that it dumbfounds me she sounds like someone else. What the fuck are the odds that there are two people out there with such unique voices? I would try and claim they were distantly related (both chics, both political, both making fun music, both blonde, and both have that distinctive voice) but I don’t think it’s true. Even so, I happen to love Melanie and have for years. If I knew Melanie on a personal level I would call her up and say, “Hey, Melanie, this chic Melissa Bryan kicks ass”. And in my pretend world Melanie would look up Melissa and say, “Hot shit, Melissa does kick ass”.

Sorry, “got carried off by internal debate” (Melissa’s lyrics are all in quotes in case you haven’t caught on). See, despite what wifey claims, I am totally singing these lyrics right. “I am defiant, we will not listen to them!”

Check Melissa’s album out. As I said, it’s fun and rocking. If you want my opinion on any one song, I assure you I have colorful commentary that’s quite loquacious and I’m more than happy to sing to it off-key and pitchy, so feel free to ask me. Otherwise, be “finally fucking set free” and check it out below.

Connect: Web | Facebook | Bandcamp | Twitter | Tumblr | MySpace - Volume City

"Reviews for the Easily Distracted"

By Brian Smith
Melissa Bryan

Return of the Woman

Rock Haus Records

3½ Stars

Riffing: This girl's hittin' it for sainthood, working a real-world gig advocating for victims of domestic violence. She was weaned on Leif Garrett, girlish fright wigs and teen-boy power riffs.

Reference points: Best line ever: "Street walkin' cheater"!

If you like: Overcoming overwhelming physical odds for song, the Muffs, Girls Rock Camp, Best Coast, the Zeros, girl-groups, Lou Reed's "Rock 'n' Roll," Dead Boys and bronoodlin'! ... - Metro-times (Detroit)

"Survival of the Grittiest"

Some people are just plain awesome and Austin punkstress Melissa Bryan is one of 'em! This scrappy lady used to rock in her old band the Shindigs, kicked her arthritis in the teeth, and now even empowers girls to play rock n roll at a girls music camp. She's just released her first solo record and we love it! Bursting with hooks, attitude, and lots of guitars, Return of the Woman, makes ya shake your fists and your hips! Pow! - Dead Cool newsletter

"Melissa Bryan Record Release Party [Show Preview]"

Austin garage rockers The Shindigs lasted five years at the tail end of the nineties, but when the band split member Melissa Bryan clearly wasn't done saying what needed to be said. As an instructor at the Girls Rock Camp in town, she inspires and teaches a new generation of future noisemakers, and under her own name she has released a new album appropriately titled Return Of The Woman. Check out the video for the title track here.
To usher in this giddy and instrumentally rich collection of new songs (which officially came out this Tuesday), Bryan is hosting a record release show/dance party/art show at Obsolete Industries. Performing with Bryan at this show are John Wesley Coleman III and The Sisters Grimmm, DJs include Lori Barbero, Gerard Cosloy, Scott Gardner, and DJ Sue, and art and photos from Billy Bishop, Allyson Lipkin, Laura Matthews, Marisa Pool, Bryan herself and many more will be on display. -

"Texas Platters"

Melissa Bryan
Return of the Woman
For Melissa Bryan, the struggle to perform and record is compounded by severe arthritis, yet neither condition daunts the muscular power-pop on Return of the Woman. The veteran local throws open the gates with the rowdy, schoolyard opening of "'Til Night" and rockers including "Last Saturday Night," but she's neither naive nor jaded. "Holding on to those punk rock ideals doesn't do much in the real world, but I wouldn't have it any other way," she reminds listeners on "The Future Don't Mean a Thing." Bryan doesn't veer a lot from her rebel-with-a-cause stance, and her vocals don't display much color beyond her chant-singing, the lyrics heavy on the "dodge bullets and watch roses bloom" end. Still, she's completely effective in her sonic blasts and canny choice of Darwin Smith's baritone guitar and Kullen Fuchs' Ian Stewart-style piano gives an unexpectedly Stones-y vibe to "Future." Joan Jett probably isn't looking for opening acts, but if she is, my suggestion's Melissa Bryan. - Austin Chronicle

"Melissa Bryan's Return of the Woman Released Today"

Melissa Bryan hits the music scene full force today with her debut solo album Return of the Woman, a spirited collection that celebrates the human ability to thrive despite, and sometimes because of, adversity.

Bryan's songs are full of frustration, hope, and an outrageous joyfulness. Her lyrics, at times funny, endearing, and passionate, at times angry, remind the listener why she fell in love with rock n' roll in the first place. Lyrics to songs such as the intentionally over-the-top "Rock n Roll Saved My Life Last Night" make us remember what it's like to open ourselves up to great, and profoundly life-changing, music.

Rock and Roll saved my life last night/it's been so long since I was inspired/now I woke up baptized with desire/Rock and roll saved my life last night

The songs speak of the disappointment of coming of age in a patriarchal society and a deep spiritual yearning that can be explored, and perhaps quenched, through music.

I'm so sad about Jesus/there was a time when he held my hand/I'm still looking for salvation/and a way to the promise land

Strummer's singing on the radio/but it's a Marley song/says he's looking for what I am/and it sounds like it won't be long

In the video to the album's title track, a tough, beautiful Bryan sings defiantly and without self-pity of her struggles with the arthritis that settled into her joints when she was only fifteen years old.

My eyes were heavy and my hair full of grease/I was locked up from a disease/then I realized I held the key/and I stand here finally fucking set free

Bryan then turns into the 50 Foot Woman (from the 1958 American sci-fi film Attack of the 50 Foot Woman) and tromps through Austin, terrorizing local hipsters and visitors to the state's capitol building, shuddering as millions of bats swarm her, and finally cutting the head off of the beloved Stevie Ray Vaughan statue. Bryan makes it clear that -- like many of her fans -- she's had enough of paying homage to the "annoying old school Austin music scene."

Return of the Woman's album cover shows an open-mouthed Bryan standing, cigarette in hand, next to a pink scooter on a grim street in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. It's just this sense of unexpected beauty in the midst of struggle that permeates Return of the Woman; Bryan clearly relates to the Bosnian people and their ability to live life fully despite terrible suffering and difficulties. Her song "New (Brave) World" celebrates the people of Sarajevo's ability to find joy even while living in the midst of a war zone.

"I am the muscle!" they scream with cannons and grenades/in the churches and cathedrals you still pray/men sing the call from the rubble of the minaret/refuse to let your former life become just a silhouette/time stands still when you're living in the moment

Bryan's personal life shows a commitment to the themes of feminism and empowerment for women and grrrls that she so deftly addresses in her music. A longtime activist in the movement to end violence against women, Bryan also band coaches and serves on the Board of Directors at Girls Rock Camp Austin, a day camp dedicated to supporting "girls and women of all backgrounds and abilities through musical education and performance."

Anyone who came of age listening to great female artists from Blondie to Liz Phair to Best Coast -- or anyone who wishes they had -- will want to celebrate the release of Return of the Woman. Melissa Bryan lets us know without question that she's both wild and mature enough for the spotlight of her solo debut. At times raucous, at times melodic and beautiful, her album exuberantly reminds us that life -- however painful -- must be enjoyed to the absolute fullest. - Huffington Post


Former Shindigs spitfire Melissa Bryan just recorded a three-song demo with Grand Champeen's Michael Crow, who also did the upcoming Secret Weapons CD, and left this week to busk in Europe..." - Austin Chronicle

"Community Recommendeds"

MODS WITHOUT RODS Mz. Jxson if you nasty. Ladies doin' it up royal. Thank the Lord for that. The Howzits whats: Jet Sparks, Miss Jackson (from Darling New Neighbors), Melissa Bryan, D.D. Dagger (or Allyson Lipkin from the Easies). Lovejoys, 604 Neches, 477-1268. - austin Chronicle

"Music Recommended"

07/10/08 @ Lovejoys
Jet Sparks, Miss Jackson, Melissa Bryan, D.D. Dagger
Rockers first, ladies second. - Austin Chronicle


Music Column May 21, 2004
Description: The Hole (birthday) enchilada, record store bargains, and Scott Weiland's screed
"...June 16: Wannabes, Britt Daniel, Melissa Bryan..."
- Austin Chronicle

"Punk Pawns (feature story)"

Former band, The Shindigs

Even the greenest music journalist would expect the phrase "love sausage" to surface in an interview with Kid Rock or the Scabs, but never clean-cut Austin rockers the Shindigs. They're just so nice. The PG-13 punk that pervades their self-titled debut, released this March, is hardly innocuous, but save a line in "Gaz" that uses the word "creamy" in a decidedly non-dairy sense, there's nothing for Jerry Falwell to get his knickers in a knot about. Even so, in a brief discussion about the band's eating habits, specifically who's vegetarian and who's not, up pops "love sausage." The Shindigs are nothing if not full of surprises.

"Sex sells, you know," says the band's leader and vocalist, Melissa Bryan. "We haven't used that yet. Maybe we should start. If we wore no clothing, people would come see us."

Though bassist Jennifer Nalley relates an intriguing anecdote about a band in Las Vegas who performed wearing playing cards in strategic locations (bet the house on it), the Shindigs probably won't pull such a Chili Pepper act anytime soon. They have far too much class for that, though Bryan admits such behavior would definitely draw attention. "In Austin you have to have a gimmick," she asserts.

So far, the closest thing the Shindigs have found to a gimmick, besides beguiling songs and crackling stage energy, isn't something a band likes to be known for. Since Bryan formed the band in 1996, the Shindigs have seen their lineup change "more than the Beatles, fewer than Guns 'N' Roses," according to guitarist Geoff Lasch. Discussing the band's current lineup of Nalley, Lasch, and drummer Nathan Fontenot -- the only other original Shindig -- Bryan claims the group's current roster is as stable as it's ever been. Nalley, a Shindig since April, offers her newcomer's perspective.

"I like Melissa," she says. "I like Geoff. I like Nathan too. I don't know Nathan very well, I don't know Geoff so well, but I like him. And every gripe is always with a humorous undertone."

It's this same undertone that's present throughout much of an interview with Bryan, Lasch, and Nalley on the roof of Waterloo Brewing Company downtown. Fontenot, who had a date, is absent ("but we're glad he's getting some," says Bryan). When talk turns to Bryan's reasons for starting a rock & roll band, and why so many Shindigs songs seem to gravitate toward the subject of boys, the danger of that famous Waterloo house brew flying out some nostrils becomes real.

Melissa: I don't know. I feel so on the spot. [Not to be confused with legendary punk producer Spot, who mixed their CD.]

Jennifer: Remember? To get guys.

Geoff: To get guys. What is it -- the cute young Emo's something?

Melissa: It's been three years and it hasn't worked yet!

Jennifer: It's not the Emo boys. They wear the wrong colors.

Geoff: What is this, a gang or something?

Jennifer: Emo boys tend to be fixated on these Seventies colors and clothes, like pea green and orange.

Chronicle: What type of boys do the Shindigs prefer?

Jennifer (who's taken, guys): I don't know if I should disclose this kind of information.

Melissa: I'm not going to say anything because you're going to patronize me and say the Shindigs just want tall, skinny rock & roll boys.Geoff: I know what kind of boys I like.

Jennifer: I prefer farmers. A little overweight, balding, gold teeth.

Melissa: She likes mailmen [or male men; the exact meaning is unclear] and she likes those guys that walk around on Sixth Street.

Geoff: Bums? Frat boys?

Melissa: Don't say anything, because she doesn't like to admit it. She likes the ones that wear baseball caps, are really buff, white T-shirt, khaki shorts, sandals ...

This is approximately the point in the conversation where the phrase "love sausage," rears its head. Soon after, Bryan reveals the real, suspiciously supernatural, reason she got into rock & roll. The Orlando native confesses to a junior high Molly Hatchet jones and later acquiring the nickname "headbanger" during college at Auburn University. Her DIY conversion came on the road to Seattle, not Damascus, but the effect was similar.

"Before I moved to Austin," recounts Bryan, "I was driving down the road, and all of a sudden I was turning around. I didn't really know why, except I had seen this cool-looking second-hand store. I went in there and it had all this junk, all these old wood-burning stoves, just junk everywhere. I walked back into the back and there was this room full of vintage guitars. The first guitar I picked up, I was like, 'Wow! I can play this guitar!' and I ended up buying it."

The epiphany happened as Bryan, looking for a place to settle, was traveling from San Francisco to Seattle. After a brief stint in the Emerald City, she decided Austin -- which she had visited previously -- was more to her liking.

"I went to Triple A," she says. "And they were like, 'No, you can't go back to Austin. You can't go back to Texas until the spring' -- this is like November -- 'because the passes are snowed in and if you don't have snow tires you won't make it.' So I freaked out and left the next day. I went to a youth hostel and picked up these strange people and drove them to Texas with me."

Once here, she solicited band advice from a local pop-punk elder, who told her she needed to find some musicians to be her "little pawns." Bryan, who assumes most band responsibilities and admits to a "control thing," found Lasch a year later after he saw the band, then featuring ace utility man and adult-magazine connoisseur Jacob Schulze on guitar, at a Spider House benefit for Austin's Rape Crisis Center. There, he had his own revelation.

"I realized when I saw Jacob play, I had to take his gig," says Lasch. So the man whose résumé includes a stint with ex-Jimi Hendrix drummer Buddy Miles became a Shindig.

Even without the near-constant personnel turnover (other ex-Shindigs include Ryan Willis of the Mittens, Juan Solo's own Chepo Peña, and some dude named Miles Zuniga -- briefly), things have hardly been all sunshine, rainbows, and cute boys for the band. Bryan suffers from chronic rheumatoid arthritis, which makes even fingering guitar chords painful. And for folks who think boys and girls playing in the same band inevitably means married couple-style squabbling, Bryan doesn't deny differences of opinion -- as in "the girls like good music, the boys like Van Halen.

"We have really sweet boys in our band," asserts Bryan. "We're lucky, because there's a lot of assholes out there, especially in the rock & roll world."
Besides, she says, "We are empowered women who don't need men."

"Need, no, but have no problem indulging," Nalley clarifies.

The talk turns more serious as the band discusses various past obstacles, but as always, they retain the same ringing sense of optimism that's evident at their shows. They tap the same rock & roll vein of swaggering vitality as Iggy Pop, the Replacements, or Little Richard, in that the music beckons strongest to those who are willing to lay it all on the line no matter what their individual circumstances. And if more people don't recognize this in the Shindigs, well, it's not the band's fault.

"I don't see what I've been through as hard," says Bryan. "I did for a really long time, but it's just been in the past year or two that I've been able to realize that I've been given a disease and it's for a reason. It's a blessing because it's gotten me to where I am right now. I had to go through all this depression and all this shit, hating myself, blah blah blah, but now I'm all right."

"When I was a kid I went through the whole thing with my hair and that's exactly how I felt," Lasch says. "I hated it all, everybody making fun of me constantly. It wasn't cool to be a little punk kid."

"I read in that England's Dreaming book that John Lydon had [meningitis] as a kid," Bryan continues. "The quote was that he, like many people who went on to be famous, had a childhood disease. It set them apart from other people, and he, at a very early age, gets a sensation of being different from other people."

"I had that too, but not with a disease," Nalley says. "It was just automatic for no reason."

"Well, that's because you are a weirdo," says Bryan, always the last word. - Austin Chronicle

"SXSW picks and sleepers"

"...SHINDIGS: Sometimes life sucks, like when the Shindigs call it a day instead of opening for Blink-182 at the Erwin Center like they deserve. This SXSW date is the next-to-last show from chainsaw kitten Melissa Bryan's local punk-pop ensemble, leaving behind last year's fast-paced, supremely hummable self-titled Rock Haus CD..."
- Austin Chronicle

"Dancing About Architecture"

A Hamer imported Rick Nielsen Signature Model guitar will be raffled off at the Cheap Trick hoot night Saturday at the Hole in the Wall, which features performances from Real Heroes, Melissa Bryan, Cool Hand Band, Media Kreeps, Darin Murphy, Superego, Leprequalm, and the solo debut of Carrie Clark..."

(Melissa Bryan also organized this event, a benefit for the SIMS foundation) - Austin Chronicle

"SXSW picks and sleepers"

"...THE SHINDIGS: One-two-three-four! From the cover of Sick Teen magazine to your very own garage, Austin's Shindigs do it faster, louder, and harder than pert near everyone else. Brandishing a brand-new CD, their first, Melissa Bryan and posse shred things up big time while meditating on such topics as visiting UK pop stars ("Gaz"), true love ("Walk With Me," "Breathe"), not-so-true love ("Too Good to Last"), and mixology ("Whiskey on My Mind")..."
- Austin Chronicle

"SXSW picks and sleepers"

.THE SHINDIGS: It's hard not to be happy when you're being knocked about by the Shindigs' communal pop-punk. The quartet's John Croslin-produced single is a nice introduction, but the high-ended earnestness of Melissa Bryan's vocals are best appreciated live..."
- Austin Chronicle


Return of the Woman released on Rock Haus Records, September 27, 2011 on LP/CD/digital download

The Shindigs - S/T 1999, Rock Haus Records
The Shindigs 7" EP, 1997, Rock Haus Records



Melissa Bryan is a survivor.

At age 7, she had a dream: she wanted to be Little Orphan Annie. So she saved her pennies and bought a bright red wig. She perfected the blank stare. She sang fervently at the top of her lungs. But a chronic case of head lice forced her mother to throw away the wig and along with it went her dream.

By age 10, Melissa had new dreams: rock ‘n’ roll, and Leif Garrett. She convinced her parents to take her to the mall where she took guitar lessons from a kind white-haired gentleman named Mr. Aldowino, who subsequently crushed her rock ‘n’ roll dreams with Mel Bay books and “Greensleaves.” Not even a teenager, she stormed the mall’s exit and found solace in the small 45 section of the local stereo equipment store.

(Fortunately, the Garrett thing didn’t work out).

By high school, Melissa was back in the mall - this time, in the space directly across from her beloved records - for dreaded visits to a Rheumatologist’s office. Sweet sixteen was suddenly hot, swollen sixteen. In the mornings Melissa would pry her fingers open from the clenched fists that formed into concrete over night.

The guitar went in the closet.

By the time college was over, Melissa was accustomed to swollen knees, throbbing feet, and ridiculous assertions about her condition. So, ever the adventurer, she filled a backpack with pills and spent 4 solitary months wandering the streets of Europe, living on bread, water, and Hit Biscuits. Even before the life-changing discovery of pain-relieving opiates, she was able to thrive off the kindness of strangers, sleeping in grimy hostels, parks, and train stations.

Somewhere on the concrete floor of Berlin’s Checkpoint Charlie museum, Bryan found herself. So overwhelmed by the East Berliner’s determination to escape the confines of that Wall, she made a decision. To become untrapped by physical limitations. To do what she wanted to do. To find freedom at any expense.

She took her clenched fists and moved North – an activist year in Boston, where an unusually mild winter convinced her of her True Southern Girlness. After more roaming, she landed in Austin, Texas in the early 90’s where she picked up the guitar again and formed kinetic power-poppers The Shindigs. Once described by a fellow tunesmith as “songwriter-punk,” The Shindigs flayed furiously, all power chords (by this time, the arthritis rendered her fingers not so bendable) and screaming (came naturally), and the band, a vital part of Austin’s underground scene, spent the mid to latter half of the decade gracing the stages of famed punk clubs like the Blue Flamingo and the Bates Motel. She got a real job as an advocate for victims and survivors of domestic violence. But soon the Rheumatoid Arthritis sharpened its vicious shiv and poked her in places she needed to be well. When her legs couldn’t bear to stand for a 30 minute set, she disbanded The Shindigs and stopped performing, but kept writing and stuck to her goal of releasing a solo album.

Where the aughts lacked in live performances, was made up for in physical therapy. Hard work and perseverance paid off, despite new injuries. And still, the songs remained essential, contentment was elusive and her guts? Splayed all over the concrete floor.

Now, after visits to a suspect South Florida doctor who has treated both Michael Jackson (RIP) and Mike Tyson, Melissa is making a vengeful comeback. She’s spent the last four summers coaching bands at Girls Rock Camp Austin, where she also serves on the Board of Directors. And after a somewhat thwarted attempt to busk on the streets of Sarajevo, she’s playing out – usually sticking to a primitive two-piece lineup with tenured Austin punk drummer Terri Lord.

Most importantly, more than three years after beginning work on her debut solo album (and probably her strongest testament to survival) we have Return of the Woman -- an artful expression in an era where artful expressions are rare. Backed by some of Austin’s indie superstars – drummer Cully Symington (Okervil River), bassist Joshua Zarbo (ex-Spoon, Monahans), guitarist Dan Hoekstra (ex-Songs of Hercules), producer Darwin Smith, and including guest appearances as diverse as Goner Records’ John Wesley Coleman III, songwriter Trish Murphy and local punk icon Dotty Ferrell, these thirteen songs make you want to grab the moment, clench your fists, and sing fervently enough to flush the demons out through your eye sockets.

“Return of the Woman” is triumphant, defiant, alluring and somehow hopefully nihilistic. It’s fully realized, but still fun. With a punk rock attitude and passion and a brazen respect for the song, Melissa is ready to take on the world. The question is, is the world ready for her?