Melissa VanFleet is a fiercely independent Metal vixen with the voice of a songbird. Hailing from the former steel town of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, VanFleet blends her eclectic influences – both musical and artistic – to create a sound that is a fine art lullaby formulated with the spark of the fiercest Metalhead! To date, she has released an online album, Metal Lullabies, along with a teaser for her latest project, entitled “Raven.”
Taking a moment from her creative time, VanFleet sat down to discuss her suburban Pennsylvania beginnings, all things Metal, international touring, her newest teaser for the upcoming single “Raven,” and, of course, films.
CrypticRock.com – You hail from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, which, in the grand scheme of things, is a rather small industrial town. How does a girl from suburban Pennsy end up wanting to be a Metal vixen?
Melissa VanFleet – As a child I was surrounded by all different types of music but the most prevalent genre was Heavy Metal. My dad has always been a metalhead and some of my earliest memories involve him rocking me to sleep to Ozzy’s “Shot In The Dark,” or teaching me names of musicians in his favorite bands. There is a video from when I was two-years-old standing in front of the TV watching Alice Cooper and Lita Ford, and I can actually remember thinking then that I wanted to be on a stage like that. My mom was a fan of R&B, Soul and chill Electronic music and I loved Classical, as well being a ballerina, so I credit those influences for the softer, more delicate side of the music I produce.
CrypticRock.com – There is nothing wrong with starting out with the likes of Ozzy Osbourne, Alice Cooper and Lita Ford, those are some seriously rocking beginnings! To discuss your background a little further, you are a singer-songwriter and talented pianist. Are you classically trained or self-taught?
Melissa VanFleet – I am self-taught and play everything by ear. I learned to sing with the help of a karaoke machine from my grandparents. While other seven-year-olds in the neighborhood were outside playing, I was sitting behind a couch in my living room recording myself and then taking notes on what I liked and didn’t like about my performance. I took it very seriously!
CrypticRock.com – Clearly that youthful passion still shows through in your adult work! To rewind back to the Metal talk, you are clearly well-versed in classic Hard Rock/Metal and have performed some hauntingly delicate covers of the likes of W.A.S.P. and Queensrÿche. Who are some of your favorite bands as well as influences?
Melissa VanFleet – I was always drawn to bands with powerful and unique vocalists. I was dramatically influenced by Ronnie James Dio because he was my dad’s favorite and I connected to his music and performance style. I loved listening to strong and empowering females, including Alanis Morissette, Fiona Apple, Tori Amos and Tracy Chapman. I am obsessed with darker Classical music especially Swan Lake by Tchaikovsky. I’ll turn on artists like BANKS or Purity Ring when I need to relax.
CrypticRock.com – So you are very well-rounded and diverse in your musical tastes! That translates beautifully on your Metal Lullabies album, which is beautifully done and features delicate, piano-anchored covers of the likes of Black Sabbath, Twisted Sister, W.A.S.P., Queensrÿche, System of a Down, Lacuna Coil, and more. How did you select which songs to cover and what has the reaction been like from the bands whose material you tackled so beautifully?
Melissa VanFleet – Thanks! I chose a selection of my favorite Metal songs that I felt would still emotionally and technically translate with only piano and string accompaniment. Receiving approval from bands like W.A.S.P., Queensrÿche and Lacuna Coil about my versions of their songs was an unbelievably gratifying feeling.
CrypticRock.com – It most be very gratifying, as an artist, to receive the approval of those that have inspired you along the way! Speaking of inspirations, most recently, you worked with Lacuna Coil’s Bassist Marco Coti-Zelati on the single “Raven.” How did that come about and will the single be a part of a larger, upcoming collection?
Melissa VanFleet – Lacuna Coil’s latest release, 2016’s Delirium, was produced by Marco, and when I listened to it I couldn’t believe how the production was exactly what I heard in my mind with the new collection of songs I was writing. I actually am not sure of the details as to how it came about, but a few months later I was on an airplane to Milan to work with Marco and the entire team behind Delirium. We worked on several songs during my time in Italy and I can’t wait to share them.
CrypticRock.com – It will be exciting to hear them! In fact, let’s talk “Raven,” the trailer video for which is stunningly artistic, though sadly very short. Was that shot here in Pennsylvania?
Melissa VanFleet – I appreciate that! It was shot at several different yet equally haunting locations. I had the opportunity to collaborate with Ghostwood, who is an exceptionally-talented visionary and filmmaker. I enjoy film and visual art, as well as music, and the trailer for “Raven” was only a teaser of what is to come.
CrypticRock.com – Again, it will be exciting to hear and see more! Now let’s talk touring, as you have toured internationally and even performed on the Full Metal Cruise II in 2015. Where are some of your favorite places to perform and how does fan reaction vary from country to country?
Melissa VanFleet – I absolutely loved the FMC II and the crowd energy was insane! That whole European tour was an amazing experience. Another one of my favorite shows ever was at the Trocadero Theatre in Philadelphia. I can’t say I’ve noticed any major differences between the fans in the U.S. and Europe, as every crowd I’ve encountered so far has been warm and welcoming.
CrypticRock.com – That is wonderful to have fans open their arms to your music across the world and right near home in Philly! What do you hope 2018 will be bringing your way, career-wise?
Melissa VanFleet – I am looking to finish and release the film and music projects I am working on presently, and continue to move forward with touring and live show ideas. I’ll also be experimenting with new musical collaborations, as well.
CrypticRock.com – All the best with the projects! Now, let’s delve into our last question. CrypticRock covers music as well as films, particularly Horror and Sci-Fi offerings. Are you a fan of either of these genres and, if so, do you have any favorite Horror and/or Sci-Fi films?
Melissa VanFleet – Absolutely! My top two movies are Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan (2010) and Robert Eggers’ The Witch (2015). I also love Nicolas Winding Refn’s The Neon Demon (2016), the Kickstarter-funded Indie film Starry Eyes (2014) and, of course, classics like Rosemary’s Baby (1968) and Suspiria (1977).