melaniejane isn't just pat mAcdonald's next-door neighbor up in Sturgeon Bay. (They're sticklers for the unusual punctuation of their names, so let's indulge them.) In her own words, she's his musical "side guy."
Her electric cello brings a dark, sultry and hypnotic feel to the restless blues-rock onetime Timbuk3 singer mAcdonald writes. When I caught up with the duo by phone, they'd taken a break from their drive through an Oklahoma rainstorm.
How did you two meet?
melaniejane: We met through Sigmund Snopek III, the keyboardist from the Violent Femmes, while I was playing one of my Monday night residency gigs at Linneman's Riverwest Inn in Milwaukee.
The first time Pat saw me play electric cello was in 2007 at his birthday party. It was at his parents' bar, the Bayside Tavern in Fish Creek. I sat in with Victoria Vox, the other artist I tour with regularly. It was then that Pat said, "We gotta do something sometime!" I replied, "Bring it!"
You've played with and opened for a lot of well-known Milwaukee rock musicians, including Sam Llanas of the BoDeans. What's your connection?
melaniejane: I was married to [Milwaukee-based producer] Mike Hoffmann for eight years. He introduced me to a lot of musicians.
pat, has melaniejane influenced the way you write songs?
mAcdonald: I write a lot, and I've come to a place where my writing is not so much a reflection but an outgrowth of my life. melaniejane has influenced my life in ways that would be hard to describe. I find myself writing songs that I think she would enjoy playing.
It's pretty uncanny how we've developed. It's alive. We both love the same kind of sound, so it's never a tug-of-war. I always have this confidence that I can take it any direction and she'll be right there with me.
What's it like to be backed by an electric cello?
mAcdonald: The cello has always been my favorite instrument. It's got such a great range - it can be a bass or a lead solo instrument up high. I would want to have melaniejane in my band no matter what, but the fact that she plays cello is an incredible bonus.