PACKS - The Drake
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    PACKS

    • Sat Jul 6th @ 7:00PM
    • Drake Underground
    • 19+

    Madeline Link, who makes music under the moniker PACKS, has always found inspiration in her surroundings. When it came to the newest effort Melt the Honey (her second full-length in the space of a year), she wanted to look beyond the mundane spaces that had informed much of her previous work. Over the course of 11 days last March, Link and the rest of her band (Dexter Nash [guitar], Noah O’Neil [bass] and Shane Hooper [drums]) gathered in Mexico City, a city that already held a special place in her heart as an artist-in-residence at Casa Lü in 2020). PACKS practiced new songs in a rented studio space, with each member bringing their aesthetic sensibility to the table. From there, they took a bus to Xalapa where they spent the remainder of their time abroad working at a house known as Casa pulpo, an architectural feat removed from the bustle of city life, owned and operated by Wendy Moira, the visionary behind Teatro Lucido, a prominent theater and music venue in Mexico City. “The house has no straight lines, it puts you in a creative mindset,” Link says. “Plus, it was really warm, we were there for three weeks enjoying the weather and self-recording with minimal equipment.” Melt the Honey emulates the environment in which it was made; it’s a warm, unvarnished album, one that invites the listener into PACKS’s familial way of working. Listening to it makes one feel as if they were there in the forests of Veracruz while the band laid down tracks. “Paige Machine” opens with the hiss of rain from an epic thunderstorm as Hooper counts in the song that was inspired by Mark Twain. “He invested in a printing device called the Paige Compositor, spent his life’s savings on it, and it worked almost perfectly, it would have been revolutionary,” Link explains. “But then the inventor, Paige, took it apart to tweak something, make the machine work even better, and it never worked again. They say that this failure led to Mark Twain’s decline.” To Link, the Paige Machine is an apt metaphor for life, wherein our stubborn, progress-hungry attempts to improve what is already working can lead to obsessive tinkering and endless re-dos. Embracing imperfection proved critical while recording at Casa pulpo, where outages caused by storms and inconsistent electrical wiring ended up serving the record’s ethos rather than hindering it. Another stand-out track, “HFCS,” begins with Link singing a note far out of her typical register. “I dunno if that’s gonna work,” she says, laughing, before the bold lead guitar part takes over, launching them into a straight-up power pop song reminiscent of the Hives. It’s a song that’ll get the crowd moving, as Link sings about the tantalizing, if sickening, promise of downing a bottle of Crown high fructose corn syrup, just for the thrill of it. “It’s about that creepy rush of adrenaline,” she says. “Like when you drink a lot of pop or get a text from a crush.” The making of Melt the Honey was a communal experience, with the same group of musicians who have joined her since her Take the Cake debut in 2021 taking part once again. “My bandmates are like my brothers,” Link says. “For me, the whole point of being a band is to have fun making music. I don’t like a studio environment where you’re under a time constraint or financial constraint and no one is enjoying themselves.” Part of the vibrancy of the recording also comes from an underlying emotional shift in Link’s life: falling in love. After doing it alone for so long, Link is finally embracing the sense of ease that comes with knowing you’re cared for. “These songs are happier, or more optimistic than any I’ve written,” Link says. “I was feeling generally less horrible than I have in the past,” she laughs. The album’s title draws from the single “Honey,” written in a Chilean beach town where Link briefly lived ensconced in these feelings, sharing a home with her romantic partner and allowing herself to experience life more easily, through the lens of having someone by her side. While Link is in a happier state of mind, Melt the Honey still finds a way to dig into the grit of her emotions, exploring new sonic territory as she goes. From the scuzzy shoegaze of “Pearly Whites” to the psych-textured interlude of “AmyW,” Melt the Honey is the band at their most fully formed yet; unafraid to experiment while simultaneously doubling down on their signature quirky earworms that reverberate with universal appeal. The record is the product of a band in motion. As they toured across various states, glimpses of dilapidated diners and gas stations outside their window triggered palpable emotions. Songs such as "Her Garden," were inspired by paintings, while tracks like "Pearly Whites" and "Paige Machine" drew inspiration from literary works (specifically, "On The Road" by Kerouac, 1957; "Palm Sunday" by Vonnegut, 1981). “Missy” is told from the point-of-view of a cat who hung around the practice space in Xalapa, meowling at the neighbourhood tomcat in desperation. “She was trying not to look at us, but we could see right through her,” Link says. The yearning in Link’s voice (“Did I get those fleas to bite you?”) is later accompanied by Lupita Rico, who contributes a spoken word verse in Spanish. The compositions are filled with surprises if you’re paying close enough attention: “89 Days,” the languid introductory track to the record, briefly appeared online in 2020 and the version showcased on Melt the Honey feels emblematic of Link’s journey as a songwriter, whose share of navigating heartbreak and loneliness has finally found a more playful irreverence that comes with keeping the faith. “Figured out seriously what I wanted all this time,” she reflects on “Honey,” and it’s here Link finally feels content enough to stop and stay awhile