Happiness can be the enemy of creativity. Melissa Jones accepts that—discontent has long been the spur of her songwriting. But she’s not going to suffer anymore.
“There’s this idea that artists have to be tortured or something, and it’s kind of silly,” Jones says. “I’m working on not being miserable all the time. I’m so done with self-loathing. It’s so boring to me.”
Jones doesn’t always sound so much like a TED Talk, but today she’s tapped into a force greater than herself. Something in the Wetter USA singer/guitarist has changed since she decided to flee the Twin Cities, taking her catalog of fearless post-teen awkwardness with her to Denver. She’s shrewd and enlightened. She speaks in prophetic absolutes. Sitting in Moon Palace Books’ sun-dappled cafe, she takes a ripping bite of her pizza and chews over the satisfaction of suddenly feeling so wise.
“If it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out,” she says with a smirk. “Every day’s a winding road.”
Irony aside, Jones did indeed take the scenic route to arrive at wisdom, following a path of foibles and random incidents. Every insight seems to surprise her as it leaves her lips.
Jones formed Wetter (now Wetter USA after protest from a Japanese band of the same name) in college when she met now-bassist Rose von Muchow while playing guitar in her dorm room in Sanford Hall at the University of Minnesota. Local polymath Jordan Bleau (Frankie Teardrop, Cheap Fantasy) later joined on to play drums, and Joe Lunaburg was added on rhythm guitar. The band released a demo in 2016, People You May Know, but their biggest statement comes on their swan song, Late Bloomer, due July 27 on Forged Artifacts.
Arising from the nexus of romanticism and responsibility, Late Bloomer is a no-GPS navigation of the moment post-collegiate malaise stubbornly collides with adulthood. On the record, Jones emerges from her undergrad program with a degree in English and Comparative Literature and a notebook full of scribbled songs, unsure of what to do with either.
“Your whole life, your parents tell you, ‘You can do anything you want to do,’” von Muchow says sympathetically, “and then you graduate and are like, ‘I want to be an artist!’ and they’re like, ‘No, not that!’”
Jones breathes life into this emotional struggle on “Do You Still Dance,” a harsh internal dialogue in which she tortures herself about whether to compromise and get a full-time office job. “Human, don’t you see,” she sings to herself, “you’re not part of a prophecy.”
“When you’re a kid, the world tells you, ‘If you want to be special, you should take a risk,’” Jones says. “But once it actually comes time to do it, people tell you you’re wasting your time. It gets ingrained in your mind.”
In the low-fi diary that is Late Bloomer, Jones is not overwhelmed by this pressure. A sense of self-determination counterbalances her confusion. For Wetter, triumph is in persistence. In fact, the album’s most upbeat song is “The Great Disappointment,” in which Jones pushes for broader horizons after constantly falling short.
Despite realizing that romanticism is useless in the face of reality on “Do You Still Dance,” she decides it’s still a weapon worth brandishing on the album’s glorious postmodern resurrection, “Truth Song.” Originally released as a single in 2016, “Truth Song” has resonated as a fight song for the insecure and embattled. “My love, my love like the moon,” Jones sings on the song, imbued with the perspective of an isolated night at the Boundary Waters, “reflecting to become.”
“It was one of those songs that just comes out of you, that you write really fast,” Jones says. “It’s a song about being a whole person unto yourself. Being self-assured and figuring out your own shit before worrying about the little things. Putting the bigger questions first.”
Wetter USA have their last moment of truth on July 28 at the 7th St. Entry. The show will act as Late Bloomer’s release party, and before August comes, Jones will pack up with her boyfriend and bid farewell to the city that bestowed such inspirational angst upon her.
Jones hopes for an artistic reawakening in Denver. After struggling as a barista and frontwoman in Minneapolis, she’s felt her songwriting dry up: Late Bloomer represents the sum total of her songwriting from age 19 to today.
“It’s easy to get comfortable and stop challenging yourself, “Jones says. “Moving is a kind of cheap way to make yourself uncomfortable. It’s cheesy, but that’s how everyone grows.”
Wetter USA and Jones’ other band, Tony Peachka, are necessary casualties of her artistic maturation. Though she’s reluctant to see Wetter USA die, von Muchow agrees—she’ll seize the opportunity to develop her own visual art. Bleau will focus his energy on Cheap Fantasy. Lunaburg hopes to move on to a more directorial role in his next band. Despite the immediate heartache, everyone will emerge strengthened from Jones’s departure.
And Jones’ hope is that it’s enough to make her unhappy years immortal.
“People try to squeeze so much creative juice out of [projects] that, sometimes, there’s none left,” she says. “Just because something lasts for 30 years doesn’t mean it’s a good thing. It can be really short and really wonderful.”
Where: 7th St. Entry
When: 7:30 p.m. Sat. July 28
With: Felted, Lazear. and Inside Voice
Tickets: 18+; $5; more info here