Third Outing have been cooking something special over the summer. The band about to take on America, from Philadelphia, PA; Mercury Girls and former Sarah Records legend John Girgus from Aberdeen and The Legendary House Cats have spent the summer talking music.
John Girgus: One listen to your demos and it's very apparent you are heavily influenced by Sarah Records and the bands of C86. You've got the ad for A Day For Destroying Things set as the banner! Please introduce yourselves along with your favourite Sarah record ?
Kevin A: John! We’re big fans and very honored to be part of this. I’m Kevin Attics, I play guitar and sing a little. Sarah and Emily both sing, with Emily also playing bass. Kevin O’Halloran plays guitar as well and Chris Schackerman provides percussion. We all write. It’s very difficult to narrow it down to a favorite Sarah Record. Not only are the songs a wellspring we draw from but the label’s entire aesthetic. DIY and confrontational about it. Not afraid to wear your heart on your sleeve and willing to fight for your right to do so. Making something cohesive and communicative out of everything from heartfelt balladry to post-punk to shoegaze to everything in between.
The recent jam has been Even As We Speak’s Feral Pop Frenzy, which is a masterpiece.
Were you in bands before Mercury Girls?
Kevin O: Yes, good ones!
Chris: Yeah, all of us play and have played in bands prior to this. I think this project really blossomed from everyone in the band being fans of each other's music. Past endeavours have all huddled around an indie pop bubble but have stemmed from different influences which makes writing in this band really fun and fresh.
Is this project a 'concept'? A 'twee pop' band or have you plunged into the deep end with reckless abandon? What was the inspiration?
Kevin A: We’re definitely not classicists or writing a post-script to C86/Sarah Records. Right now there’s a vibrant community overflowing with bands and artists all building upon a similar foundation but with everyone taking the influences in their own free-wheeling direction. The pop conversation is very much alive and there’s more than enough iconoclasm in there to keep it dangerous. For me, a pop record should be kinda dangerous.
Sarah: I'm certainly plunging into something, personally. I think we’re working our way to the deep end and that’s resulted in some new doors having opened for me; who knows where they lead? The band has been great about writing songs that fit my vocal range, allowing me to fully submerge myself in the experience. I get really excited to play shows in a way that is specifically unique to this band.
Have you seen the Sarah documentary My Secret World? It sheds a fair amount of light on sometimes mysterious bands, like Even As We Speak, I never realized they were such a serious band, and still seem to take a very different, more major label approach to music than most of the bands on the label. I see something similar, not to mention a few more modern (and more famous) references like The Pains. It would seem that you guys might be 'going for it' a little bit. Is that the case, as much Pop as Indie?
Kevin A: I caught the Sarah Records doc during my pilgrimage up to NYC Popfest this year. I can say unequivocally that it was one of the most inspiring music documentaries I’ve ever seen and I came away from it feeling like it’d stoked the fire, y’know? I wanted to do more; start a zine, set up more shows. To touch on the more modern references, that just goes right back to what I was saying earlier about being involved in this community of bands we know and love. If I go see Gold-Bears or Eternal Summers play a show, for instance, it’ll rouse my creativity and the stuff I contribute to the band will definitely have flecks of that in there. There are no designs, though, with regards to what level of success the band will achieve. We do what we do and if ever our indie pop sound translated into some modicum of mainstream pop success, we’d invite that. There’s definitely no intellectual intrusion saying “well, this sound might make us more popular”.
Album plans? Live shows?
Emily: We are recording a single that's going to be released on Slumberland Records. We're all super excited and it's awesome to be doing our first official release with such a cool label. We’re also in the process of preparing songs for a full length, but we can’t say too much else about that right now. We've been keeping ourselves pretty busy with live shows and have a ton planned for July through October in various cities. We recently played a handful of shows with friends like Ghost Gum, Wildhoney, Expert Alterations, and Spook School that were as much “meetings of the minds” as they were entertainment. When you find another band that you match well with, there’s a pretty quick connection.
As I'm listening again to your demos again, there is a 'tightness' and some 'rock parts', an energy that to me, is more aligned with the recent acts who embrace things like touring, and more traditional pop and rock activities. I don't mind it at all. It's certainly different than some of the intently obtuse ideas by old label mates, say The Field Mice, but also right there with some C86ers like The Mighty Lemon Drops or The Primitives, who would go on to make records for major labels, have radio hits, and record in famous studios surely paid for solely in narcotics. It seems to be a fine line between rock and anti-rock and one that keeps indie pop from become say, Emo. Where is that line for you?
Kevin A: That’s a tough one. I’d say it’s some variant on “you are what you eat”. Our musical diet doesn't include too much in the way of Emo, though some of us enjoy it occasionally. We really enjoy creating music live, however, and try to find analogs to the “happy accidents” and quirks common to bedroom pop. For instance, I recently obtained a handbuilt “distortion box” from John at Retro Mechanical Labs with, among other things, a Moog-style filter built into it. It’s wild and things like that are really exciting to me because they hearken back to the days of early, untamed electronics for example Joe Meek, who used abstract devices to create pop.
The term indie pop, the artists' curse. Bauhaus didn't consider themselves Goth, Ride not Shoegaze, surely Mogwai are not Post Rock. But we have something different to deal with as the term indie pop applies also to Imagine Dragons, Florence and the Machine, Ed Sheeran...it kills me, and I think part of it, is that the term used to carry this specific reference to all of the bands we love, almost like a miniature Punk Rock. How do you make that connection, fly that flag, without succumbing to artistic trappings?
Kevin A: Indiepop is elastic and alive. I mean, Josef K doesn’t sound like Secret Shine doesn’t sound like Fear of Men. But there’s a constant evolution producing tons of mutations. I guess that’s how we’d identify ourselves. Indie pop mutants.
You sound like you know your gear. Do you record your own material?
Kevin A: I recorded the demos in our practice space over the winter. For our upcoming single, though, we tracked most everything at Marlborough Farms in Brooklyn. Gary Olson worked with me and Chris on the last Literature album and he’s definitely part of the family at this point.
You also sound like you know your music, like it's really what's brought you here, we need more of that. Should probably wrap this up so what can we expect this year from Mercury Girls?
Emily: We just finished recording a single which will be put out on Slumberland, so look out for that. Since the recording for that is finished, writing a full album is in the works. There will be tour. We are currently working on a zine which, in addition to having our own submissions, will have a bunch of pieces from our friends and artists we admire. The submissions we've gotten so far are exciting.
I'd like to offer you some unsolicited band advice: fire someone for a stupid reason. Your going to have to do it anyway, so just do it now while you still have a good story and before it becomes a bigger problem! I've had band mates with fake accents, who vote Republican, and bring teddy bears on tour; people who brazenly enjoy Coldplay and call you 'brother'... it can't end well. I've never actually done this, but look where being patient has gotten me. Might be worth a try?
Kevin A: Well, we are all fake-accented, teddy-bear toting, flat-wound playing, Coldplay enthusiasts, brother. See you at the RNC.
Chris: Drink of choice would be cherry limeade...if not rocking I would probably start my own craft cherry limeade brewery.
Kevin O: I’d like a large Thai iced tea. Then I suppose cold fresh water would be best. As to your second question, probably an occupation that paid better. I figure in this hypothetical situation I never learned to rock and, instead, invested my youthful passion to refining my golf game in order to share that passion with others.
Kevin A: Answer to both is “Savoy Corpse Reviver”.
3rd: Thanks to Mercury Girls and John Girgus for their time. It was a fantastic experience. Follow here for the Mercury Girls feature, written by John Girgus.
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