Maybe it’s the espresso, or maybe it’s the natural just-finished-an-album high, but on a Tuesday night at Cartel Coffee Lab in Tempe, Mickey and Jesse Pangburn are euphoric.
The Pangburns, also known as the Phoenix-based indie pop duo MRCH, are counting down the days until the release of their first full-length record, Reactions. The couple are breathless, laughing, and finishing each other’s sentences when one runs out of air talking about the new songs.
“There’s a big theme,” says drummer Jesse about the album. “But it sounds really cheesy.”
“It does sound really cheesy, but we’re committed,” says frontwoman Mickey. She read the phrase “spook the dance floor” in an article about electronic musicians Glass Candy, and it became a mantra of sorts during the creation of Reactions. Both Mickey and Jesse felt it was the perfect way to describe the band's blend of pop melodies and dark textures.
In contrast to the pair's cheery conversational style, the Pangburns’ music has a flair for the moody. Reactions is a direct response to painful and draining situations the lyricist Mickey has faced, and she’s relieved to be able to put words to those experiences at last.
“The lyrics on this record are some of the most literal that I’ve ever written,” she says. “I think the last couple years have been so emotionally taxing that I was at capacity. I have no room to be [abstract] – like this is my outlet, and that’s it.”
The first single, a catchy number called “My Mistake,” is layered with spacey synths and chopped vocal loops behind cathartic lines about living and learning. “The dam is cracked, the water’s rising,” sings Mickey during the first verse, signaling the flood she’s about to unleash with the tracks still to come.
Originally, Reactions was supposed to be another five-song EP, like the band’s 2016 release I Love You, But You Don’t Know What You’re Talking About. But once the songs started pouring out, it became clear MRCH had tapped into more than they expected. They ended up with 10 tracks.
“We told ourselves we were only going to keep half and go with that,” says Jesse. “And then we got way too attached to everything and liked it too much to cut it down. So we were like, ‘Okay, I guess this is a full-length now.’”
MRCH has accomplished a lot since they started out in 2015. They’ve toured the West Coast five times, opened for Chvrches at Mondo NYC music festival, been featured in television series such as Shameless and The Vampire Diaries, and recorded the bulk of this album on their own, including producing and mixing everything.
One of the only major pieces of this record Mickey and Jesse didn’t do themselves was the cover photo. A friend snapped the picture at the Orpheum Theatre downtown, with the rows of red seats as an homage to Beach House’s velveteen vinyl sleeve for Depression Cherry.
(Another album art easter egg: The wavy lines on MRCH’s first EP are a reference to Camelback Mountain. “We are so Phoenix,” says Jesse.)
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After celebrating Reactions’ release with a show at Valley Bar on October 14, the band has no plans to slow down. They’ve had to turn down several live shows to focus on finishing the record, and they’re eager to get back on the stage and back on the road. Mickey and Jesse would love to play in Europe, where MRCH's songs have become surprisingly popular.
“I think we’re both maybe going to take a day after the album release,” says Jesse. “Okay, I’ll take a day, Mickey will take a minute.”
“I’m always on to the next thing,” says Mickey with a smile between sips of coffee.