The atmospheric, bluesy local rockers in Mergence may already be known for keeping it weird with communes, nomads and robots with the release of their first album, Those Vibrant Young People Are Dead--but with their upcoming EP they are taking it to an entirely new level.
It makes sense, since the name Mergence describes the future evolution of their influence on the industry and their sound, which has been compared to the likes to The Black Keys, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. Up On The Sun talked with front man Adam Bruce over a post-band practice phone call, punctuated by the clinking of ice from glasses of whiskey and gin. He discussed how he lived up to his statement in our last interview of writing the second album in the middle of the desert, why the band didn't appear in the "White Bark" music video, and the new experimentation the band dabbled with in the studio.
Mergence is scheduled to perform at Crescent Ballroom on Saturday, June 1.
The soul-driven four-piece band, consisting of vocalist/guitarist/keyboardist Adam Bruce, lead guitarist Yod Paul, bassist Brandon Schupe, and drummer Jason Roedl, have the ability to sway audiences via record and in person--but especially in the flesh. The songs in their catalog lead into one another in a mellow but tense, synchronized fashion, dipping and swooping and smoothly changing directions and temperature.
At the moment, the only taste we have of their second album,Songs For Humans Volume 1, is their single "White Bark." The EP, scheduled to come out this fall, was recorded at Flying Blanket, the same recording studio as the band's first.
How does Mergence's songwriting work--do you write the lyrics and then the whole band works on it together?
I do write the songs in terms of the lyrics, arrangements and incorporations, for the most part, then I bring them in to the band and we'll rearrange some things, create dynamic and climax and add a bridge. Of course it's a collaborative effort. But the philosophy of the song comes from me.
Last time we had an interview, you said that you were going to go live in the desert last year alone with some whiskey and instruments and write the second album. Did you end up doing that?
Yes! "White Bark" was written out there.
You can definitely tell that from the music video.
It was. The video was filmed at my German neighbors', who lived even further out than I did [in the Superstition Mountains]. That's basically where I lived. It was a great experience. I did it for about a year and a half with my girlfriend. We lived off solar power and a big water tank, and did a ton of backpacking. That's probably why "White Bark" was basically...I didn't even realize it at first, but I ended up on a backpacking trip with my good friends and family back in the Superstition Mountains... and I just realized, that, 'whoa, this is us right now.' I didn't do it on purpose. But living in the mountains, camping a lot...
I felt like the lyrics and the visuals in the video spoke to exactly what you said you'd do. So does that explain why the entirety of the Mergence members weren't in the video?
I guess partly that. We didn't really give the video a ton of thought, but we had determined that we didn't want to put instruments and drums and stages in it. So when we shot it turned out to be some friends and people who were around, and it made more sense than to put people in just to have them in.
We think of it more as a documentary about Arizona, and about the nature of Arizona, rather than about the band. More like the perspective of the flow of nature in one 24-hour-period and what's happening with the plants and landscapes.
That definitely brings more clarity to the video. So the time lapse scenes in the video--did you guys do all that?
It's a mixture. Most of the shots we did, and some are stock footage that mixed really well. You know, we love being an independent band and doing things ourselves. We're cool with that, we love it. So we think, we've tried to do videos and we don't have the budget or ability to do them the way we envision it.
So, we say, screw it! Let's just become filmmakers on the side and maybe we'll become good at that. So that's why we released the single with the video, because we'll release another song with a video before the EP comes out, and then so forth. We want to have more new things come out before the EP release.
So is the style of "White Bark" pretty explanatory of the album's vibe? Or is there a lot of dynamic and varying energy like Those Vibrant Young People" [Are Dead]?
I think no matter what I do as a writer, and Mergence too, but no matter what we do as these four guys together it's always going to be dynamic with lots of different styles. It's just our philosophy--a lot of tension and a lot release. "White Bark" as the first track is very welcoming, but the rest of the songs go to further directions than we have ever before. The elasticity stretches further in one way or another; that's why it's called Songs For Humans Volume 1 because we really wanted to make the Volume II, and then another one, and then release them all together in the end.
What's something you guys learned from writing and recording the first album that you applied to the second album?
Whenever we record, we definitely take into consideration the things we've done in the past. For the most part, we recorded the album live at the same time together [as in Those Vibrant Young People...] but one of those things we did differently--because we had to experiment with things we didn't know if they would work or not--so, for example, with one song, I had basically written [it] by humming while in Zion National Park. Then we went to the studio, and I didn't even want the band to play it. I taught it to them last minute, and we recorded it, and after tracking it we went in and layered really interesting ambient things just for fun. [Laughs] I don't know if I answered your question.
Well, I'll make it more specific: So what are two major differences that you guys utilized in this album that wasn't in your first? Whether it's production, instruments or influences...
We did some electronic stuff and sampling...well, not electronic...
[Laughs] Mergence is going dubstep!
Yeah totally! Well, just some samples. We'd find a really creepy laugh and incorporate it into the song. Or a weird scene from an old movie that was whispers. This is just one of the songs we did all that to. But at the same time, we have the same old bluesy roots from the '60s and '70s.
Are you guys planning a national tour this year at all?
Yeah! Since we talked last, we've been doing a lot of work in California. Southern Cali; like San Diego, Orange County and Los Angeles, we've started to get a good following and a good buzz. And we have some gigs set for Denver and Salt Lake. We've been to California maybe six times in the last year and a half. It's been building, so that's good. Then a West coast tour planned in fall after the release.
What's currently one of your favorite local acts currently?
Can I give you two? I like Huckleberry and All My Friends. All My Friends are called The Thin Bloods now....not sure what's up with that but they are really good. And Huckleberry is probably one of my favorites of the newest bands.
What about the mainstream?
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You know, I don't really get super involved in what's current. I'm always a little bit behind or in the past digging up bones. So for some reason, I think something that has been moving me really lately is Paul Simon? It's old stuff but that's what I'm into right at the moment.