Interview: Mercies

by Deanna Chapman

We had a chance to have Josh Rheault from Mercies (vocalist/guitarist) answer some questions about the band and their new album, Blue Against Green. Check out the interview below and be sure to check out the album!

You guys had the opportunity to have a barn turned into a recording/rehearsal space. What was that process like getting it all set up and ready to go?

Ah yes The Barn, oh how I miss that place. Well The Barn has always been this structure hanging out behind my parents’ house in CT but it wasn’t until 2010, when I returned to the east coast, that it started its transformation. Sammy and I needed a place to write, record, and rehearse and the barn just seemed like the perfect space. Up until that point, it pretty much just held old farming equipment and provided some extra storage for my family. My parents were completely on board with the idea of turning this barn into a studio, I think it was their idea actually! In September of 2010 we started restoring the barn. We poured a concrete floor, sectioned it off, built a loft, insulated it, put in a fireplace and a fridge, the whole 9 yards. During this entire process Sammy and were writing and recording Three Thousand Days. It was pretty crazy recording before we had insulation or heat but we made it work. We had to run power from the house for little space heaters then unplug them when we were recording because we didn’t have enough outlets. We wanted to make a “hand made” or “organic” sounding record and we pretty much had no choice but to do that. That’s what you get when you record in a massive space with 20 foot high ceilings with only a handful of beat up microphones. It was great. Hopefully we’ll get the chance to go back there someday to write and record another record.

What’s the music scene in Connecticut like? Are there plenty of venues to catch shows at?
Music scene? In Connecticut? I wouldn’t say that there are plenty of places catch shows at but Hartford and New Haven have some pretty cool venues. Luckily we were smack in the middle of Boston and New York. Our audience where we were based were cows and tobacco fields. We were cool with that for a bit though, they never once yelled out “Free Bird.”

Did working out of a barn influence the sound of your music at all? Were the sounds you’d get out of there comparable to a regular ol’ recording studio?

The Barn was the opposite of a regular ol studio, and that’s what we loved about it. There was absolutely no isolation in there. Everything sounded massive, especially the drums. There were a lot of parts that we didn’t even have to add reverb because the natural sound of the room was so big and spacious. Our sound was purely influenced by our surroundings and for that time, it was perfect. There are plenty of cons of recording in a space like this though. If it was raining or somebody was mowing the lawn you were screwed. Stuff like that doesn’t happen in a “real” studio.

I’ve personally never attended CMJ or SXSW, is it as crazy as people say to play those?

It’s crazier. We’ve had great experiences at both of those festivals but they can be sensory overload for sure. At SXSW, you can stay out all night drinking in the streets and wander into any random bar and hear live music, its nuts. You are swimming in a sea of vans and trailers for a week. If you do end up playing it someday, don’t bring your trailer! It’s a nightmare parking that thing.

How would you say you guys have grown since the debut album? 
I think we have grown a lot since Three Thousand Days. Our writing has become a lot more intentional. In the “early days” any skeleton of an idea kind of just morphed into a song, it didn’t really matter to us if there were 18 chorus or no choruses, not that that was a bad thing, it was just so different this time around. The way we wrote this record was more thought out, resulting (hopefully) in more mature songs. Also, Blue Against Green was written as a three piece so that changed things up quite a bit. Having Jordan on board during the process was great, he balanced us out and would be sure to let us know when we were relying on old tricks or taking the easy way out of something. He also knows theory really well and can pick up and play any instrument immediately, legit.

I really enjoy the vibe of this album, who are you most influenced by?

We are both heavily influenced by music of the 50’s and 60’s. Not only the song writing but how the records actually sound. We are drawn to recordings that are void of studio tricks, auto tune, and that are beat detectived (that’s definitely not a word). I’d say I’m most influenced by John Lennon and The Beatles but am also huge fans of artists like the Beach Boys, Roy Orbison, Chet Atkins, Gene Pitney. As for as bands that are around now Sammy and I both love Grizzly Bear, Local Natives, Father John Misty, and The National. All those band’s records sound incredible and are super inspiring to us.

After moving to Los Angeles, have you seen any changes in the way you guys do things like writing or recording?

Planning has been a huge adjustment that we have had to make from relocating to LA. Back east, if I had an idea at 2AM I could just wake up and record it no problem. Being here in has forced us to work out and develop ideas on our own. Since we were usually paying by the hour for a studio somewhere we really had to make the most of our time together. I think it was good for us though. Sometimes The Barn was too convenient.

Is there anything else you’d like the readers and fans to know about this new release and your upcoming show in LA?
 If you come to The Satellite Friday April 3 you can pick up a hard copy of Blue Against Green for your CD Walkman! Seriously though, whether you buy, stream, or download our music, thank you for listening! Any support is greatly appreciated!