By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)
The mid-2010’s have proven to be a very exciting period for Alternative and Indie music. With the Post Punk Revival and Shoegaze Revival in full effect, the lasting influence of these illustrious sub-genres has broken down musical barriers never-before imagined (i.e. the fusing of metal and shoegaze with blackgaze and heavaygaze) and have continued to reach new fans through innovative reinventions that have allowed these sounds to flourish nearly two or three decades after their inception.
That being said, some of the most celebrated musicians of the Shoegaze/Dreampop scene have came together as Mercury’s Antennae!
Originally formed back in 2010, the Projekt Records act consisting of vocalist Dru Delmonico formerly of This Ascension), bassist Cindy Coulter and multi-instrumentalist Erick Scheid, pull together a healthy combination of whirling Shoegaze guitar, Dreampop atmospheres and a unique ethereal-Goth sensibility reminiscent of This Ascension and classic Projekt acts. After creating a buzz across the West Coast and through the now-thriving Shoegaze Revival scene, Mercury’s Antennae are now ready to hit the studio to lay down their third release.
However, with such a lush and complex sound, it’s almost unfair just to slap any simple label on Mercury’s Antennae, as they really strive to push the boundaries of the music they love. The members weighed in on how they hear these sounds and formulate them into their own unique piece of art.
“I would describe our music as the soundtrack for two lovers in the middle of the ocean,” said Scheid. “Esoteric Shoegaze-Ritual Darkwave and Ambient Electronica with elements of noise, folk and Dreampop. For me personally I always have been drawn to create music that had a sense of space, atmosphere and shifting moods. A sound that is vulnerable, otherworldly, emotional and hopefully thought provoking. It sounds possibly cliché and overused in the adjectives but I guess that’s the truth. And like all artists, what has led me to create music is LIFE itself and all that it is or isn’t… the tension between the light and the dark.”
Delmonico added that the moodiness of bands like The Cure and Depeche Mode helped shape her creative angle.
“Coming of age in Southern California we had two modern rock stations that were pretty big at the time. While I wasn’t exposed to anything super obscure, I started to follow Depeche Mode, The Cure, Ultravox, a lot of so-called New Wave. Then I moved to a small town on the Central Coast where I could only pick up Classic Rock and Top 40. While I liked some of this too I missed the alternative ‘more weird’ stuff and a friend in L.A. would send me mix tapes to keep me up-to-date. I loved the moodiness, the artistic expression, the somewhat hidden aspect, although DM and The Cure both went on to be so big they sold out huge stadiums,” said Delmonico.
Earlier this year, the band released Beneath the Serene, their most sonically developed record to date. The record Beneath the Sereneis full of lush soundscapes and dreamy/ambient textures, yet also includes the somewhat traditional sound structures of popular music.
“Beneath The Serene was an exploration into the questioning of all things of Beauty and realizing that Beauty and whatever that definition is, can be illusive and even toxic. Also I was questioning what connection/isolation means to me,” said Scheid.
“Most of the tracks were somewhat in tact by the time I was asked to join the band permanently, although they were largely in demo format,” continued Coulter. “I think as an artist there’s nothing more thrilling than having a blank canvas with which to work to create something that speaks to you and that you want to put out into the world. Erick and Dru have certainly provided me that in inviting me to collaborate with them. Erick has always kind of had the approach of ‘just do what you do.’ I think our arrangement works quite well and am excited at the prospect of making more music together.”
Despite having an experimental edge sonically, Mercury’s Antennae, and Delmonico in particular, are not afraid to shy away from a good hook to help take a song to a whole new level.
“With Mercury’s Antennae, I feel like drawing out phrases more, repeating more. I think it’s okay to have those ‘pop’ elements, some of the music is genuinely hooky and catchy and it’s great. There have been a couple times with our music though that I have been stumped as to what to do. It’s forced me to sing in new ways and styles that aren’t in my normal comfort zone, which is good for an artist. That’s what happened with the title track Beneath the Serene–nothing was working at all, and it was the last track I had to put vocals to. I’d totally procrastinated ’til the last minute. But somehow something came together and while different for me vocally, it’s really special,” said Delmonico.
In recent years, bands like True Widow, Nothing and A Place to Bury Strangers have helped bring Shoegaze back onto the scene in a big way. And since 2013, the reformation of genre pioneers like My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive and Lush have only furthered the excitement among fans. However, Mercury’s Antennae, though akin to these movements, are forging their own path regardless of what’s in fashion. Still, they’re happy to see it where it is and believe that there is a real demand for it.
“I don’t feel like Shoegaze ever really went away. But, I think part of it is that the folks that were really into that music back in the day, are a little older now (present company included ;)) and saw those bands when they were popular the first time around. Certainly there’s a desire there now that these bands are reuniting. Couple that with some of the newer Shoegaze bands like The Joy Formidable, Seasurfer, Ringo Deathstarr, Tamaryn, Beach House, and the like, and it’s not too much of a surprise that Shoegaze is getting some new interest from old school fans a and making new ones in the process as well. It’s an exciting time,” said Coulter.
“We are longing to hear music with depth and also with a sense of spaciousness and atmosphere. With all that is changing in this world we desire to hear/witness music that is real and honest again, even if it sounds like clouds in the wind, we all want to be romanticized. At least I do… sonically that is. Shoegaze represents that in lots of ways. Also I think ‘Shoegaze’ music fuses the feminine and masculine in subtle ways and music lovers out there want to embrace that,” added Scheid.
Mercury’s Antennae are part of the unique roster of artists featured on Projekt Records. Owned and operated by Sam Rosenthal, the mastermind behind not only the successful label but the iconic group, Black Tape for a Blue Girl. Delmonico recalled working with Rosenthal going all the back to her days with This Ascension.
“I’ve know Sam for years through This Ascension. Projekt was one of the first distributors we worked with and that was hugely beneficial relationship for us; this was before most people were on the web, which is hard to imagine now. Later, Projekt was also our label when he re-issued TA’s catalog after Tess closed. Sam was the first person I thought of when Erick and I started creating our first album. Happily for us he found it interesting, so released it as well as our latest. He’s been super supportive,” said Delmonico.
Despite having the backing from a great label, the music industry is still in a state of limbo, as distributors are often unsure the of the best platform to market their artists. Often times, it’s up to the artists to utilize unique ways to reach fans such as social media and crowd funding, depending on their individual goals.
Delmonico said that despite this disorder, there are more befits to music fans now than ever before.
“I think the changes in the industry have been a dual-edged sword. There is this wonderful openness and access to music now that is unprecedented. Just this morning I discovered John Fryer (Depeche Mode, Love and Rockets, This Mortal Coil, Nine Inch Nails) has an ongoing music project with various vocalists and musicians called Black Needle Noise, and I can listen to them all instantly on Bandcamp. It’s a great time for music fans,” she said.
She also explained that success in the industry can be achieved through hard work and smart/innovative decisions.
“As creators, bands like us were doing better in terms of financial success in the 90s. I think more artists are going to need to take regular and freelance jobs to continue to make music. There is this expectation now that people shouldn’t t have to buy music. Even good friends of mine think this. I’ve known bands signed to major labels that have trouble keeping their bills paid, but also independent artists who can make their living with a successful blend of touring, merchandising, creativity and some good fortune. It’s very hard though,” finished Delmonico.
Mercury’s Antennae just wrap up a slew of dates on the West Coast and are set to work on new material for their next release. Be sure to check back to their official Facebook page for all updates and live dates.