Here’s another new album we’ve been waiting for! The Mermaidens release their third long player today.
It’s titled Look Me In The Eye and The 13th Floor’s Marty Duda has the inside story on the album. He got guitarist/vocalist Gussie Larkin on the blower and went through the entire record, track by track with her.
Click here to listen to the interview:
Or, read a transcription of the interview here:
M: Before we get into the actual track by track thing, so this is your third album.
M: It was recorded where mostly?
G: It was recorded in Wellington at Blue Barn Recording Studio, James Goldsmith, and we’ve recorded our last two albums there as well. We’ve got a really great creative relationship with James that’s just formed from working together so much and it was really lucky this time because we were able to spend a lot more time in the studio. So we really took our time with building the sort of sonic world which meant really getting into a lot of synth sounds and getting really nerdy with guitar pedals and just being really detailed with each instrument, which was really cool that we were able to afford that this time.
M: So how would you say this record compares to the previous two in terms of sound?
G:I think this record is more experimental but also more accessible than our previous two albums. I think Perfect Body is a lot more subdued and this record has a lot bigger dynamic range, I think that’s what it is. I think we were trying to make something that was a lot more danceable and kind of more pop so I think that comes out in a lot of the vocal melodies and there’s just a lot of chorus and flange and kind of like really sparkly sounding synths and guitar effects which sort of pushes it into the pop realm. I know it’s still really unique and weird and it’s accessible in our little zone. It’s not gonna be on commercial radio or anything.
M: Well you never know. The title of the album is called Look Me In The Eye which is not a title of one of the songs so where does that come from?
G:It actually came from, it’s a lyric in You Maintain The Stain which was the song that we released earlier in the year. I quite like that it links together and we do that a bit with lyrics across songs as well using a lot of similar phrases and words even between albums.
M: You mentioned You Maintain The Stain, was that from the same sessions as the album and did it just come out as a single?
G: Yeah it was. We recorded all those songs and knew that it wouldn’t quite fit on to one record and we wanted to have sort of like a pre-album asset to make people remember that …..
M: Teaser action, yeah it’s good. Is it mostly you and Lily that do the songwriting or how does it work?
G: We write all the songs together, I mean the lyrical content is written by us and the guitar and bass parts but we structure the songs as a trio, just do a lot of the building of songs together.
M: Let’s start with the first track which is called Crying In The Office.
G: Crying In The Office started as this song that had so many lyrics and the idea I had was that the lyrics would never come back so it would just be this ongoing stream of consciousness song. It got refined from that but there’s still a lot of lyrics that don’t come back which I really liked and with the sort of rolling guitar part, I wanted it to have this repetitive meditative feel.
M: It’s very kind of hypnotic
G:And the name, I just am so repelled by the idea of, I’m just really bad at routine and really repelled by the idea of working in an office. And I guess I’ve worked in an office but it was a cool one. I just think everybody has cried at work or at the office and I feel it’s something a lot of people can identify with sort of the demand to be there and to be alert and answering to people. So it says, ‘Crying in the office, you weren’t wanted tired.’ I mean it’s kind of funny but I guess it must me having a lament about …..
M:So if you weren’t a musician, what kind of office would you be working in?
G: That’s my thing, I just can’t stand it.
M: Fair enough
G: The nine till five just freaks me out.
M: Next one is Sleeptalker, which is a slower, still kind of dreamy vibe to it.
G: This is a Lily song, it was just the bass line and singing for quite a long time and we spent quite a while really trying to figure it out in the studio. I didn’t have a guitar part for ages and it actually made me so anxious because I just couldn’t figure out something to fit cause it’s quite a… I have no idea what time signature it’s in, maybe it’s not even in a time signature. I think the lyrics are talking about these two people asleep in the same bed and it’s kind of this song about love and the distance between these two people but then juxtaposed with the real nasty dissonance and wall of sound things that are not so lovey-dovey love song. That’s my interpretation. It’s got that sort of dream-like feel, sleepy.
M: And then we have Millennia?
G: So that song’s just come out.
M: That’s the new single.
G: Yep and the lyrics are, Lily penned those as well. The song discusses all these demands that the internet mainly, makes of you when I think particularly of women, demanding you to be younger and successful and busy and then package that up and share it so that everybody knows. And I think the lyrics that says ‘Hallucinations rule your world’ is sort of Lily taking a bit of a stab at people that get caught up in that idea of sharing everything cause it’s not actually real it’s just a hallucination. We had so much fun recording this in terms of the guitar parts for me because there’s so many layers in there. There’s actually two guitars, Lily and I both play guitar and I used this really cool pedal called the Fuzz Factory and it’s just like really dry, gnarly fuzz so that’s probably my favourite guitar tone on the record on that song.
M: It’s got a jagged kind of time signature feel going to it as well.
G: Yeah, and I like that it’s sort of got this disco break down at the end with the disco high hats.
M: Then we have I Might Disappear.
G: I Might Disappear, I kind of wanted to make a really sunshiny song of summer kind of thing. I felt like the record needed a really bright pop three minute banger and I’m not ashamed to say I was trying to write a pop song. There’s even lyrics in it that are talking about summer. What do I want to say about the lyrics? I think the lyrics are pretty nonsense.
M: The one line I picked up was ‘How long has this been going on?’ Is that part of what’s happening in there.
G: I write a lot of my lyrics like I sort of make, as I’m trying to form the melody I just work through vowel sounds and with the melody that I’m hearing, so I feel like that might have been just something that the words fitted with the melody rather than me trying to…
M: Actually say something.
G: Yeah write something that actually had meaning and put it in there.
M: Fair enough. If it sounds good it works.
G: Yeah it’s kind of about being restless and having a really restless summer and feeling anxious about the person that I’m with leaving me. But then that all being something that I formed in my mind and not actually real.
M: All that in three minutes and six seconds, that’s not bad.
M: It is the shortest cut on the album isn’t it?
M: The next was is called The Cut
G: This one, I’m gonna find it a bit hard to talk about this. This is a Lily one. So The Cut is kind of like the stain in You Maintain The Stain. So Lily’s sort of saying ‘The Cut’ refers to cutting someone down and linking that to society’s treatment of women. And then I guess the song is about overcoming the cut. Sorry I’m struggling with this one.
M: It’s got a pretty cool jangly guitar riff going through it though doesn’t it?
G: Yeah, I mean, I can talk about the guitar.
M: Talk away
G: There’s again two guitar parts on that one which there’s a lot of throughout the album with Lily and I playing so we had a lot of fun with the interplay between those two parts. I think we wanted to make the chorus really poppy as well and we just had it as Lily’s vocal part and then I came in with this response as a vocal part and then it suddenly was lifted and there’s this call and response going throughout the whole song which is just really fun and I think our voices are quite different, so it’s cool to hear them contrast against each other.
M: The next one is called She’s Running and that has some additional synths and percussion that you guys recorded somewhere else right if I’m not mistaken?
G: What’s that sorry ….
M: I said She’s Running has some additional synths and percussion that you recorded at Red Bull is that right?
G: Yeah, we had about three or four days at the Red Bull studio in Auckland which we…it was really cool. We used it as a way to demo a few songs and then we ended up using parts of them for… I think we did Crying In The Office, She’s Running and Cut It Open so we used some parts of some of those songs, actually Crying In The Office got scrapped but I can’t even remember what’s in there from Red Bull. It might just be some synths.
M: And what can you tell me about the song itself, She’s Running?
G: I don’t know if you read the press release from the other day, but there’s this quite funny story behind the chorus lyric. I had been looking after these two little kids, these young boys, and they were a real handful. They were just these crazy brothers and on one of the first afternoons that I looked after them, they had this epic fight that was just shocking. They were bawling and really injuring each other and it was in the playground and I was trying to get them apart. I was trying to handle the situation and then all these other mums came around and were helping me and cooling the situation. Then I felt really frazzled and just felt really incompetent and they were just reassuring me and it was just a really strange situation. Then they ran off and were best friends again but I was observing all these mothers and women on the playground and I was just thinking about how the work that parents do is just insanely hard and I hadn’t really appreciated the emotional labour. I felt really small and incompetent and I was looking at these older women and thinking ‘Oh I’m so small and young and not capable.’ So then I was scribbling some lyrics in my diary at that point. But the song’s not just about that, it’s sort of lots of snatches of intimate moments. But that was the catalyst for the song singing like I was running, I wanted to run away basically. After from the horrible children.
M: And that leads us to Bastards which is next.
G: Bastards is, Lily sings that song. I think the lyrics are sort of about love and intimacy and attraction but then the difficulty and sometimes suffocating feeling that comes with romantic relationships. I think she talks about the complexities of being in a relationship and separating yourself as an individual from this union.
M: And you’ve got some other folks helping out on vocals on that one?
M: According to the credits that I have here, there’s the Girl Gang is singing.
G: Yeah so we had five of our friends and including my mum actually, come and sing on a few songs on the album which was just really cool it was just a really fun experience and we wanted, there were just a few parts on the record where we wanted a warm chorus just to thicken up the vocals and give it the feeling of lots of people. So in Bastards they’re all singing at the end.
M: Including your mum
G: Yeah. We actually had to tell my mum to stop being so good cause she was popping out of the choir it was like, ‘Stop, you need to sound like one voice’.
M: She’ll have her own album out in no time, I’m sure.
G: Yeah. Bastards was quite a mission to make the song into a complete thing just because the bass lines are really crazy, they’re really dissonant and weird time signatures and so took quite a bit of work to figure out how to structure it and I think we’ve made it sound sort of effortless and not too uncomfortable but if you really listen to it there’s so many dropped bars and just weird stuff going on.
M: And that leads us on to Best To Hate The Man.
G: Yeah, I didn’t actually have anything to do with this song really.
M: Nothing at all?
G: I sing some backing vocals and I just advised in the studio. But I think the title isn’t ..it’s not about hate, it’s not about hating men, it’s about how the world teaches women to compete. But it’s saying we have to look at each other as allies and be united so it’s wrong to despise a woman, best to hate the man, I think that’s what it says. And at the end of the song there’s that chatter from the Girl Gang and that was tying into that as well that there’s all these women talking and laughing with each other.
M: And that kind of segues right into the last song which is Priorities.
G: Priorities is a bit of an epic journey, again I really like songs that don’t have a standard structure and more like an A B B structure and this one definitely has that. I find it hard to talk about this one.
M: Sonically it sounds a bit different and a bit more adventurous than the other ones and there’s kind of some weird banging noise going at the beginning of it as well.
G: So for the intro we recorded it in like quadruple time or something so we played it really fast and then it’s been slowed down to the actual speed and that’s why it sounds so sort of sloppy and strange. That was really cool. It’s such an epic song to play live. We’ve just mastered it now and we’ve been playing it a little bit but I have a lot of fun with all the guitar tones there’s just so many things going on, so many different melodies and I love creating this call and response backing vocal thing that you’ll notice.