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Interview: Mermaidens Talk About Their New Album 'Look Me In The Eye' + NZ Tour

Interview: Mermaidens Talk About Their New Album 'Look Me In The Eye' + NZ Tour

A.K. / Photo credit: Sarah Yarmond / Wednesday 25th September, 2019 1:28PM

Psych-pop rockers and Pōneke fashion icons Mermaidens are currently whizzing around the UK and Europe for the second time in a year, showing off their stunning third album Look Me In The Eye. The trio will be back in town next month to look their fans in the eye once again, making stops in all the main centres for their triumphant Aotearoa release tour. In between ironing their matching red jumpsuits, guitarist Gussie Larkin juggling both Mermaidens and Earth Tongue, and driving to Paris, Larkin, Lily West and Abe Hollingsworth found some time so sit down and have a chat to UTR assistant editor Annabel Kean. Suss the tour details below, and get to know Mermaidens a little better after that…

UPDATE 19/12/19: Mermaidens are playing a special double headline bill this summer with fellow amphibian guitar slingers Sea Mouse...

Mermaidens and Sea Mouse: 'How Deep Is Your Love?'
Friday 14th February 2020 - The Cook, Dunedin

Tickets available HERE via UTR

UnderTheRadar proudly presents...

Mermaidens ‘Look Me In The Eye’ Release Tour 2019

Friday 11th October 2019 - Darkroom, Christchurch
Saturday 12th October 2019 - The Cook, Dunedin
Saturday 19th October 2019 - Whammy Bar, Auckland
Saturday 26th October 2019 - San Fran, Wellington

Annabel Kean: Where are you?

Gussie Larkin: We’re in France in a town called Tours.

How's that spelt?

G: Tours. Like… going on ‘tour’.

Oh wow, perfect. So you’ve said you’re 'going on tour' but actually you’re just having a holiday in Tours, I get it. What are you up to today?

G: We’re playing in Paris tonight, so we’ll just be having a chill morning and driving to the nightmarish city.

The nightmarish city?

G: Yeah, just a nightmare to drive around. Other than that it’s good.

Right, so no one’s going to be upset by being there.

G: No, no no.

Abe Hollingsworth: Have you ever seen what the Arc de Triomphe traffic looks like?

When I was about 12 actually yeah, but luckily I had a parent’s hand to hold. What are your plans for the next year? Are you just going to keep on touring?

G: Well, once we finish this Europe tour we’re coming back to New Zealand and doing the New Zealand tour, presented by Undertheradar. After that we’ll be a bit more quiet, I’ll be doing some Earth Tongue stuff, then come January and February we’ve got a few scattered shows which will be announced really soon I think. So yeah, this has been a really hectic time, but it’s really fun.

I feel like you were very recently in Europe, are you just doing the whole thing again?

A: The idea is to introduce ourselves essentially, and then to release the album and return with the album.

G: Having made a bit of a profile for ourselves over here.

A: Yeah, some momentum.

Is that something you figured out yourselves, or that just what people do?

G: Nah, we figured it out ourselves. We knew that we wanted to be touring over in this area but you kind of have to – we’re still pretty unknown over here so I guess in order for the album to make a good impact we needed to test the waters first and that was the strategy behind the first tour.

How do you feel about the 'Album Cycle'? Is it fun? Does it feel like a chore sometimes?

A: It’s a funny one, right? Cause it takes so long and you’re working on it the whole time so it doesn’t really feel like you’re waiting but when you stop to think, you’re like ‘Oh man, we started this project two years ago’ and that’s quite weird.

Lily West: I think the first album we did it was really noticeable how long the album cycle is, but by the time this one came around it feels quite normal, because there’s so much to do.

A: It couldn’t have taken less time. [laughs] If we had a team of people, like a big big team, we could do it in a shorter time.

G: I think you need the time to sit on it and think about the way you’re going to deliver it in terms of all the creative aspects. The album art for a start, you can’t really just crank that out. There’s just so much visual accompaniment that comes with putting out music, which maybe some other bands don’t focus as much. We think it’s really important.

L: We love to create a whole world around every new thing that we do, and the album cycle ties into that.

I actually wrote down a question here about the visual component of Mermaidens, and whether you think that’s important for musicians. And yes, you do!

L: I don’t think it’s important for everyone. I think it’s important to us as musicians ourselves. I think it’s awesome for some bands that do the exact opposite.

G: With making the music in the first place, you’ve already got so much on your plate... it’s a lot of responsibility doing absolutely every single thing. You’ve gotta outsource sometimes.

With Look Me In The Eye, did you set out making it with a whole running theme for the album? Or is it song by song, each with their own ideas?

G: I think it became clear once we had all the songs what the themes were that were running through the album. Which wasn’t really something we discussed before they were written, but I think we just managed to draw parallels between mine and Lily’s lyrics in quite a nice way. It wasn’t really intentional.

L: Yeah, it’s almost like we’ve been growing up together at the same time in similar circles, so our experiences have kind of mirrored each other. It seems we’d written songs that had similar themes, I guess.

Yeah there’s going to be overlap if you’re growing up together.

G: I think there’s also certain parameters that I set for myself for writing lyrics for this band and for writing the music. For example, if I’m sitting down and I’m working on an Earth Tongue thing, it’s completely different. I guess you could say that there are rules - the lyrical content and the feeling.

Like what? Could you specify some rules?

G: Well I guess the lyrics I would be writing for Mermaidens are more introspective and real. As opposed to Earth Tongue which is kind of fantastical, and it’s more like telling a story. A fictional story.

Once you write your lyrics do you write your own melodies to your own lyrics, or do you write lyrics first and then hang out together and figure out the bass and guitar parts?

G: I can’t remember… [laughs]

A: You have melodies first, and you fit lyrics into those melodies. You often start with a guitar part and a melody. Or you’ll go write lyrics and then the melody’s changed completely.

G: I would usually, if I’ve written a guitar part, flick through my notebook looking at lyrics and sort of experiment with which ones are fitting with the melody that I’m hearing. Sometimes it might be a particular vowel sound, that has to be in the melody, so then I’ll make up a lyric to fit that. I really struggle with lyrics, I wouldn’t say it’s my strong point. I think there’s a lot of quite random lyrics in my songs in this record, where as Lily’s probably more…

L: I have kind of an opposite process, where I will have the lyrics and the things I want to say within the song, and then the instrumentation comes second to the message or theme of the song.

And then Abe comes in and plays some drums.

G: Yep

A: Yeah, so I think we kind of work on instrumentation and the arrangement together in the room. That usually happens in the jam space. Sometimes the song comes in… baked.

L: Yeah we had a few pretty much cooked ones on this album. And then there were a few more jammy ones.

A: Ones that we really had to work on. You know, there’s one part that’s ready and then we don’t know what’s going to happen next so we have to find another part that fits in there.

When you’re writing your songs, do you ever take into account what people have liked from your previous albums?

G: No. I don’t think so. But I guess there’s an element of what we’ve felt really good about in our past, and that’s kind of what has continued on sonically with our new music. I don’t even know what people’s favourite songs are of ours. I kind of think about what people are liking right now, not really in terms of songwriting but mainly in terms of production and guitar tones. But I guess that’s just being influenced by other artists.

I know that 'Bastards' is getting quite a bit of play on bFM.

G: Cool! Have they censored it? We weren’t allowed to release it as a single in the UK because it’s too rude.

I read your interview with The Spinoff, and you mentioned there were a few different working album titles. Can you tell me what they were?

L: I really wanted the album to be called Best To Hate The Man.

G: That was a hot contender. I can’t actually remember any of the other ones, I think they were just – we went through all the lyrics to try to find little snatches and phrases that could work. Can you remember any of them?

L: I could bring them up if you give me on sec.

G: We really do a lot via the internet.

Google Docs? I’m into a Google Doc.

G: Maybe we’ll just send you a few when we find them!

L: We love the album title. The name is actually not from a lyric on the album, it’s from a 7" that we put out earlier this year.

G: 'You Maintain The Stain'. They’re all interlinked!


L: I found them.

G: Do we want to read these out?

A: Only the good ones. Was Bastards one?

L: There’s so many. Oh, Girlhood! The Habit Heals. Not Sweet Enough. We can’t read any more of these out, they’re not good. They’re too bad.

A: We chose the best one.

'Look Me In The Eye' is out now via Flying Nun Records.


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