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Mermgrown Auckland 2021 Second Lineup Announced + Interview

Mermgrown Auckland 2021 Second Lineup Announced + Interview

Annabel Kean / Photo credit: Paige Warton / Tuesday 9th March, 2021 9:00AM

The Mermaidens' 'Soft Energy' philosophy clearly gets shit done, as the Merms have wrapped up a wildly successful Mermgrown Festival Pōneke, are embarking on an Aotearoa-wide tour this week, and have just announced the second wave of acts for Mermgrown Auckland. Topping up the already dazzling lineup are locally grown talents Louisa Nicklin, Power Nap, LudusCharlie (OPI), DJs Party Dad and Ez Ra, and Pōneke creator Samara Alofa, with even more bands to be revealed next week. The festival is on Saturday the 20th of March and is the only way you can say you attended the very first Tāmaki Mermgrown, and a second chance for you dummies who slept on the Wellington edition when it blew minds last month.

Mermaidens songwriter and Mermgrown co-ordinator Gussie Larkin found some time in her hectic schedule to fill us in on how the festival started, throwing shade at Homegrown, and why on earth she wanted to launch not one, but two Mermgrowns in one year. Get up to date with all the Mermaidens goings on below, and scroll down for a full run down from Larkin herself...

Undertheradar proudly presents...

Mermgrown Festival Tāmaki Makaurau 2021
Saturday 20th March - Whammy Bar, Wine Cellar & Backroom
Featuring... Kane Strang (with band), Mermaidens, Leaping Tiger, Phoebe Rings, LEAO, K M T P, Louisa Nicklin, Samara Alofa, Power Nap, Charlie (OPI), Ludus, Party Dad & Ez Ra

Tickets available HERE via UTR

Undertheradar and 100% Good Present...

Mermaidens 'Soft Energy' Tour

Thursday 11th March - Cassels Blue Smoke, Christchurch
Friday 12th March - Dive, Dunedin, Dive
Saturday 13th March - Settler Theatre, Oamaru
Saturday 20th March - Mermgrown Festival, Auckland*
Saturday 3rd April - Napier, Paisley Stage

Tickets on sale HERE via UTR

Annabel Kean: Tell me, how did Mermgrown come to be?

Gussie Larkin: Well, I love music festivals and have found myself working for a few of them over the past couple of years, so I guess it was the combination of wanting to go to a music festival where I got to choose everything that happened, all the bands that played, and also having the experience and confidence with working on bigger events. I was also really inspired by King Gizzard's festival Gizzfest. Which is a kinda similar model, where they always play and they just bring together all the bands that they really like and it's just a big one day thing.

What other festivals have you worked on?

I worked for Coastella, that was the first one. Then through the guy who put that on I had a lot of ongoing background work for events that he programmed the music for like Wine And Food Festival and Beers At The Basin, all these wholesome little Wellington festivals, and then leading up to Mermgrown last year I was the festival coordinator for Cuba Dupa. So I was working there and planning Mermgrown at the same time and then they both got cancelled. It was supposed to be one week after another, and that was very hard.

So the name's based off Homegrown right? Is that a bit shady?

Yeah yeah yeah. Coz last year the first one was supposed to be on the same day as Homegrown, and to be honest I just got sick of Homegrown putting on the same lineup every year with less than a handful of women on the line up, so it was a little dig and I wanted to show how you put on a festival with an interesting, balanced line up with local and emerging bands.

That's great motivation.

I know it's a stupid name and people are very confused by it, but I kind of love that it's awkward to say and sounds really dorky, but the story behind it is quite funny. We had so many alternative names, like Merming Man, Mermway, Big Merm Out. We had heaps of fun coming up with these stupid names.

Honestly I don't think you need to worry about it coz think about the other festivals that exist. There's a festival called Kiwiburn which goes OFF, and that is not a good name imo.

True! I've never thought about it. It's like band names, they just become invisible. You sort of accept it as reality?

How was the Wellington Mermgrown? I'm sorry I couldn't be there.

I'm sorry for you too because it was really good. There was a stressful lead-up to it and then the actual day was just really chill and we were organised, so it was good.

Have you always been quite an organised person?

Nah I don't think so. But I've become a psycho organised person.

I think that happens to a lot of people as you get a bit older, is you just stop being able to put up with the bullshit of disorganisation.

We had an amazing team. All the people that worked on it were my first picks. My first pick for sound engineer, first pick for person doing merch. I didn't have to explain too much to them because they were just pros.

How big was the crew?

Including the bands, volunteers, vendors and the crew, I think we had about 70. But the core crew was pretty small, it was mostly the band and Ben Jones who did an amazing job. He was amazing because he did all the jobs everyone hates like getting portaloos and dealing with all the rubbish. He's just really happy to do it. Love him.

What was the venue like? It was at a bowls club yeah?

It's amazing. I'd played there with Mermaidens maybe seven years ago at an Eyegum Christmas party and we played inside the club, and I think that was probably the first time I went there and I thought it would be an amazing festival spot, and it's really close to where we practise in Newtown. I got talking to the guy Glen, who owns the place because I saw that one of the bowling greens was not for bowling and the grass was really munched up and in a bit of a state, and he let us have the stage on that green because it's not used for bowls.

Oh yeah I was gonna ask if there'd be an issue ruining the beautiful green.

They've tried to get it to sprout the proper grass, but it keeps not working. So I'm really hoping they keep it shitty so we can keep using it.

Is there a reason other than the fact you're living in Auckland now that you wanted to put on an Auckland Mermgrown? Seems like quite an undertaking, going from having the first one cancelled to doing two.

I just love planning parties and gigs and it's just really fun. We wanted to do something different to make this tour a bit more noticeable and for it not to be completely about us.

Do you have plans to make it even bigger?

Yeah, like I've already got 19th of February 2022 pencilled in my diary for the Wellington one next year, and I'd really like to do an outdoor festival in Auckland but I just feel very unfamiliar with what sort of spaces you could do it. And I think you can get away with a lot of stuff in Wellington in terms of noise and sort of DIY events, I don't know if Aucklanders would be so forgiving.

Someone will read this an go 'Oh I know a spot!'.

I guess Wellington's got the cool factor, like Newtown Festival is a community thing and it's very family friendly but... it's cool.

For people going to Mermgrown: Auckland Edition, what should they prepare for?

I think people should get really hyped and drink plenty of water. Plan who you're going to see, I think there's gonna be clashes. We're gonna announce double the amount of acts that have already been announced [done today — see above].

I wrote up a Quick Fire Q&A, just to spice things up. This is kind of relevant. But barely. Alright are you ready?

Yep, ready.

Favourite mermaid?

Oh god. I don't have one. Favourite mermaid... I immediately thought of Ariel but that's really boring and obvious.

Favourite Spice Girl?

When I was a kid I was always Baby, cos blond, pigtails. But I think Geri's pretty cool. She's who I'd wanna be now. Ginger Spice.

Favourite spice?

Smoked paprika.

What is the spice of life?

Having a good sleep.

Have you ever milked a cow?

Yes. Just at Lindale Farm, which is on the Kapiti Coast. It's a place where you go and buy delicious cheese and also go feed llamas, milk a cow and feed chickens and stuff.

Have you ever ridden a horse?

Yeah. Again, this is some childhood stuff. You have that one friend that's really into horses and they take you horse-riding for their birthday party.

One last Quick Fire question. In a fight to the death, would you rather be facing a horse or a cow.

Umm. I think cow would be easier. Less aggressive. But still, I hope that circumstance never presents itself to me.

Fingers crossed eh, touch wood.

Cool, that was quite hard. I think that was the most stressful part of the interview.


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Mermgrown - Auckland
Sat 20th Mar 8:00pm
Whammy Bar & Wine Cellar, Auckland
Mermaidens 'Soft Energy' Tour
Sat 3rd Apr 8:00pm
Paisley Stage, Napier