Thursday 14 April 2016

Interview with MERCHANT

Today's guests are about to release their stunning debut album – Suzerain. It's a complex, bleak and very progressive style of Doom/Sludge Metal. Taking influence from bands such as YOB, Neurosis, Cough and THOU, these guys still have their own sound.

I became aware of them back in 2015 when they released a single called Seismic. A song that showed a brief glimpse of their true potential. Now with Suzerain about to be released on April 18th 2016, I have a feeling we will be hearing a lot more from MERCHANT. Another great band from the superb Australian Sludge/Doom Metal scene that has provided so many other great bands over the years recently.

MERCHANT have kindly agreed to doing this interview with me where we discuss the usual Outlaws Of The Sun topics. I wanted to know what influenced to record an album this bleak and what they think of the rising Australian Doom/Sludge/Stoner Metal scene.

So read on if you want to find out more...

Hi guys. Thanks for doing this interview. How are things with you today.

Thanks for having us. Things are good. We're all pretty busy getting ready to release our album and doing all the behind the scenes stuff that comes with it.

Can you give a brief history of the band. How the band came together. And did you know each other before you formed the band or played in previous bands with each other.

Ben (guitar), Nick (drums) and I (Wilson, bass) got together in late 2014 with the intention of making a heavy stoner/doom band. We've all known each other for 10+ years and have played in bands together before, so the fit was right straight away.

Mirgy (vocals) came along about 4-5 months later when we got to a point where we needed a vocalist to make the songs progress. Mirgy has never done brutal vocals in a band before and Ben, usually a bassist until now, hadn't played guitar in a band before either so it was a bit of a new experience all round.

How would you describe your own sound.

In a few words - thick, psych drenched sludge.

You’re about to release your new album – Suzerain. It’s an excellent record. What can people expect from your record?

Thanks man, good to hear it struck a chord with you. In my eyes it's an album full of grating guitars and odd timed riffing, psychedelic guitar leads, layered brutal vocals, churning bass, elements of tribal drumming and worship of the slow and heavy.

Why did you choose the name Suzerain for the album. Any specific meaning.

The title track Suzerain came about after a couple of us read Cormac McCarthy's 'Blood Meridian'. The book is a pretty intense tale of a bloodthirsty gang in Texas around the mid ~1800's who collect scalps in exchange for currency. One of the characters is a seemingly immortal, omniscient man who is almost mythological in the area where they roam. He refers to himself at one point as a Suzerain, which is a feudal lord who has power of more minor lords in the area. A king of kings, really.

The song covers the quest for blood and the descent into madness that surely comes with a stressful job like that.

The album is a very bleak and complex album. Did you expect the album to be this bleak when you were writing and recording it?

Honestly, when we were writing it, we just thought it was groove driven and epic. Once we got into the studio and started listening back, that's when it kind of dawned on us that it was pretty bleak. The vocal layers really help to add to the menacing and claustrophobic sound in our opinion.

What inspired you when you were writing and recording the album and what was the overall recording experience like for the album?

Our main sources of collective inspiration are bands like YOB, Thou, Eyehategod, Conan, and Bongzilla. All those bands make either genre defining or genre defying music, which is incredibly inspiring. We had a pretty good time at Goatsound with Fuller (Blood Duster, The Ruiner), he's a knowledgeable dude who doesn't sweat the little things which can bog you down sometimes. He's also got some pretty funny stories from 25 years of being the underground metal world. The recording experience itself was unreal. We tracked all the rhythm parts and drums together, which really helps with the overall vibe I think. It definitely creates a bit more of a raw experience where the songs push and pull with what's occurring in the room.

What does the album represent to yourselves personally?

For the band as a collective, the album represents the first chapter and having gotten this far. Personally, and aside from the scalp hunting, the album's concepts touch on the world turning to dystopia, death of those near as well as insanity waiting in the shadows.

What is the song writing dynamic in the band. Is it down to an individual or a group collective.

Writing is definitely group driven usually with an individual as the catalyst. Usually someone will bring a riff or two that go together and then we'll see what everyone else has up their sleeve and try and put it all together.

We spend a lot of time trying things with different feels, drum rhythms, vocal patterns so we can get the best out of a riff. We end up exhausting a lot of possibilities this way - which is helpful for filtering out what works and what doesn't.

Will you be touring this record heavily at home? Can you give any details?

Australia is a pretty huge country and touring can become difficult because of that. We've got trips planned all around the country for the latter part of the year but not in any continuous stretch. Currently, we've got a trip to Brisbane in July and are looking at Adelaide in August.

What is the scene like currently in Australia. It appears to thriving with a ton of great bands starting to make a name for themselves. Do you perform a lot of gigs in your hometown of Melbourne or surrounding areas.

There's some killer bands in Australia now, and especially Melbourne. There's now a few generations of heavy bands in Melbourne, which allows newer bands to come up too. Bands like Watchtower, Space Bong, DEAD, BOG, Roundtable and Field are all doing really interesting, genre pushing stuff. We try and play once or twice a month in Melbourne if we can. We pretty much take any show that is thrown our way!

What is your equipment set-up when playing live or recording in the studio. Do you have an advanced set-up or a basic set-up.

We tend towards the more basic set-up in Merchant. A few fuzzes on both mine and Ben's pedal boards plus some more psychedelic pedals and some big cymbals for Nick to try and drown us out with. Mirgy is pretty straight up with the vocals too, no tricks there - just grim screams.

Thanks for doing this interview guys. All the best with the new album.

Thanks mate and thanks to Outlaws Of The Sun for doing what you do. Much appreciated

Words by Steve Howe and MERCHANT.

Thanks to Merchant for taking the time out to talking to me. Suzerain will be available to buy from April 18th 2016. You can read my review here.