Modern Merchant

Modern Merchant

We already got stuck on Modern Merchant’s tumbling, mournful, but somehow ultimatley affirming first single, Bucolic, from this Brooklyn trio, so why not give you the whole EP a spin?

The band has only been around about two years, wherein one EP and some touring happened. And after hearing Virtues, one hopes they hold off on more shows and finish a whole album. Singer Jesse Stanford has an effecting midrange, like a less narcissistic Chris Martin. The band behind him doesn’t just wallow, letting their epic guitar sounds and inventive drumming lift each song up and away.

Check out the premiere of the EP stream below, and see what the band had to say below that. The self-released Virtues arrives August 28, and the band has their record release show the next night at Rough Trade.

The first line of the first song: “All our friends have gone to the edge.” Can you tell us a story of one of those friends?
Jesse Stanford (vocals/guitar): I don’t think I had anyone’s particular experience in mind when that lyric was written. I think it speaks, rather, to a more general notion that I’m often preoccupied with, this idea that so many of the people whom I consider my friends and contemporaries are dissatisfied. And this dissatisfaction with what I guess you’d call adult life—our jobs, our leaders, the pressures put on us by the media and internet culture, our disconnect with nature—all of that stuff has left us feeling a little isolated, a little unwanted, a little on edge. The plans we had for ourselves didn’t turn out exactly the way we thought, we have to struggle a bit more then we were raised to believe. My friends and I are part of this strange, somewhat lost generation, and we’re all just doing our best to find our way. The song isn’t meant to be bleak though, I’d like to see it as hopeful. That in the end, we’re all destined to find that little green patch of happiness we’re so desperately searching for.

Were there any edges you guys reached for on this new EP, compared to your first?
John Parson (vocals/guitar): Our goal with these four new songs was to take their arrangements to an extreme. When we set out in the recording process, we made a conscious decision to focus on fewer songs to see how far we could explore the instrumentation and layering. The mindset was to make each song as dynamic as possible, i.e. the quiet sections more intimate and the loud sections more lush. Secondary, by default, was our overall sound being more fuzzed out, overdriven and at times bizarre.

This was also our first opportunity to be produced, and we lucked out in sparking the interest of Dave Groener Jr. He’d been working up in Connecticut with Peter Katis, as one of his main studio engineers, and was building a studio in Bushwick of his own (Azimuth Studio). His guidance and experience were immeasurable. We had been used to recording in home studios where the options were always few, so having the option to make a synth or guitar part deliberately sound just as we imagined felt pretty great.

Any plans for a full-length LP, or are bands just not going to do that anymore?
JS: We’d put out a double LP if we could. Recording songs and sharing them with people is one of the most satisfying experiences we have as a band. But getting to the point where we have an album’s worth of songs that we’re proud of is such a long, expensive and nuanced endeavor that it’s more of a pipe dream at this stage. As a music fan, I’m kind of bummed out by the so called “death of the album,” but as a music maker it does take some of the pressure off. We can feel confident that a really great single or a powerful four-song EP can get some recognition and gain some traction. We’re hopeful that the success we see from our new EP can lead the way to making a full length record down the road.

It’s almost comical to describe how expensive Brooklyn is becoming. Are you one of those Brooklyn bands that keeps saying you’re going to move?
Sydney Weiss (drums/vocals): It’s funny, John and Jesse both moved down here from Connecticut, and I moved over the river from uptown Manhattan so we could put less time into commuting and more time into writing, playing and going to shows locally. Now, instead of that time going to commuting, it’s going to working so we can afford to pay the bills. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve discussed if we should leave. The amount of money that you need to make just to pay basic living and music expenses spirals into needing to work more hours, which cuts into the time when we should be making music. It’s baffling, and a good thing we can all function on very little sleep. We like to torture ourselves in that way.

Our practice space rent alone almost doubled since last year, and we ended up selling our van because the cost of parking, or inevitable parking tickets, was too great a burden.

There have been talks of a Modern Merchant compound somewhere in the woods, but I think we all still have a romantic ideal of the city which has yet to fade. There really are a lot of great Brooklyn venues where we love to play and go to see shows, so that’s a big factor keeping us here. Not to mention our love of craft beer and artisanal meats and cheeses.

That doesn’t mean we won’t keep talking about moving though. I said I’d leave Manhattan for five years before I finally did it. And now Manhattan seems cheaper than Brooklyn.