Music Profile | Mercury Girls

Philadelphia based Mercury Girls have a history of crafting smart, shimmery pop songs in a diverse array of bands. Together, their debut single for Slumberland Records, “Ariana” is no exception. Members Sarah Schimineck, Kevin Attics and Chris Schackerman filled us in on their songwriting process, past projects, and how they saved a crowd of SXSW partygoers from a fiery death.

You have all played in pretty great Philadelphia based bands over the years. What was the impetus of bringing this lineup together?

Sarah: I think Kevin A.’s drive to create a project brought us together. He asked me somewhat out of the blue if I’d like to try singing in something and I jumped at the chance, having wanted something solid to sink some energy into.

Philadelphia seems to have a very tight indie scene that you all seem to be very involved in, playing, working with labels and journalism. Did you all come together just from knowing each other in the community? How does that sort of environment contribute to the music you make? Is it very supportive or are you all just doing what you do out of love and need to play/create?

Chris: We more or less all came together from knowing each other’s different bands and projects within the Philly community. There are so many great bands in Philly right now that it does contribute to our music in a sense that it motivates us to work extra hard because we are surrounded by so many excellent, hard working bands. The scene here is super receptive and supportive so we try to be as involved as possible, but I do feel that everyone in this band possesses that same feeling of needing to create. We're extremely lucky and thankful for the support we get from the Philly scene but I think regardless of that we just make the music we want to make because we love it.

For a band that has only been around for a year you seem to have played with a lot of heavy hitters, like Joanna Gruesome and TEEN, in the indie pop community, as well as received endorsements from a bunch of very credible sources like Kip Berman and NPR. On top of that, you have your initial release out on Slumberland Records. Is this overwhelming in the sense that you feel you have a lot to live up to so soon?

Sarah: The strange, immediate warm reception was definitely not something I expected. I knew it would be fun at times but, as with other bands I’ve been in, I was scared. When people started responding so positively, it allowed me to feel comfortable and trust my bandmates. I guess what I am saying is that the more time passes, the more sense of ease I gain- it doesn’t feel restrictive.

We are all very excited to hear what you have in store with the new songs. “Ariana” and “All That Heaven Allows” are so great. Did you have these two songs already started before the band was solidified or are these songs the result of a direct collaboration between you all? How much of the album is written? Do you see these two tracks acting as a blueprint for what listeners can expect from the full length?

Kevin A: I had the germ for “Ariana” for awhile but it didn’t take its current shape until we all came together. Kevin O was playing a riff one day at practice and I think I wrote him later that day telling him it’d been looping in my head and THAT was what became “All That Heaven Allows”. I’d venture to say that the album is 80% written. It might differ a bit from the 7” as we’re recording with Jeff Zeigler who worked with our friends A Sunny Day in Glasgow and we’re hoping to bend the songs a bit more sonically.

Is this upcoming tour being used as a way to fine-tune the material, write more or do you have it all pretty locked down?

Chris: We don't have any extensive touring in the immediate future as we are neck-deep in writing the album (and we just came back from the road), but we have a fair share of shows in May between Philly and NYC. Hopefully each show we’ll be playing a new song or two in hopes of fine-tuning the material before we go into the studio.

What is the songwriting process like for this band? Do you all work collaboratively?

Sarah: The vocals are generally written separately, more tediously while listening to rough recordings. Some of the melodies are hashed out during practice in the beginning stages, and then refined later. The diction tended toward collaborative in the early stages of the band, but the tone has consistently been personal- cathartic.

Kevin A: Every song takes its own form depending on what is needed for it to sound the best. Sometimes it’s an extremely collaborative process, sometimes it’s an experiment, and sometimes it’s something personal that we all try to get behind.

Are Mercury Girls considered a side project or is this something of a priority for you all now? Are any of the other bands you play with -- Pet Milk, Literature, Little Big League -- still continuing to make music? 

Sarah: Pet Milk is not active right now but I am always open to a reunion.

Kevin A: I don’t like to assign projects with levels of importance. If I’m doing something, I’m giving it all my focus. Literature is touring when we can and working on a third album at our own pace. We lived that band for eight years straight and we wanted to try something different rather than get caught up in a feedback loop and risk releasing the same record twice or something.

How was this year’s SXSW? Your press release hints at it being “a head-turning, mind-melting blast.” Care to elaborate?

Kevin A: Aside from all the positive press we received, and the amazing bills we were invited to be a part of, there’s video somewhere of us trying to stop a burning, half-floating paper lantern shaped like an alien’s head from descending onto a swarm of people in the midst of a dance party, so… that kinda informs some of the goings-on.

What’s coming up? 

Kevin A: We’re excited to say we are working on our debut with Jeff Zeigler in Philadelphia at Uniform Recording, though we’ll be bringing in a lot of weirdo stuff we’ve recorded ourselves (and around town) for him to sift through. Until then we’re gonna road test songs along the East Coast and experiment with processing our instruments, messing with structures, and different writing techniques so the end result will probably end up being the result of a fever of activity.

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