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San Francisco, CA | Established. Jan 01, 2007 | SELF

San Francisco, CA | SELF
Established on Jan, 2007
Band Rock Neoclassical




This band has no press


Still working on that hot first release.



“My aim is to release records that will sound good today, tomorrow, and 50 years from now,” says Joe Medina, the force behind MERCH. He fulfills his vision on Amour Bohemian, a richly textured album that features 65 contributors including a Latin jazz band, opera singers and a 30-piece symphony orchestra. The songs explore love in all its glorious and alarming aspects. ”My last record was a break-up album. This one became a kind of grand, globetrotting love record."

One thing was certain when Medina began work on Amour Bohemian. “I wanted to record with a symphony orchestra, and chose The Prague FILMharmonic. They've worked with countless folks. Some of the notables would be Werner Herzog, Quentin Tarantino, Arcade Fire, Joanna Newsom, and Adele.

The album’s dense, layered sound includes nods to classic psych, early R&B, introspective folk, big bands of the 40s, soundtracks to Italian horror films, Latin jazz and more, while still inhabiting its own distinct sonic space. Medina uses the orchestra like another instrument, producing unexpected flourishes of strings, horns and woodwinds to augment his imaginative guitar work and inimitable vocal phrasing. “I’m as obsessed with film as I am with music, so I think of my songs as soundtracks, but they don’t tell a linear story. They’re impressions of the love of music, of a friend, or of love itself.”

 As promised, the music on the album covers an impressive emotional range. “According To The Doctors” celebrates the ordinary joys of love when put up against a treasured one's diminishing health. Medina’s sly, behind the beat vocal is complimented by his soaring, distorted guitar, and bright horn fanfares. The subtle country-flavored R&B of “Marriage” harkens back to the late 50s, to take a cynical look at long-term relationships. Jazzy guitar fills, a waltzing string section and walking bass support Medina’s depleted crooning, while a Hawaiian slide-guitar cries in the background. The subtle Italian operatic countermelody sung on “Pinewood & Roses,” adds a ray of hope to this aching song of lost love. It is a never-before-recorded song by Val Stoecklein (completely rearranged) and brings to mind the dark pop of Lee Hazlewood, as Medina intones the lyric with a gruff, despondent manner. 

Medina grew up in a lower-middle class family in Fresno, California. His mother, a crop insurance adjuster serving the farmers of the Fresno Central Valley, favored MOR Top 40 and his dad, a machinist who worked 12 hour days, loved oldies. “He told me he wrote [Sue Thompson’s] ‘Sad Movies (Make Me Cry)’ and [The Beatles] 'Love Me Do'," Medina recalls chuckling. “Listening to him sing along with the car radio gave me my first understanding of melody and what goes into making a catchy song.” He got his first guitar when he was nine, but stopped taking lessons as soon as he realized he could play back what he heard on the radio. “I started playing with rock, punk, Django, Bob Wills, samba, choro. In my sophomore year, I got a serious case of meningitis, nearly died, and realized the fragility of life." After he recovered, he became determined to leave his hometown and pursue writing and music. Eventually, he moved to San Francisco and became Head Writer for a music magazine. “I interviewed bands like Spoon and Guided By Voices and thought, perhaps naively, I could make songs as good as some of these folks.” Medina put together MERCH with musicians he found on Craigslist. “We toured, got some college radio attention, and there eventually ended up being a revolving door of band members. After a time, MERCH stopped being a band and became my individual musical outlet."

The first proper MERCH album, This Betrayal Will Be Our End, was recorded to one-inch analog tape with engineer Greg Ashley at Oakland’s Creamery Recording Studios. It received stellar reviews and found its home in hundreds  of record stores in both the U.S. and U.K., largely because of Medina's impassioned DIY distribution tactics. This Betrayal featured a stellar cast of Bay Area talent and laid the groundwork for Amour Bohemian, a record that shows MERCH ready to command an international spotlight.

Band Members