Mercy Music
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Mercy Music

Las Vegas, Nevada, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2012 | INDIE

Las Vegas, Nevada, United States | INDIE
Established on Jan, 2012
Band Rock Punk

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"On the Edge of Everything with Mercy Music's Brendan Scholz"

the corner of Sixth and Fremont, Brendan Scholz sits, chin in palm, ankle on knee, with a cigarette in his hand. I will not see Brendan without a cigarette for more than five seconds. I’ll lock eyes with him even less. And in the course of an hour, he’ll give away four cigarettes and two dollars as spiritual investment, saying, “I always feel like the bottom is going to drop from under me, so I need all the karma I can get.”

He meets me early to talk about his latest project, Mercy Music, its bottom still intact. Early on it was incorrectly dubbed as folk until he put down the acoustic guitar and picked up drummer Mike McGuinness and longtime bandmate and bassist Jarred Cooper. Musically, it’s classic Scholz—the right formula without being formulaic, poppy but sharp, catchy as hell, plenty of self-loathing and ready-for-radio hooks. And he’s optimistic about it. But Scholz’s optimism always comes with a heap of begrudging suspended reality.

His career started with his high-school self-dubbed pseudo-punk band Absent Minded, its highlight reel including an EP with Ryan Greene (Fat Wreck Chords/NOFX) and a record with Bill Stevenson at the Blasting Room. Next came Lydia Vance and a demo deal with Atlantic Records. That morphed into Deadhand, what Scholz once called beating a dead horse, finally fizzling out after his bandmates didn’t want to tour. Frustrated, he started playing out alone. Enter stage left, Mercy Music.

The lack of recognition was never because the man can’t write a song. He’s been someone’s favorite local musician for as long as he’s been at it. It’s not even that he doesn’t look the part. He looks as rock ’n’ roll as it gets, like he’s been this way forever, like he swung out on an umbilical cord while playing a Gibson. Behind a microphone, he looks cut and dyed to be on a magazine cover, his tongue sticking out of a screaming mouth that cartoonishly stretches from his eyes to his collar bone. What I’m saying is, based on historical evidence, he should already be exactly who he thought he’d be. But something always goes off the rails.



Mike McGuinness Photo: Adam Shane

Mike McGuinness

“I can’t honestly say it was anything in my control,” Scholz says. “That’s the thing that helps me deal with it. ... I don’t know the realistic side of having hopes and dreams as a successful rock musician. I blame the period of time I’m in and the way the system is. I don’t blame myself. I chose something that’s an uphill battle, whether it’s subconscious or not. I’ve had offers to play for bands in styles of music I don’t like, and I’d make a decent living doing it, but I can’t bring myself to do it. Anyone with a small amount of common sense would’ve done it already. But I just can’t.”

Scholz’s story isn’t about a triumph of spirit. It’s about the begrudging will to continue despite every single deck on every single table being stacked against him. The way he talks about pushing on after exorbitant rejection isn’t like a runner who sprains his ankle but must cross the finish line. It’s more like a man who fell down a well that is slowly filling up with age and responsibilities. And again, like every time before, he finds himself on the unsteady cusp of Making It.

But making it doesn’t mean what Absent Minded Scholz needed it to be. It’s something smaller than The Next Big Thing. I guess we can call it road lust, tour envy, rock ’n’ roll’s success measured in miles instead of sales. He welcomes hitting the highway for months of the year, and right now it’s hard to tell if it’s acceptance built on a foundation of maturity or exhaustion. Maybe it’s both. “I’m really confident in this project. With or without help from anybody, I think it speaks for itself. I’m not trying to be bigheaded, but it feels right. For once, I think playing might be enough.”



Jarred Cooper Photo: Adam Shane

Jarred Cooper

I know we’re both physically on the street corner, but I have to believe he’s somewhere else and I’m just sharing coffee with his tattoos. He’s looking across the street, but he’s really looking at the future of the band. What it is, what it’ll never be, whether that bothers him. After some chatter about his high school days, his job, his kids, he pauses, and thoughtfully says, “I’m not gonna stop doing this even if it doesn’t take off. I’ve never been the flavor of the week, so to stop now if nobody gives a sh*t, again, would be stupid. I’m a lifer. Whether I’m 40 and still doing it ...

I will be, if I’m still here.” - Las Vegas Weekly


"Have Mercy, musician re-creates his band"

It’s a sunny afternoon, bright as the dyed-blond bangs that occasionally veil Brendan Scholz’s gaze.

Sitting outside a Starbucks on the city’s northwest side, smoking and thinking and smoking some more, Scholz is as wide-open as the cloudless sky above.

The last time I met with Scholz, a couple of years back, also outside a Starbucks, he was just getting his current project, Mercy Music, off the ground.

It was a totally different thing back then: the folk-leaning, confessional sound of a punk rocker since the age of 9 swapping his band and his snarl for an acoustic guitar, Chuck Ragan style.

That got lonely after a couple of tours.

“Doing it alone all the time, you don’t get the same gratification,” Scholz says, a tattooed spider lurking beneath his left eye. “It’s mentally taxing to be in a car five to 10 hours alone and then go into some place where no one knows you. Dude, I played to people getting math tutored.”

And so Scholz recruited a new band (with bassist Jared Cooper and drummer Mike McGuiness), plugged his guitar back in, and here he is with Mercy Music’s just-released debut, “When I Die, I’m Taking You With Me,” a radio-ready yet punchy and real, straight-up rock record.

The album begins with a question.

“Is this my final stand?” Scholz asks early on opener “Repeat,” spending the next 30 or so minutes providing the answer: an emphatic “no,” delivered with heightened urgency from one track to the next.

From the raw-voiced “Pretend,” to anti-anthem “Painless,” where Scholz’s guitar buzzes like a downed power line, to spare, tender hymnal “The Sun Follows You,” “Die” is posited on seeing things through a fog of doubt and anxiety.

“A lot of the time, I’m like, ‘What am I still doing this for?’ ” Scholz says. “It starts to wear on you a little bit. But, in the same respect, (the desire) doesn’t go away.”

He’s been doing so for well more than a decade now, first with punks Absent Minded and then with Lydia Vance, a band who channelled Brit pop influences through American pop punk and ended up getting a demo deal with Atlantic Records.

Then there was Deadhand, which was the sound of Scholz’s teeth gnashing in time with a whiplash beat.

It was while touring solo that Scholz became comfortable putting his voice and lyrics upfront in his music, and this is what ties the old Mercy Music to the new: While the sound is more muscular and fleshed out, the candid nature of the songs, the honest way in which Scholz addresses the uncertainty and struggle of what he’s chosen to do with his life remains intact.

Scholz doesn’t know exactly where this journey will take him or his band, and that’s exactly what makes it worth traveling to begin with.

“It’s exciting,” he says of this new stage in Mercy Music’s development. “And I’m scared. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.” - Las Vegas Review-Journal


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