Mermaids
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Mermaids

Atlanta, Georgia, United States | INDIE

Atlanta, Georgia, United States | INDIE
Band Pop Punk

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Despite multiple lineup changes resulting in a live-show lull that only recently came to an end with a performance for this year’s Little Five Fest, Mermaids’ ship is still afloat. In fact, Nylon recently featured the surf-tinged outfit in an online interview segment.

Pop-rocker Hayley Williams of the band Paramore talks with designer Rachel Antonoff in the video, which is a Fashion Week-related bit about Antonoff’s creepy inspirations for her runway show. The tune of choice is “Holiday,” a sunny cut from Mermaids’ debut LP, Tropsicle, released late last year on hometown indie label Pretty Ambitious Records.

Marcela Gonazalez, co-owner of Pretty Ambitious, told us the band is “back in full-effect.” They even have a new drummer, Jared Pepper, who just wrapped up a stint with the Back Pockets. Catch Pepper and the rest of the Mermen when they play their next show at the Basement on Saturday, November 5. - Creative Loafing Atlanta


The cover of Tropsicle contains a weird, collage-like image of summertime pictures from long ago. The sounds within the album perfectly fit this image. The 11 tracks make for a hazy summer sound that blurs the lines between ’50s doo-wop and ’60s poppy psychedelia. There’s a bit of surfy reverb thrown in, and the fitting “ohhs” and “ahhs” seal the deal. This might just be the most interesting and authentic summer album to come out in a hot minute.

As if to stay ahead of the pack and move one decade further with their influences, Mermaids have interpreted everything in a quasi-punk fashion. On tracks like “Make Believe,” “Holiday,” and “Frozen in Time,” the band channels a Buzzcocks-meets-Beach Boys sound. Things get a little weird on tracks like “Whirlpool” and “Everybody’s Acting Like an Animal,” but it’s a cool, catchy kind of weird that makes this band even more interesting. Tropsicle is not easily labeled.

At the center, “Vacation” perfectly tempers the album’s faster moments with a slower surf ballad. Here, lead singer Matt McCalvin sings, “I’m feeling alright, and I know that you will too/ When we’re sailing around on the deep sea blue.” This is where it gets rooted deep. Certainly, it’s this beautiful simplicity that serves as the glue for entire record. (Pretty Ambitious)
- Performer Magazine


With indie rock’s recent embrace of 1950s aesthetics, a full-on embrace of doo-wop was inevitable. It’s there right at the beginning of “We’ll See You Soon,” on the Mermaids’ chipper debut album, “Tropsicle” (Pretty Ambitious), scraped high harmonies backed by a strutting guitar line. From the increasingly fertile Atlanta rock scene, Mermaids play jangly surf and garage-influenced music with a sharp sense of melody. Songs like “Holiday” and “Whirlpool” are so faithful to the heritage that they verge on novelty. But the band’s idea of beach-pop is flexible and occasionally subversive. “Vacation” has a Beach Boys melody with fatty guitar reverb lifted from a surfsploitation film. “We took a bus to the shore and stole a ship,” Matt McCalvin sings, “We threw the captain over and on the crew we emptied a clip.” - The New York Times


The sun-bleached kerrang that flares up during the first few moments of Mermaids' debut album, Tropsicle, sets the scene for beach-party fun — the kind that glares off of every gorgeous, upper-register male harmony heard throughout the record. The song is called "Holiday," and it is almost opulent to a fault. But for every ray of sunshine that illuminates the album, there is just as much darkness. "There's a lot of depressing, personal shit going on in some of these songs," says singer, guitarist and founding Mermaid Matt McCalvin (formerly of Gringo Star).

When he sings, "Since you've been gone I can see right behind your lies, and those eyes are telling me that soon it will catch up with you," on "Make Believe," it illustrates the heart-wrenching emotional lows wrapped up in doo-wop and '60s rock 'n' roll highs. But it's a world apart from the ramshackle sound that put Atlanta on the indie map just a few years ago.

In Atlanta's post-Rob's House Records music scene, cut-and-dry garage punk has been strip-mined and left for dead. But there isn't much about the smooth dynamic between McCalvin and lead guitarist Josh Hughes that's cut-and-dry. Rather than retread tried-and-true riffage and sneer, Mermaids dusted off deeper grooves: Del Shannon's "Runaway," Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers' "Why Do Fools Fall in Love," and the orchestral melancholy of the Beach Boys' "Wouldn't It Be Nice" are all woven seamlessly into Tropsicle's nostalgia trip. Not only has that retro sound garnered Mermaids attention as the city's new agents of post-garage, it also landed them on a record label launched specifically to release Mermaids' music.

McCalvin and Hughes, along with Noah Adams (bass), Sam Wagstaff (keys) and Ryan Fetter (drums), defy the raw, noisy nature of the genre. "Is it a typical garage rock record? No," McCalvin says dryly. "Some of the songs have as many as 37 tracks to them, and we recorded it using Logic 8 — there's nothing lo-fi about it."

The album was recorded using legendary producer Phil Spector's "wall of sound" approach in the truest sense. "We recorded each part on its own, every guitar, every hand clap and every overdub, but it's all arranged to come across as being very simple," says Abby Go Go drummer Ian McDonald, who produced/engineered Tropsicle in his converted attic studio.

Songs such as "Frozen in Time," Vacation" and "Make Believe" unfold with a crisp sparkle — despite being steeped in layers of reverb — and sound strikingly familiar in an oldies-radio sense, but are still played with a punk velocity.

"Everybody's Acting Like an Animal" is the album's punk anthem, but there's no screaming on the song — or throughout the album, for that matter. The subtlety on display, matched by its quick pace, takes shape as a catchy and truly original spin on a heavily abused source of inspiration; and it has gained notice.

Tropsicle was released on LP and digitally in October by Pretty Ambitious Records, an offshoot of local roots rock label Lower 40 Records. "We met Mermaids when they played SMKA's Putting the A in Austin party at SXSW this year and instantly became fans," says Kerry Gibson, who runs Pretty Ambitious with Marcela Gonzalez. "When we came back we were going to their shows and listening to the tracks on MySpace on repeat. One day in June, Ryan asked me, 'What should we do next? I wish you guys could put out our record.' Two days later, we all sat down to hash out the details. Two days after that we were handing out 4-track promo CDs."

That promo CD led to a 7-inch featuring the songs "Holiday" b/w "Whirlpool," followed by the album. "Their music was very refreshing for Atlanta at the time," says Gibson.

Whether dwelling on darkness or sunshine-pop, Mermaids are a galvanizing bunch, and with Tropsicle, their not-so-typical take on garage, punk and doo-wop has an outlet to reach far beyond Atlanta. - Creative Loafing Atlanta


Atlanta is the new musical mecca, so stop pointing your prayer rugs towards Brooklyn, aim them southerly instead, and start praying three times a day to Mermaid’s home town. Very little is known about Mermaid apart from their city of origin, and the fact that they only have 316 fans on Myspace, even though they are making some of the best retro rock n’ roll-laden songs in all of Indiedom.
It’s bands like Mermaids that are the reason that barn animal-themed blogs exist. Both of the tracks below are certifiable gold, and hopefully these tracks, as well as the rest of their uncatalogued back catalog of frantic 50’s dance tunes won’t go unnoticed for long. - Seizure Chicken - Mark Goldstein


Mermaids were next and they stole the show. Every good thing I had heard about this slightly spacey, sorta garagely, and definitely surfy combo is true. They mix the experience of former Gringo Star member Matt McCalvin, Joey from Knife and the 4th Ward Daggers, and former Barberries drummer Ryan Fetter with a couple of really young guys who are also members of The Clap - 7' Atlanta - Bobby Moore


Mermaids headlined – I believe they said it was their first ever headlining show. Good for them. They have the potential to become one of my favorite local acts. They play surfy, jangly garage-rock that’s catchy and just weird enough to be interesting. They’ll be back at Star Bar on June 26th for a stacked bill that also includes Howlies and The Coathangers (and Balkans if you’re into that). Check out their stuff here. - Little Advances Blog


Mermaids headlined – I believe they said it was their first ever headlining show. Good for them. They have the potential to become one of my favorite local acts. They play surfy, jangly garage-rock that’s catchy and just weird enough to be interesting. They’ll be back at Star Bar on June 26th for a stacked bill that also includes Howlies and The Coathangers (and Balkans if you’re into that). Check out their stuff here. - Little Advances Blog


Discography

Holiday / Whirlpool 7" Single - Pretty Ambitious
Tropsicle 12" Full Length LP - Pretty Ambitious

Photos

Bio

Mermaids may seem like the new kids on the block, but their individual musical history and various side projects show their extensive talent and love of the Atlanta scene. With former and current projects including The Fixed Focus (featuring members of Black Lips), The Back Pockets and Gringo Star these guys have influences that make their own blend of 1950s surf punk rock so captivating.

Deemed as one of Atlanta’s best up and coming bands by alt weekly Creative Loafing, Mermaids is a band that has seen a lot of things in a very short amount of time. Founding member, Matt McCalvin (formerly of Gringo Star), along with Noah Adams and Sam Wagstaff (The Clap) have been through drummers and ups and downs to say the least. Mermaids, whose music is described as their own mix of tropical-punk rock-doo-wop, have been in a whirlwind since forming in January 2010. After touring the east coast multiple times, releasing their debut LP (Tropsicle) and rearranging their lineup, the guys have enjoyed national praise from press (NY Times) and radio (CMJ Top 100). Having shared the stage with bands such as Atlas Sound, Fresh & Only’s, Thee Oh Sees, Ty Segall, Carnivores, Howlies, The Coathangers and Gentleman Jesse and His Men everywhere from house shows to bars to warehouses; Mermaids have not stopped making music that people love.