The Merks
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The Merks

East Hampton, CT | Established. Jan 01, 2013

East Hampton, CT
Established on Jan, 2013
Band Alternative Rock


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"Artist Spotlight: UConn-based indie rock group The Merks releases EP"

As a band of four best friends and UConn students, The Merks have been pursuing the project for a couple years and recently released their sophomore record, “Live From: Area of Refuge,” a six-song EP composed of polished live performances of their original tracks. It’s raw, tight, masterfully composed and equally melodic as it is poetic.

Their first release was an EP entitled “Pitch Black,” which can be found on Soundcloud.

Conor Phillips, lead vocals and guitar, Nick Claps, lead guitar, Jayson Baker, drums, Ian Schrager, bass, make up the indie rock band The Merks.

I spoke to Conor Phillips and Nick Claps about their experience in the band, how they started as musicians and what they hope to get out of music.

The group had a rough start and organic beginnings, Claps said.

“Conor and I have always loved music so much and when I was a kid I took guitar lessons. Years after I stopped, I picked it up again. I always knew Conor was good at singing because he would sing to the music we listened to without being serious,” Claps said. “I thought we should try just playing cover songs and putting them on YouTube. We did that and decided to try writing our own songs. It was so rough and crappy but turned it around and it was just a new world to us. It completely opened up a new perspective to music and our love for it.”

From day one, their mutual fascination with to music and their adoration towards their favorite artists was the springboard from which they took off. Influences such as The Libertines, Pete Doherty, The Strokes, Julian Casablancas, The Arctic Monkeys, Lou Reed and even Frank Sinatra and Sam Smith have impacted their approach toward songwriting.

Because of the numerous musical inspirations the group takes into account when composing, their sound is an original hybrid that becomes something special and different in of itself. Fans of The Strokes, Young the Giant and The Arctic Monkeys will especially enjoy The Merks’ music.

The rockers have maintained respect towards the craft of songwriting and performing. They honor their musical heroes, but share that same passion towards what they want to do with their own musical endeavors.

“We are pursuing music because, in my opinion, it is our world. I couldn't picture myself investing my time and my life doing anything else. Creating, producing and performing music gives me all the thrills, happiness, and the ability to express myself I could ever ask for. It's just so natural, it's just a part of us,” Claps said.

Adding onto this, Phillips said, “I pursue music because its fun to live in a melodic world. The songs that I play help me live out scenarios in my head. It’s kind of like an internal movie for me.”
The Merks’ music is an outlet as natural as breathing for Phillips and Claps. There are no boundaries when creating—what you hear is an auditory representation of their thoughts, memories and emotions. It’s a snapshot of who they are and where they’ve been.

As ardent performers and touring mates, both agree that some of their best and most ridiculous touring memories have happened on the road to venues in New York City, such as the Bowery Electric and The Bitter End.

Claps recounted their show at the Bowery Electric in NYC, in which they played from 11 to12 p.m., brought all their friends and snuck them in – almost successfully. As they played their last song of “Hold On We’re Going Home” by Drake, the manager kicked all their friends out. Regardless, the venue “actually contacted us a month after asking us to play their because a band cancelled on them,” said Claps.

The road towards chasing their dreams has been uneven, jagged and imperfect to say the least, but that’s what makes The Merks so special—their best memories and inspirations come from the unpredictable aspects of pursuing their art.

They are true soldiers of the music industry, paying homage to the artists that inspired them to pick up an instrument while simultaneously giving people a glimpse into their own unique and colorful minds.

The incredible outlet of creativity and emotional release Phillips and Claps get from their own songwriting/performing is something the band hopes can inspire other people. They can only hope people find the fulfillment and pure joy from music that they experience everyday.
“I hope that people will be inspired to try and write for themselves. All I ever wanted was to create art that people would hear, read and want to do for themselves,” said Phillips.
The Merks’ music can be found on iTunes, Spotify and Soundcloud. - The Daily Campus

"Are Smartphones Ruining the Concert Experience?"

“Simon says this is a fucking rock concert, and shove your phones up your ass!” shouts John O’Callaghan of the Maine, after pausing in the middle of a song to call the audience out for using their phones during the band’s set. Amid a (mostly) cheering crowd, hundreds of fans lower their iPhones in surprise as the band starts back up again. Except, of course, for the fan who kept filming and posted the August 2016 incident on YouTube.

For some concertgoers, having their smartphone out during a concert is an integral part of the experience. They want to capture things as they happen so they can re-watch them later and be in that moment all over again. Others disagree. They think the use of smartphones makes it harder to be in the moment in the first place, and leads to a poorer concert experience overall.

“I feel like a lot of people go to the shows not for the music, anyway,” Conor Phillips, lead singer of the University of Connecticut-based indie-alternative band The Merks, said. “They’re just trying to take pictures proving they were there, watching some celebrity.”

However, a lot depends on who the artist is. The front row at a Justin Bieber concert, for example, is a ticket highly sought after by millions of fans, so it makes sense that someone who managed to get that spot would want to show off their vantage point. Smaller shows are more intimate than seeing famous pop stars at a stadium, though, and it’s easier to engage oneself in that kind of setting.

“When I go to a not-so-popular person like Julian Casablancas from the Strokes, or the Growlers, I don’t videotape that much because I don’t want to miss out on it,” Phillips said.

More than 31 percent of people aged 18-34 said they used their phones for half the time or longer at concerts and other live events they attended, according to a 2015 poll.

Excessive use of smartphones puts distance between the audience member and the performer, and “seemingly goes against the very spirit of the longed-for spontaneity of the rock and roll, EDM, pop, or hip-hop experience,” Roy Trakin argued in an article for

“It’s just gotten to the point where phones and recording are definitely distracting from the concert experience,” Jonathan Compton of the YouTube channel AlbumReviewTV said in a video, noting that at some concerts he has attended he has seen fans film the entire thing. “What did they get? They looked at the concert through a lens, through a viewfinder,” he said.

Fans dance and take pictures with their mobile phones during a free concert by the U.S. electronic band Major Lazer in Havana, Cuba in 2016. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
Fans dance and take pictures with their mobile phones during a free concert by the U.S. electronic band Major Lazer in Havana, Cuba in 2016. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

When at one time performers would look out at the crowd and see thousands of lighters in the air, now that is replaced by a sea of devices. Social media is partially to blame. Today is the age of sharing, and the need to let everyone know “I was there” is a bigger priority for some people than actually being there.

The use of devices during shows doesn’t just affect the person holding it in their hand; it can also impact the experience of others in the crowd, especially at shows with general admission where everyone is standing in the pit on the same level.

UConn senior Lian Kish said she always takes a handful of pictures at concerts, then puts her phone away so she doesn’t disrupt others because she knows how annoying that can be.

“The camera flash is so bad; I’ve been blinded by others’ phones several times,” Kish said. “Some people are more absorbed in filming than with the experience.” She also said that she has seen someone’s phone knocked out of their hands on more than one occasion.

Is taking photos at concerts such a bad thing?

If someone wants to snap a picture or record a performance they paid to see, what’s wrong with that? Filming bits and pieces of a show captures an exciting moment, and gives the viewer something physical to look at later to relieve some of what many call “post-concert depression.”

One of the most common arguments against using phones at concerts is that no one is going to see that video, so why take it?

Well, that’s not always the case.

The Beastie Boys are photographed during the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2006. The Beastie Boys' documentary film "Awesome: I Fuckin' Shot That," is screening at the Festival. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
The Beastie Boys are photographed during the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2006. The Beastie Boys’ documentary film “Awesome: I Fuckin’ Shot That,” is screening at the Festival. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

The Beastie Boys’ 2006 documentary “Awesome; I Fuckin’ Shot That!” is a prime example of the benefits of letting crowd members use devices during the show. The band gave out 50 camcorders to fans at their Madison Square Garden show in 2004 and compiled the resulting footage into an “authorized bootleg.”

“It really is a fans-eye view of a great show and the ultimate testament of the trio’s belief in D.I.Y. empowerment,” Tim Grierson and others write in Rolling Stone’s list of the 40 Greatest Rock Documentaries.

Not everyone can afford to be in that front row at that Justin Bieber concert, or any concert for that matter. Sometimes a ticket costs hundreds of dollars and the only affordable way to see concert footage is after the fact.

Furthermore, many artists are just as prone to using technology during their shows as the audience is, and some integrate that into their performance.

“The Arctic Monkeys have done that, like someone threw their GoPro at the drummer and he played R U Mine with [it] on and threw it back,” Nick Claps, the lead guitarist for The Merks, said.

Brad Paisley takes a selfie with Justin Moore at the Camden, NJ stop of his 2015 Crushin' It tour. Paisley is known for snapping photos and videos during his concerts on his own phone and on fans'. (Photo posted by @ashleyxeliza on Instagram)
Brad Paisley takes a selfie with Justin Moore at the Camden, NJ stop of his 2015 Crushin’ It tour. Paisley is known for snapping photos and videos during his concerts on his own phone and on fans’. (Photo posted by @ashleyxeliza on Instagram)

Brad Paisley is another artist who not only doesn’t seem to mind when fans have their phones out, but in a way encourages it. At Paisley’s concert at UConn this past October, a couple of lucky students in the floor section went home with selfies and videos on their phones that Paisley himself took while onstage. The music video for his song “Today” uses some fan footage from his concerts as well.

Still, many artists don’t like seeing a sea of devices at their shows and have to make a difficult decision: let it slide, or risk upsetting the very people who support their career by asking that no one use their phones.

“I think artists have a right to say how they feel about what happens in their space,” Kish said, but she doesn’t think the performer can really control how their fans use devices they paid for, at shows they paid to go to.

The Maine’s John O’Callaghan is clearly rather adamant that constant device usage can detract from the experience of a live concert, but also understands why some people do it.

“I would never pay the money to go see a band and then watch the whole thing on a three-inch screen when I can just do that at home,” O’Callaghan said in an episode of his podcast, Mixtape with John O’Callaghan. But, he said, “These people are spending the money to do whatever they want to in that room, so who are you to kind of dictate how they enjoy it?”

Maybe there is a happy medium.

“When I saw some concerts front row, I would hold the camera above my head and watch, so I could actually watch and get the whole show,” Claps said.

A lot of the time, it boils down to artists feeling as though their live performance isn’t appreciated when fans see so much of it through a screen. After all, people enjoyed concerts before everyone had phones in their pockets; is it impossible to do that nowadays?

In an interview with NPR, The Lumineers’ Wesley Schultz said that the same courtesy audience members display at a Broadway show should extend to bands and singers.

“I think of it like, if we had that same attitude and you went to see Hamilton, people would be totally up in arms about that,” Schultz told NPR. “But for some reason it’s completely acceptable to do at shows.”

Phone free zones

Yondr created a locking pouch for people to hold their phones in during performances. (Photo cutest of Yondr)
Yondr created a locking pouch for people to hold their phones in during performances. (Photo courtesy of Yondr)

A special pouch created by the company Yondr may help curb cell phone use at shows for artists who don’t appreciate it. Concert attendees put their phones in a pouch that stays locked when users are within a designated “phone-free zone” at venues. According to the company’s website, Yondr’s purpose is “to show people how powerful a moment can be when we aren’t focused on documenting or broadcasting it.”

The Lumineers are one of several musical groups that have test-run this technology at their shows.

“That’s cool, whatever they want to do. As long as you tell your fans that, who are paying $100 to come see you,” Phillips said.

Kish agrees. “It’s okay, as long as I’m still allowed to have my phone on me,” she said.

In regards to seeing people record at his own band’s gigs, Claps said, “It’s pretty dope. I just think it’s cool that they’re actually doing that.”

Claps has a point, and sometimes, especially for up-and-coming musicians, the audience filming and posting clips on social media can help build a fan following. After all, a crowd with their phones out isn’t always what it seems.

“If you just see my phone, you might be like ‘oh, she’s just texting,’ but really I was putting it on SnapChat to promote,” Katharine Morris, a UConn student, said.

“It’s kind of flattering in a way,” Phillips said. “I mean, I record all my favorite bands when I go to see them.”

Social media sharing

In today’s day and age, social media is the easiest way for musicians to expand their fan base. To do that, it is equally important that fans post and re-post an artist’s content as it is for that artist to promote themselves. It’s almost more impressive when others share the music, because that proves that it is good enough to warrant spreading the word.

“When you post something on your social media, it’s not a local thing,” Kevin Preast, senior vice president of event management at Amalie Arena, told Craglin for the Tampa Bay Times. “When you tweet it, it can be seen by anybody in the world, and it can be a reflection on [artists] in the global marketplace. And they’re very cognizant of that.”

So, there are pros and cons of cell phone and camera use at concerts. However, while there are certainly some measures a band or artist can take to try and stop their fans’ incessantly filming, it is nearly impossible to completely do away with handheld technology at shows.

A 2015 study revealed that 64 percent of Americans were in possession of a smartphone. Considering this statistic and the fact that last year North Americans alone collectively spent almost $7 billion on concert tickets, smartphones may be a facet of concert culture that all artists and attendees have to accept, regardless of their personal opinions. - Caitlin Culligan


Still working on that hot first release.



The Merks are an indie/alternative band. Influences range from Frank Sinatra, Lou Reed, to The Strokes, Julian Casablancas, and more. We have performed shows for years in CT. At venues such as Toads Place and the Webster hall. We have performed in NYC and opened for the band "We the Kings" at Clemson University with a 3,000 student attendance. 

Band Members