We are big fans of the tropical and especially the balmy here at London in Stereo HQ. But the heat and humidity of Florida in August is a killer. Fact. Which can serve as the only explanation for why the 4AD-signed band Merchandise have wisely decided to flee the southern hotbox and migrate to London next month.
To be fair, the extraordinary allure of the Visions festivals on Saturday, August 8, doesn’t hurt either. And it will be hot, hot, hot in Hackney instead – thanks to the scorching talent spread across all its six stages and six venues, not to mention the spicy chili peppers dished out from its array of street food trucks.
Merchandise – like their fellow 4AD colleagues Camera Obscura – are a willfully eclectic band that have undergone ceaseless revisions and reinventions since they were formed. You can trace the roots to the Florida band back to the city of Tampa in 2008 for the band’s start, seeing them put out numerous records and tapes on indie punk labels as they hit the road and the endless venues on the American underground music scene.
The trio of Carson Cox (vocals/guitar), David Vassalotti (guitar) and Patrick Brady (bass) truly hit their stride with their albums Children of Desire (2012) and Totale Nite (2013), before dropping their magnum opus and 4AD debut, After the End, last year.
And in true DIY punk style, the band self-recorded and produced the record in a house they shared, employing Gareth Jones (Depeche Mode, Grizzly Bear) to help them mix it down – and play up their new interest in the world of pop music.
And before the lads get all sweaty in London, we put Carson under a hot lamp and forced him to betray his five greatest musical influences. Here’s what he coughed to:
“Influences are funny,” he says. “I get stuck in obsessive loops all the time and burn myself on those obsessions.”
“I don’t know if it helps anyone listening to our music [as Merchandise] to know what we actually listen to because most of the time I think it’s kinda far away stuff. I guess deep down it comes out in our records, but it’s best if you be the judge!”
Dusty Springfield – 24 Hours From Tulsa
I love old singers. When I’m not listening to something totally rotten or experimental it’s normally something like this. Dusty is great. Maybe it’s the Bacharach arrangements that got me hooked on her voice, but I go crazy for it. I grew up on old music. I don’t think it’s weird but anytime I try to spin this around most of my friends they hate it or fall asleep. A Girl Named Dusty and The Look of Love are killer records. I’m very into how pop in the 1960s started to get strangely complex. This tune, 24 Hours From Tulsa, is a story about how a girl leaves her steady, traditional seeming partner for a total stranger she meets on her way home. You can believe the Church and status quo of the day thought, songs like this were the reason the youth was becoming so wild.
Beastie Boys – Paul’s Boutique
The Beastie Boys rule. This record is so heavy because they sampled every famous record they could think of and basically got away with it without paying for it. No one knew what sampling was! What a thought. The song writing is great and above a lot of new rap and r’n’b nowadays. The flow of ideas and textures is beautiful. The sense of humour is over the top. I downloaded Egg Man in high school and remembered thinking it was so strange to take such a famous break and rework it – but now I think it’s so smart. This record touches on all points: High Plains Drifter is a super hard track that could have been a hit, but is buried on the record. Hey Ladies is so classic it’s funny to even mention, but it’s true. Pop music keeps coming back to a lot of what’s happening on this record but somehow can’t replicate it its eternal style.
Feederz – Ever Feel Like Killing Your Boss?
This is a great LP from a totally fucked up band, which is hated by just about everyone. It’s famous for just being totally confrontational and it seems to be the answer to the hippie problem in California. I don’t even know what’s true and what’s myth with this record and band, but 1984 is my favourite track despite being hard to pick just one. A lot of the lyrics on this record resonate with me especially as an adult, which is rare with a lot of records I used to spin. This record also makes me sad in a way as it’s a good reminder of how different alternative and punk records used to be. Society seems to be moving more into this new place where alternative culture is bought and sold so cheaply without any regard for where it came from. Sometimes I don’t understand why punk or hardcore seems to be so popular in the internet age, but there’s so few new bands fucking with people or any interest in bands that did radical things. Fashion has taken over I guess and that’s fine. Punk was just meant to be here long enough to burn down. This record is good for that.
Muslimgauze – Baghdad
Muslimgauze has been a favourite of mine for a long time. Our guitarist Dave turned me on to this when we became friends. I’ve been spinning this record a lot since being in Berlin for the past month. Out my window I can hear Turkish music blasting from the street and from the shops so I think it’s triggered in my brain to spin this again as I’ve been fascinated with Middle Eastern and Asian scales and instruments for ages. This record is a perfect mix of music from the west and the east. And it’s another record where sampling is the main instrument, but is approached in a totally different way than most sample-heavy stuff. This record came out after Bryn Jones died, which is sad but also sort of a sign of his power and uniqueness as a producer and artist.
Serge Gainsbourg – Cannabis
I think I talk about Serge in every interview I do, but it’s now become an addiction. Première Blessure is without a doubt a life changing track for me. And some of this record is pretty sloppy, too. The arrangement is ultra-French and the recording is perfectly foggy at parts. I watched the movie but don’t remember what happened because I was really stoned – but it looked great. This one you just have to listen to.