Who you cover says a lot about you.
A pivotal moment in my Dale Earnhardt Jr Jr obsession occurred when I heard their electro-silken version of The Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows.” What struck me about the cover wasn’t the degree of difficulty (though it’s true that the original is a musical beast that’s said to have taken 23 musicians and 20 takes to bring down). Nor was it the considerable chutzpah it requires to reimagine one of the most revered songs of all time. What drew me in was the sense of adventure I gleaned from Dale Earnhardt Jr Jr’s recording. In context with their elaborate marketing persona and DIY showmanship, it felt like their cover of “God Only Knows” was channeling the creative spirit that The Beach Boys had in droves — a drive that helped them expand the general sandbox in which future pop musicians could play.
Their rendition turns the song’s message of solipsistic safety on its head, with haunting arpeggiated guitar notes and tense atmospherics that make privacy seem anything but secure. In doing so, they cut to the core of the song, defining it by its opposite while simultaneously maintaining its exquisite beauty. It’s an impressive feat — one that acted as my very first impression of Mercies as a band — and I’ve since found that their original music bears the same bold signature.
In just the 5 songs that comprise The Ballet EP, which is described on Soundcloud as “built around a piece written for the Charlottesville Ballet Company,” you can find the depth of sweeping instrumental songs, the sweetness of tightly arranged harmonies, the darkness of unsettling lyrics, the warmth of major chords strummed on an acoustic guitar… all placed next to one another in a wide-ranging statement of creative confidence. The scope of the EP and its diverse offerings point to a willingness to push outward and explore boundaries, qualities that make a band genuinely fun to follow, and I can’t wait to find out which envelope they’ll push next.
You can find an immediate answer to that very question tonight at The Canal Club, as they’re headlining a four-band bill that includes a personal favorite of mine, The Trillions, as well as The Kindling Kind and Brother Bill. Check out Mercies’ “In My Room” cover and their like-titled original “In Your Mind” below, click here to snag The Ballet EP from iTunes, and follow this link to get your ticket for tonight’s show.