INTERVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN
Describing themselves as “part Simple Minds, part Tears For Fears, part Joy Division“, Manchester five-piece Mercury Machine celebrate their 1980’s influences with a dark electro-rock sound that also fits comfortably within the contemporary music scene.
Currently putting together the finishing touches to an eagerly-anticipated self-titled debut album, the quartet spoke to me about its recording process, what can be expected from that, as well as their journey up to now.
How did the band form?
Our lead singer and chief songwriter, Lee, had a recording studio in a Stockport mill for years. Imagine a mad professor who can’t stop writing all kinds of music, spending all hours of the day in a red brick circular cell, a Mancunian Bach, if you like, just with more ginger hair.
Anyway, during that time, Lee would have parties there and get friends and other musicians to contribute to some of his recordings, and through this process, the seeds of Mercury Machine were formed, and members of the band started to come together.
From where did the name Mercury Machine originate?
Mercury Machine is a reference to the fact that some of the first computers ever made were from Manchester, and the Mercury was one of these computers.
This is important to us, because we’re essentially a band driven by synths, we pride ourselves on our precision and detail, and we also incorporate a lot of tech in our recordings and live shows.
It’s meant as a reflection of our approach to recording music, our pride for Manchester, and all the things the city has achieved in the past.
What would you say was your approach to songwriting?
Fundamentally, Mercury Machine is a vehicle for creative expression, with the songwriting aspect being key to this.
Lee creates his ideas locked away in a world of his own, as it gives him a space to step away from the world free from it’s stresses, and the fact he suffers from autism means that songwriting is a refuge in which he can express himself freely, with the goal always being about a search for the combinations which can truly make a catchy song.
The different instruments and parts take on personalities of their own, and the fun is in combining these together in an orderly yet creatively free manner.
Attention to detail is always key. The other members of the band function as supporters and collaborators in this creative expression, to put it in Lee’s words, “I would have never made it out of the studio without the guys encouragement and support to release this stuff and play live.”
It’s also worth saying it’s not just the guys you see on stage who contribute in some way, there are many players, technical-wise, and more recently in regards to our video outputs. Mercury Machine has a community of contributors.
What inspires the band lyrically?
Mercury Machine strive to talk about real issues. We are all experienced musicians, and have been around the block, so we try to represent this in our songwriting.
This means we purposefully tackle big subjects such as mental health, life losses, and real life issues, but also we have a positive message about overcoming life’s challenges.
The band acts as a place for us to come together, create, and look forward, we want it to function in the same way for our fans as it does for us.
You recently brought out a new single, entitled ‘The Lost’. How has the reaction been to the track so far?
It’s funny we were abroad when ‘The Lost’ was released, so we hadn’t heard or seen much of the reaction, but it’s certainly a different response from ‘Aurora’, our first single.
‘The Lost’ is a lot darker and rockier, this has meant people have seen us in a totally different way. The exciting thing for us is that we know what’s to come, and there are so many different sides to the band’s music yet to be revealed.
And I’ve heard that the band are currently putting together a self-titled debut album. How has the recording process been for that up to now?
Most of the work on our album is done. It’s been a labour of love, passion, precision, and effort. There’s still some final mixing to be done, but we think we are sitting on something quite special. We’re just really excited to see how the single releases are received, and then move forward and grow things from there.
What can be expected from the album?
Well, earlier on, we said we’re constantly searching for songs that connect with people and discovering what it is that makes a song stick in a person’s head. We’ve got these catchy tunes, but they have depth and meaning, we’ve also got influences from a lot of different places, so there’s a real diversity in there. Expect great things!
And when are you aiming to get that released by?
The plan is to release in early 2019.
The band are active on the Manchester live music scene, having performed at many of the city’s venues. How is the overall live experience for you all?
We have a big live sound. This is where all members of the band help push Mercury Machine further. We have had a great reaction so far, and each gig is another learning point for us.
We have big plans for our coming live shows, we want to involve more tech, lighting and visual aesthetics, as we are really passionate about live performance, and aim to truly entertain people.
Lee and Gav, you played in Alone, a melodic indie outfit that had some success in the 1990’s. How has the music industry changed for you both from then to now?
It’s easier than ever to connect with the people that appreciate your music these days, you don’t have to wait for that big company to come along and hand you a record contract anymore, it’s pretty much something you can do as a team, as long as you work hard enough, and have a great sound that people can connect with.
And finally, what is the long-term aim of Mercury Machine?
We want Mercury Machine to be a band that draws in a community of fans, collaborators, and supporters who take away something positive from us. This may be as simple as watching and appreciating a live show, being affected by our lyrics, or even participating in a creative or other manner.
Mercury Machine is the mothership, and all are welcome to climb aboard.
‘THE LOST’, THE LATEST SINGLE FROM MERCURY MACHINE, IS AVAILABLE NOW, AND THEIR SELF-TITLED DEBUT ALBUM WILL BE RELEASED EARLY NEXT YEAR.
FURTHER INFO ON THE BAND CAN BE FOUND THROUGH THE FOLLOWING SITES: