Sydney trio Mere Women have been rockin’ my world of late with their post-punk tunes. Guitarist-vocalist Flyn Mckinniery gives us a little insight into what’s been happening in the Mere Women camp: a skateboarding accident, cancelled shows, a festival appearance, a film clip shot solely on an iPhone…
I’m curious as to how you came to call your band, Mere Women?
FLYN MCKINNIREY: Before we were officially a band, Amy (vox/keys) and I had been toying around with a few below-par name ideas which mostly involved “women” or “mountain”. We knew we couldn’t be called “women” for obvious reasons (if not so obvious there is a band called “Women” already). Mountain women/woman seemed a little too robust for our tunes so we were a little stuck until…one day at a friend’s BBQ I happened to be chatting to another muso about what I had been up to musically since my previous band had parted ways. I began by eagerly telling him who I was playing with Amy Wilson (previously of Little a) and Katrina Byrne (previously of The Thaw) only to receive a raised eyebrow and a wry smile while nudging his mate…. “So you’re playing in a chick band!?” That’s where Mere Women came from.
Recently Mere Women played at TINA! What were the highlights of TINA for you? For folks that have never been to TINA how would you describe it?
FM: Sadly we just ducked in and ducked out for the TINA weekend. Didn’t really get to experience the festival at all. Newcastle in general is a really interesting place though with all sorts of music and arts going on throughout the year. Our drummer Kat used to live there so we’d stay up after a show, eat good food in the morning and take a look around the ‘Renew Newcastle’ galleries and shops. There’s so much great stuff going on up there.
It was one of your first shows back as, you hurt yourself on a skateboard in August and had to cancel some shows; what initially happened with the skateboard incident and how are you doing now?
FM: So I received a brand spanking new skateboard for my birthday, obviously I decide this is my new main mode of transport….even in the dark, to the pub. It was just a case of over confidence and hitting a patch of grass way too fast. I went to a show that night to see ‘Terrible Truths’ and realised later on that my arm wasn’t too flexible. Doc-Surgery-Ultimate hurt-Slow Recovery. We’ve started playing again now although there are a few songs I can’t quite commit to. I guess there was some built up creativity by staring at my guitar all day because we’ve written a whole bunch of new songs!
Earlier this year you released album Old Life, now that it’s been released for a few months and you’ve played it live since, what are your thoughts and feelings on the work?
FM: We’re all still pretty happy with the work we did for Old Life in general. I go through phases of loving/hating it as an album. I think I can see the value in it mostly when I’m listening to it like I didn’t participate in its creation. As an outsider. When I listen to it as myself – a member of the band – I tend to pick out all of the little things that could have been done differently or just question it in general. We’re still enjoying playing the songs on Old Life live and that’s really important to us.
Who are the songwriters that inspire you? What is it about them that resonates so strongly?
FM: People like Bradford Cox (Deehunter/Atlas Sound) and John Maus inspire the shit out of me purely because they make a song so brilliant, starting with a very simple idea. I guess we try to roll with that notion of keeping the songs quite simple yet effective. Sometimes that doesn’t necessarily come off as we intended, due to our “micro attention spans” as a reviewer put it. Tone and rhythm are hugely important to me as a songwriter, some of our songs are written purely based on a guitar/keyboard sound or drumbeat. The newer stuff definitely intends to keep the listener happy with a more sustained original idea or beat that they can move to.
The clip for track Amends was made on an iPhone; what sparked the idea to do it like that?
FM: Well it was free. With the newer phones, as I’m sure you know, the quality of video is incredible so we couldn’t grasp at the idea of paying at least $500 for something we could do ourselves. Utilising a wonky tripod, some handsome men, the Mere Women dog and a bit of home editing from Amy… There we had it!
Do you think it’s important for bands to make film clips these days? Is the process an extension of your art and something you enjoy?
FM: It honestly feels as if a clip has become less relevant than say, 15 years ago when you taped rage and watched it over and over because that was your main source of new tunes. I think with the reliance on certain media devices and the abundance of readily available material, less emphasis is put on musicians to have a clip. That said, it is a great way to express how you think your music should be portrayed visually – hence the darkness of the clip. The fact that it’s shot at a buddies house where we spend a lot of time is reflective of the influence this place and the people who live there have had in the creation of ‘Old Life. It gives the song, and even the album, a visual context. If done well, I think a clip can be extremely effective. Take Kirin J Callinhan’s clip for “Way to War”- I think it got people talking about and listening to the song way more than if the clip didn’t exist.
It’s strange to talk about this actually, because the other day we were linked to a Youtube clip made by someone in Europe to our song “Indians”. The clip takes the name of the song a little too literally – it actually depicts American Indians performing traditional dance – but it makes me wonder why someone would make a clip for someone else (for free) that they have no personal connection with. It does feel pretty special when people put in the effort to create something to a backdrop of your own work.
Tell us about the cover art of Old Life; what’s its significance?
FM: The cover image was shot by a brilliant Sydney-based lad, Lucien Alperstein. This image of a bunch of terraces in Surry Hills just made us feel like were voyeurs, looking down into our own lives. We honestly don’t have a great backstory to the band – we just haunt the inner west warehouses playing/rehearsing and living in Sydney. This is why we thought the image was perfect for the album. Its subject matter is something you see every day but it’s taken from a strange perspective. I mean, there’s nothing special about Mere Women as people – we all work, we’re all healthy and we are all generally happy. For us, it’s all about finding interesting things amongst the mundane and that’s what this image captured for us.
Old Life was released on Tenzenmen; are there any Tenzenmen bands you feel an affinity with/for?
FM: Shaun has been around the traps for a while now and has seen and been involved with all of our previous bands. Tenzenmen doesn’t really feel like a label as such. I mean he helps you out financially but he doesn’t really gain too much in the end. I think he honestly does do it for the love of it. So when someone does something for the love of it, especially a record label, then that means he puts out a lot of records which means a lot of bands. So with the amount of bands he has on his roster it’s hard to gain relationships based on the idea of “label mates”. We are by chance very close with Hira Hira and are good friends with members of Little Shadow and Make More. I think that Shaun’s created a really significant international punk label through his love of it all and his keen ear for music.
What are some things that Mere Women are passionate about?
FM: Apart from the obvious it’s pretty safe to say we are all very passionate foodies. Having travelled far and wide individually and together we all feel we have an international bud, so if all other conversation ideas fail, food is always there.
Dogs are another Mere Women favourite, well for me and Amy anyway. I think Kat prefers not to own an animal. It’s really interesting owning a pup. There’s the moment you realise you’re one of those people that talk a hell of a lot about your dog. Like it’s your baby. When you rock up to the park for birthdays and people look really disappointed when they don’t see you walking the mongrel (and probably only invited you to play with him) you realise that these furry little guys are pretty important.
Tea is another biggie, Amy being a Tea ambassador and all it’s a high priority in her life. I know she can’t start the day without an Irish Brekkie and all winter our rehearsal space is filled with the scent of Mint Mix.
What’s your favourite album you’ve heard that has been released this year?
FM: As soon as I read this question I was baffled. It has been such a strong year for music, of which I’m still sifting through. The best album I’ve heard in full for 2012 is Boomgates “Double Natural”. They create that no frills music I really only started appreciating 5 years ago. Before that, the music had to have something that grabbed my attention, something tricky. Now the Aussie twang of Brendan Humphreys backed by the sweet innocence of Steph Hughes suffices. The new Slug Guts is friggen great as well Both of these records had a lot to do with a friend of ours, Joey Alexander, the Brisbane prince. On an international scale you can’t really go past Frank Ocean, Right?
What are Mere Women focused on next?
FM: We have already written a few new songs since the record was released, none of which we have played live yet. The new songs are a little more focused but not too far from the sound of “Old Life” and we hope to work with our man Tim Carr again to record by summer’s end. Whether that is a full length album or not is yet to be determined. ‘Old Life’ is set for release in New Zealand in the coming months and we will follow that up with a couple of shows in February over there. We’re also in the midst of sorting out a U.S release which will hopefully happen sooner rather than later. 2013 will be a good year.