The Merrier have released their new album titled ‘Cyclical’. The way we make music is so often defined by the technology of our time. Early blues records sound like old reel-to-reel machines. Sgt Pepper is the sound of four and eight track tape machines getting strung together. And The Merrier’s newest record, Cyclical, sounds like the field recordings of the age of influence – the grainy, glitchy bedroom pop of the Covid era.
The Merrier is the brainchild of Jake Stephens, but is certainly not a one-person enterprise. Stephens assembled a cross-country team of artists including Ponz, the Angel, and Talor Smith and countless others. Stephens was inspired by the show Adventure Time to revisit some older ideas and create short, no experimental songs out of them.
And the result is an astounding collection of like-hearted songs that don’t quite fit neatly into the “pop” category. With genres like dreampop, bedroom-pop, and hyper-pop all represented here, Cyclical never feels as though its trying to be anything pretentious or say anything at all about pop music. It’s just a fun collection of songs.
And with a different voice or collection of voices for each songs, the record also comes across like a cast recording of a film or play. With Stephens citing Adventure Time as a big influence, this ensemble really manages to capture the feel of a group of friends capturing moments of effortless collaboration. While a song like “Gold” is a perfect indie pop song, the group switches up the formula with the hyper-pop leaning “Vaminos.” Complete with the glitches and digital sounds of the internet era, Cyclical could almost be thought of as digital field recordings.
On “Venus,” The Merrier sings, “Everyone wants to look through the past / We’re correcting everything that lasts.” It’s a perfect summation of our lives seen thru the lens of social media. And this outfit of digital curators has managed to create something that feels very, very human. You won’t hear a better summation of digital humanity than this!!
What were the challenges you faced with collaboration in the digital landscape?
Organization. when I started the first demos with the merrier it was back in 2015 in college. over quarantine I dug them up and started working on them but I had files all over my computer. then on top of that my computer couldn’t handle all the tracks on most songs, so I would mix vocals / drums / instruments in separate sessions then bounce more consolidated files. whole thing was fucked really.
Was it difficult to make the songs sound cohesive? Or was that even something you were concerned with?
I didn’t even consider that aspect when recording and writing. I wanted to cover different micro genres on this. The big thing was having no rules, or guidelines to follow. Adventure time was a huge influence and I really feel like the music in that show is all over the place, that’s what I went for. I think using the same exact gear for each song gave it the cohesion.
You mentioned that some of these songs started in 2015. Did it feel good to find a purpose for old ideas? I imagine it felt a little like rehousing an old houseplant.
Yea ‘Venus’ was a song from high school! it felt amazing to get that one out. cathedral was another song I wrote back in 2015 in college, it was totally different and a lot more orchestral based. it was really hard revisiting that one and I almost scrapped it cuz I had totally forgotten how to play it once I came back to it in 2020. 5 years is a long time to remember a demo you made, but it was worth re-learning for sure.
Where do you see this project going in the future? Do you see this ensemble collaborating again, or are you looking for new people?
I would love to have a real studio to do this in, nothing crazy, but something where I can walk in and just record. it would be great to do some live session type of thing with all of the merrier guests, I went through a quick period where I was planning that but it fell through. it’ll happen one day.
I can say that a few guests will definitely be returning, but I’ll definitely have new faces. ep2 is going to be a bit more emo and slower, more guitars and live drums. so I’ve hired some great drummers in the scene to help out with that.