Merlin Wall’s debut EP, Crushin’ From Afar, begins with an undeniable truth. They try to slip it past us with their swirling reverb and a surf pop guise, as they comically inform us, “Everyone you know is gonna die someday.” As if to press their luck, they try for more. “Everyone you know is gonna die in a horrible way.” Merlin Wall, similar to the likes of Woody Allen, is able to bring us so close to the truth about the inevitability of death, while allowing us, with a shrug of the shoulders and a slight smile, to simply keep on listening.
And that’s how fun Crushin’ From Afar really is. One glance at the tracklist and its apparent. With song titles like “Pizza Party,” “Chick Track” or, my personal favorite “Hey Babes,” you get the feeling this band is not aiming to alter your life in any way other than to simply entertain. When I asked the band to talk about about Crushin’ From Afar, they replied, “Our vision was to do for Chicago what Nelly’s Sweat/Suit did for STL, which is to mostly amuse / mildly confuse / give everyone a reason to party.” Put Crushin’ From Afar on at a gathering of friends and you have just that, a reason to party.
With touches of surf pop, Jesus and Mary Chain, and the Ramones, Merlin Wall have created a fun sound that is all their own. It’s drenched in reverb, perhaps more than is tasteful, which is just how I like my reverb. If Phil Spector taught us anything, it’s the beauty in a wall of sound.
Merlin Wall was nice enough to sit down with me, me at my computer and them at theirs, to talk about Crushin’ From Afar, their influences, and their sound. Here ’tis. Catch Merlin Wall this Sunday (3/13) at Empty Bottle. 3 bucks and they go on at 7.
1. Does the name Merlin Wall hold any significance or is it just word play?
-Our friend Marty has a sleep disorder where he falls asleep at parties at a very early hour. It happens so quick it’s like magic! That sleepy moment is when a Marty Party becomes a Merlin Party. So yeah, Merlin is our friend and Merlin Wall sounded cool together as a play on words. Also, we just found out some people are trying to push it as Tim Duncan’s official nickname? It could just be a rumor, but I hear he does play D & D.
2. What were your 3 biggest influences while writing “Crushin’ From Afar?”
-Babes on Bikes
3. You guys have an undeniably west coast sound. How did you attain that being from Chicago?
-With the internet it doesn’t matter where you’re from anymore. Like some of the best tropical blisspop comes from Sweden and that place is usually pretty cold and dreary. We are similarly dreary boys trying to get dreamy. You could bring up escapism, but we’re pretty happy where we are. Of course we still maintain a Chicago aura about us, whether it’s by having big shoulders and a gritty attitude or enjoying the best encased meats (except Wade…he’s vegetarian — and also we don’t have big shoulders we’re all pretty skinny beanstalks trying to get buffffff).
4. What was the last album each band member listened to?
-Derek: Cloud Nothings – Turning On
-Wade: Neu! – Neu!
-Erik: Jackie Wilson – Sweetest Feelin’: The Very Best of Jackie Wilson
-Stu: Fugazi – 13 Songs
5. Was there any type of artistic vision you had for “Crushin’ From Afar” or are they just 6 songs you recorded for an EP?
-Our vision was to do for Chicago what Nelly’s Sweat/Suit did for STL, which is to mostly amuse / mildly confuse / give everyone a reason to party.
6. What part does Chicago play in your music?
-Chicago is in a nice transition period right now and depending on how you look at it it can be a beautiful, sprawling mix of people trying to make their lives better, or it can be another dying midwestern former powerhouse of industry. We don’t think it’s dying at all (even if it seems there’s a lot of shit going down) and we dig contrasts like that. It’s all going to be a lot easier after the Singularity, but until then we’re going to keep making dumb pop songs for this lovely human race.
7. What are your 3 favorite local acts?
8. What can we expect from Merlin Wall in 2011?
-A full-length album and a jump up in wrestling weight class.