Album Premiere: MERK - 'Safe In Sound'
Stream Safe In Sound exclusively on office below.
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Stream Safe In Sound exclusively on office below.
For the music industry, the internet era has lead to an insurmountable increase in artists. Music-making is more accessible and attainable than ever before. And while this creative democracy has done wonders to diversify what listeners are hearing, experiencing, and being exposed to, it alternatively floods the musical marketplace with so much talent that it gets difficult to discover, and even define, where and when quality artistry arises. One reaction is the ever-increasing plethora of genre terminology—indie, rock, you name it. Underneath its intricate umbrella, each genre now holds hundreds of sub-genres that young and eager musicians are aiming to emulate. It's a genre trap.
In December, office chatted with Virginia Beach-born Turnover and Quebec-hailing Men I Trust during their North America tour, which has since wrapped. These two bands stand out starkly especially amidst the genre conversation, because they have little to no interest in genre classification. Each group has been labeled by music media as everything from indie to electronic, to hardcore and pop—and they have shifted significantly in their sound since their respective starts: with Turnover softening the edges of their music, making their way closer towards what would be considered indie rock from their first “pop punk” releases, and with Men I Trust incorporating guitar as well as other elements to their more classic electronic sound for a gentler energy overall.
There is no guiding force telling these musicians to change their sound to stay relevant. This has been organic, a flow founded in their personal journeys and environments. It hasn’t been brash or overwhelming—their core sentiment remains the same, and the shift was born of organic, environmental roots. Read our chat about staying calm on the road, the benefits of being friends with your bandmates, and getting away from genre below.
Austin, are you on the road right at this moment?
Austin Getz — Yes, I'm currently sitting on a curb outside the wagon at someplace in Lincoln, Nebraska. We played Denver last night. It was great. And now we're on the way to Chicago, going to try to see Queen and Slim in a little bit, and maybe going bowling… Keep it chill.
All good. So I saw you guys when you were in LA, and that was awesome. What's been the best show so far?
AG — Honestly, probably last night. It was so much fun.
Had you guys met before you started the tour? And how?
Emma Proulx— The first time I met Turnover, we were in London. We were opening for them, and we just got along with each other so quickly and so well that we eventually became friends. After, we crossed paths with eachother a couple of times. And eventually, we decided to tour together, because it's always nice to have friends around.
AG — Yeah, we played Coachella this year earlier, and we played some shows around that in Las Vegas and LA.
How do you feel like your bands’ music compliment each other?
EP — I think we both really love what the other band is doing.
AG — Yeah, I think it's good, because the last tour that we did was with Turnstile, which are also our homies. I feel like all the bands on the tour are close enough to where if somebody likes one of the bands, they'll probably enjoy the other bands. But they're also unique enough to where it's not like seeing the same show three times, you know what I mean?
EP — Every band that is playing is listening to this type of music, even if we're not playing the exact same thing. It feels really great.
What would you call that type of music? I know the idea of genre and that specific categorizing is annoying and dated, but—
EP — I hate that question.
That’s kind of why I like asking. It's just my sort of devil’s advocate question.
EP — Yeah, I don't know. I guess people like tagging Men I Trust with the Bedroom sticker. But then again, I don't know. Maybe for me, it's all variation of pop music. I don't know. You would have to tell me.
What do you think Austin?
AG — Yeah, I mean it's really hard for me. I feel like people with Turnover nowadays always just say Indie. But I just hate that word so much.
I was just about to ask if you resent that.
AG — What does it even mean? You know what I mean?
EP — It doesn't mean anything anymore.
Well, I don't know if any genres in general apply anymore. The concept these days is very fluid. Everything's always changing.
AG — That's what I'm saying, especially when all of our records sound pretty different from each other. So now I feel like it's just an ongoing thing. But I saw there was somebody when the record first came out who said, “This new record is hella ‘soul pop.’” And I think that was pretty cool, probably just because I've been listening to a lot of soul. But yeah, I don't know. It's hard to say. Sometimes when someone asks, I just say, "Sure, it’s soft rock.”
EP — I don't know if it's a healthy way of seeing your music. it's so hard, because you don't play music to fit into a genre.
It can be limiting to put yourself in a category. In any industry. So is it been stressful being on tour?
EP — No, it's not stressful. I think we're at like at this stage where we just really enjoy being with each other, and we know how to take downtime. And we're there to have fun.
AG — Yeah, Turnover has been a band for 10 years this year. We've been touring full time since 2012 and, for so many years, just in a van. The band has honestly taught me to deal with it in a good way, because it's like, "Alright, cool, there's a problem. Well, we have to solve it, because the show must go on." It's just another thing to add to the to-do list. There's something that's so comforting about being with a group of friends and your support system, because you know when you're in the band, the people that are with you in the band are so close to you, and you're all problem solving together.
What do you guys do for fun while on tour?
EP — What are we doing, Austin?
AG — We're dancing to deep house, on the bandwagon and wearing cowboy hats.
Oh, that's always fun.
EP — Yeah. We have cowboy hats. We have all sorts of hats. Austin, you have a Christmas hat that you put on stage.
AG — [Laughs] This is so funny... What do you do for fun? We have a lot of different hats.
Yeah, I'm definitely going to keep this part as a centerpiece of the article. Touring together, are there good crowds?
EP — Of course.
AG — Yeah, amazing. Honestly, this has probably been my favorite tour that we've ever done. I feel like just from the years I spent just hammering shows out in the van, and no one cared about the band and playing for 50 kids a night, I have this eternal expectation of the show sucking. So I still show up to the show, and I'm like, "Oh yeah, it might not be a good show tonight, whatever." And just every single night on the tour, it's been a pleasure to watch the bands.
EP — I always remember the first day. We have never been signed under a label, so I remember being stressed thinking each show was going to be 30 people or 40 people, yet every night when I see like full rooms, I'm never going to get used to it. And I don't want to get used to it.
Whether you’re fresh off the runway or fresh off the subway—or frantically doing both—a good jam can ease the tension. And in honor of NYFW, we're happy to prescribe you our first segment of office.mp3: a mindfully-curated playlist with sounds that’ll help get you through the couture mayhem that is fashion week. Filled with a range of throwbacks like Rihanna's "Phresh Out the Runway" and Arca's "Ass Swung Low" to some newer bops, this playlist has your back while you're navigating from show to show—so give it a listen.
And a one, and a two, and one two three four...
No matter what kind of song she makes, Dai consistently delivers cheeky, uplifting bars. The queen of Queens acknowledges her role as one of the queens of New York’s underground. But now she is ready for the international spotlight.
Her new album, Bite The Burger, builds on everything she has made thus far. She is more confident than ever, keeping her signature playfulness. This energy shines on the bouncy singles “Salty,” “Flame Emoji,” and “Vitamin P.” Dai Burger puts it best herself on the final track when she commands, “Who gon’ check me boo? I’m downright uncheckable.”
Shirt, and skirt by Junlin He.
In “Salty,” you say you’ve got the recipe. What is it?
It’s a secret recipe! But it’s got some splashes, and dashes, of everything you need! A little sugar, a little spice, a little bit of everything nice—but go easy on the salt, please.
It’s clear from your music that you’re sweet, not salty. It is inclusive—all about everyone enjoying themselves. What keeps you so positive?
I’m just a positive person. I’m an Aquarius. I grew up as an only child, so I’m very outgoing. I want to have fun when I meet new people …because I’ve been alone [for] so long. I like making friends, having parties, and hosting people because I didn’t have that growing up. That makes me more outgoing in the sense of ‘Yeah, everyone come!’ Come one, come all; I want to party with everyone. I’ve gotta keep the positivity flowing.
You give back, and fundraise for causes, too.
Yes! I’m happy to do shows for fundraisers. Recently, I did a show at Mood Ring to raise money for Hope for Pedro—to help fundraise for a friend of mine who was in a tragic accident, to help with his medical bills. They are still accepting love, prayers, and donations. And this weekend, I am one of the headliners for a fundraiser for queer, and trans women of color, with drag acts, and queer performing acts. I gotta show up for all my girls, and all my girls means ALL my girls—and I accept everyone as such.
And you have a charity project called Where My Girls. How is that going?
It’s been going well! We are planning our next trip. A little bit about the project: we bring in young girls from ages 9 to 18, and bring them to my home studio, the Brewery Recording in Brooklyn. We teach them songwriting skills, equipment, how to record, how to manage time. It’s to give back because like I said: growing up I never had someone to show me these things, or let me know that there’s even a future in just being yourself, perfecting who you are, your craft, your hobbies to turn into a future career. They need to know that!
And while people were doing it before, in the past decade or so, there is definitely more room to pave your own way.
The internet has helped and changed everything. And it has its ups and downs, but DIY is in. You can make whatever you want!
On the topic of the internet, how has that affected how you work?
This day and age is all about creating content. If you don’t have content, you’ll get lost. People will forget your art; they will forget what you’ve been standing for, or selling. You’ve got to stay on your toes with your content, delivery, and your internet presence.
Content, and culture move so quickly now, too.
You’ve either got to do something best, or do it first. If you make something new, people can always replicate it. I don’t worry about that, though—I like to stay two steps ahead. If you get copied, you’re already on to the next look. Well, I am… haha!
Shirt by Junlin He; jacket, and pants by The Recluse Club.
One of the tracks on your album is called “Five Dubbz” (as in Five Ws - who, what, when, where, and why). I’ve got five of my own:
Who are you rolling with lately?
My clique, my crew, my day ones, my A-1s. I keep my inner circle small, but I keep my friend net wide, and growing. My elementary school friends are still around, my best friend.
That’s great that you can tap into old, new, everyone.
And I’ve never changed. I am just being me, and I appreciate people who accept that and just respect me for who I am.
What experiences inspired this album?
On the cover, I am perched in my queen-like state. I’ve come to accept it: I’m a legend. I am one of the queens of the underground. Some call the underground; I’m in queer rap, x-rap—whatever you call it, we are taking over.
Where is your favourite place to be?
Anywhere I am performing. That’s how I gained my notoriety, and entrance into the music scene. I started as a dancer, which turned into doing music, which turned into performing down in the Lower East Side, and in Brooklyn. Performing on coffee tables, moshing. I got known for my crazy performances, and my upbeat music. I love feeding off the energy when I perform live.
When was your favourite performance?
It’s all becoming a blur—I’ve performed over 300 times. Check the resumé, baby! I’m aiming for 3000… But the best was when I did Austin’s pride parade in 2016. I was like a princess with a rainbow dress. My girls, and I, all had our own Mini Coopers in the parade, and I performed from a float. I’m not even from Texas, but there I was, a whole princess. (Shout out to Austin.)
Why do you do what you do?
Because I love it. For my culture: to uplift the people coming behind me, and those who came before me; to represent as a young Black girl in New York City doing it. I made a career out of being myself, and perfecting my craft. I am an artist. I love art. I am art.
Jacket, and pants by The Recluse Club.
You’ve lived, worked, and played all over the city. Quick fire: what are your favorite things about each borough?
Well, in Queens, you’ve got Jamaica Ave. $100 dollars, and you’re a princess there. In Brooklyn, I love the brownstones. There is nothing like them; it’s a culture that can’t be replicated. Manhattan, of course, is the hub: money, transit, art. All types of people are on the subway next to each other. The Bronx, we can ask Cardi B about that. Staten Island, we see you over there, and we’re waving from across the water. We still claim y’all. Long Island gets an honorary mention, too, since I live there now.
♪ I’m at Jones Beach, jones-ing, it’s hot.
I’m drinking thot juice / and I mixed it up with real fruits ♪
—that’s one of my favorite lines from an older song "Canary Yellow."
Any last things to add?
Bite the Burger, or get left to starve! Download my album now.