Home Read Albums Of The Week: Remo Drive | Mercy

Albums Of The Week: Remo Drive | Mercy

THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE:Remo Drive, the longstanding project of brothers Erik and Stephen Paulson, want you to feel something. Following a six-year run of pristine emo-influenced rock records comes Mercy, the band’s fourth album and third for Epitaph. It’s the band’s most lyric-focused offering to date, a record about reinvention, trusting yourself, and wearing your heart on your sleeve even when it’s painful or vulnerable.

Mercy has its origins in a move. Specifically: Erik moved to the sleepy upstate city of Albany, New York during the pandemic, Stephen stayed back in the duo’s native Minnesota. In his new environment, Erik wrote constantly. He’d play alone in his room, allowing himself to use his music to think existentially about life. About the complexities of being in a relationship, the complexities of making art and having it be received by a wide audience, the complexities of being in a new environment and finding your footing (as he sings in New In Town, “Apparently everyone’s going to Susie’s / I’m not exactly sure who that is”). Mercy, thus, is in some ways a record about getting in touch with your mental health, deprogramming what you thought you knew about yourself and using music to unlock inner honesty. It lends to some of the band’s strongest lyrical work in their career, from the impressionistic introspection of White Dress to the pointed naturalism on All You’ll Ever Catch.

Sonically, Mercy is also a major departure for Remo Drive. It’s less indebted to the emo and pop punk that foregrounded the duo’s career and instead invested in thorny, baroque indie pop by way of Father John Misty and Fleet Foxes. It was produced by Phil Ek, a legendary Seattle indie rock producer who has previously worked with those two bands as well as The Shins and Band of Horses, among others. Remo Drive worked with Ek over the course of 10 days. “It was refreshing to work with Phil,” says Erik, “It made music feel like how it did when we were younger. He was like, ‘Fuck it, let’s go, let’s have fun.’ ” The band finished the record in home studios, cheekily referring to the experience as a toggling between their most legit recording environment and their most scrappy. “It’s like going from Michelin Star to the Dollar Store,” jokes Erik. The record also features touring members Dane Folie (who plays keys on Hold You) and Sam Becht (who plays drums throughout). Tim Houston is also on the record, playing pedal steel.

Mercy’s title track is intricately arranged, with crisp vocals, swells of guitars. “Mercy,” sings Erik, “I say who needs it?” The song was written right after the release of Portrait Of An Ugly Man, and takes its name from a Nick Cave interview about mercy. The song came out fast, the first song that felt meant for the record, inextricable from it. Meanwhile New In Town was written later in the process. It’s very much a ballad, one that is brimming with emotional resonance, arguably the quietest song that band has ever done. It’s Roy Orbison on Crying meets Margaret Glapsy’s Devotion, with its votive organ sounds and soft, practically candle-lit percussion. Truly lovely, and incredibly intimate. Same can be the same of the whole of the album. Mercy is a study in intimacy, in being real with yourself, in entering an exciting new creative chapter where you are making the art you really want to make. That’s where Remo Drive are today.”