The cure for misery. Oldham’s Mercy Kelly promise joy for their division.
Manchester, UK, is a major cultural hub renowned for its rich musical heritage. Despite being a relatively small city, it boasts the largest indoor arena in the UK, which took just two minutes to fill for Liam Gallagher’s ‘As You Were’ solo tour back in 2017. The city has churned out many incredible musicians and bands over the years, such as; Oasis, The Stone Roses, The Smiths, New Order, Buzzcocks, Joy Division, and countless others.
One of the more recent Greater Manchester prospects are the Oldham four-piece Mercy Kelly, imbued with the new-wave style and sensibilities of the 80s with bands such as The Cure and Manc legends, The Smiths cited among their great inspirations, evidenced in their erudite lyrical style.
We have the pandemic to thank for the birth of Mercy Kelly, with frontman Jack Marland and lead guitarist Adam Bridge coming together as an acoustic duo during the lockdown. Bassist, Joel Buckley, and drummer, Michael Shenton joined shortly after, having been acquainted on the local Mic Night scene, to complete the lineup.
The “disparaged mill-town” band had spent lockdown carving out their distinctively dark and shimmering sound, incorporating ‘chorus wave soundscapes and driving undercurrents’.
Studio time at Manchester’s Vibe Studios led to the release of their first single, Anymore in March this year and second single The Fall two months later, mixed by Dean Glover at Vibe Studios, and mastered by Pete Maher.
The band have taken to the stage following lockdown restrictions easing, and already have a solid reputation for their “poetic lyricism, razor-sharp sound, and distinctive dark image; deriving heavily from the post-industrial environment in which they hail from deep in Oldham’s heartlands”.
Their latest gig at Oldham’s Bank Top Tavern was conveniently timed and I had the opportunity to observe the band live. Jack’s confident and controlled vocals, reminiscent of a young Richard Ashcroft, deliver tales of love, hate, life, and loss. The moody-melodic, treble-heavy guitars from Jack and Adam saturated the space with Joel and Michael sitting tightly in the mix, providing the necessary pace and rhythm. Mercy Kelly undoubtedly have much to look forward to in the future.
Here, we talk to the band about their coming together and plans for the future. Let’s ‘ave it!
Thanks for your time guys, really excited to see a local band doing so well on the music scene!
You painted an interesting picture with the words you used to describe the band’s image, referencing Oldham as a ‘disparaged mill-town‘ and ‘post-industrial environment‘. How does that influence or shape the type of music you write as a band?
I think every band is a product of their environment. The sights, the aromas, the experiences, and everything melt into one creative pot. Our instincts can be quite dark musically speaking, and I think that is the product of coming from a town that is heavily run down.
Oldham’s not too far from me, so I can understand where you’re coming from. With that in mind; in areas that are lacking in opportunity and with high rates of unemployment, it can be discouraging at the least… what gets you out of bed in the morning?
My motivation comes from wanting to be successful at something we all love dearly. Now actually seeing the effect music is having on people, especially live, it’s incredibly inspiring.
Regarding live performance, bands and fans alike now have that to look forward to once again. Tell us about your experiences from the shows you’ve performed to date, and which has been the most exciting or enjoyable for you?
For me, hearing your own songs get played into the open air gives a feeling of freedom that is completely different to when you’re just in rehearsals. Though it’s still a massively enjoyable experience to hear the songs being put together; when you play live you have control over the audience.
The best live gig was without doubt Blackfest in Doncaster. We had no idea what to expect but when we got called up to play, it felt that it was our time now and the last 18 months never happened. Though it has been tough with Covid, for us we had to find some positives and we somewhat blossomed with Michael and Joel giving those songs a different life.
How has your creative process changed since Michael and Joel joined the band?
Our creative process usually stems from Jack and Adam writing a song together acoustically, which will then slowly develop in the practice room as a foursome. It’s a process that works well for us and allows everyone to put their own stamp on the music.
When I look through what we’ve written individually, and as a partnership, it does become clearer who is better at certain things. For example, I think I am more capable of developing chord progressions and writing lyrics but Jack has God-given talent to write melodies and be able to dictate the direction of songs.
How do you guys typically overcome a creative block, or is that not a factor for you?
Overcoming a creative block, its a mixture of three things in my opinion. A lot of blocks are born from hearing a band or an album that you love but not getting the original experience, so listening to new music is a massive advantage. You must also learn from previous mistakes and go out of your comfort zone in terms of your education. Learn something completely different. And the third is to be patient. Music is a matter of feeling and eventually, you will hit another euphoric moment of creativity.
You’ve got two singles out already and spent a lot of time writing over lockdown. Which of your songs are you particularly proud of, and what can we expect next from Mercy Kelly?
My favourite song that we’ve written together is The Fall as I felt it was the first time I could express a story or a personal experience for the first time. We’re just putting the finishing touches to our next single. It’s the final of a trio recorded at Vibe Studios in Manchester, and hoping to release it in October.
With regards to musical influences, you’ve previously mentioned The Smiths and The Cure, and in a broader sense, inspired by new wave. What kind of music are you listening to at the moment and in what way do they inspire you?
I personally (Jack) am influenced by bands such as U2, Thin Lizzy as my idol is Phil Lynott and I don’t shy away from listening to the King, Elvis Presley. I spend many hours watching bands and artists perform live with my eyes absorbed on great the frontmen of the decades, Bono, Elvis, Lynott, and Lennon to name a few. If you put on a great live show you have my credit. At the minute I’m listening to a lot of Inhaler and Red Rum Club. Me and Adam have very similar, if not the same, music taste.
I came across a quote a while back which really had an impact on my life; “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about”. Is there a particular lyric or quote that has had such an impact, or means something special to you?
One of my favourite lyrics is written by the Manic Street Preachers from their Autumnsong. “Wear your love like it is made of hate, born to destroy and born to create”. I’ve always held a great deal of affection towards the Manic’s and this song has other lyrical prowess. But that line is my favourite because it somewhat encourages freedom and a will to do what you want, with what you want. Almost act the opposite to how people want you to.
What has been your approach to promoting the band, and which has been the most effective?
The steps we’ve taken to get where we are now have involved some high-quality recordings for our debut run of singles, and also a lot of time and effort put into social media campaigns.
In the modern music industry, promotion online via social media is critically important. You have to be present online, even just as a point of contact. But, as is always said in the industry, it’s “who you know” and not “what you know” – so word of mouth promotion and networking physically is imperative. Even turning up to gigs in your local area on weekends that you have free is great for this, meet the other musicians in your area that are doing what you want to do. That’s a great place to start, and we are fortunate enough to get an array of very good gig opportunities inside our first year in the gig circuit due to Covid affecting us last year.
What’s the best advice you’ve been given in your career, and what advice would you give musicians and artists that are yet to be discovered?
Best advice I’ve ever received (Michael) is to listen to other musicians and to have a great work ethic. Listening, in terms of music, is crucial and makes a difference when being in a band. The work ethic skills tie into my advice for undiscovered artists – you have to be willing to work hard, consistently, because success doesn’t come quickly. Be willing to take criticism, and always be passionate about your craft and you will be successful.
Thanks to Mercy Kelly, and manager Harry Lavin for taking the time to talk with us, and we wish them all the best for the future. If you want to keep up to date with their progress and future gigs, they can be found on Facebook and all the usual music streaming platforms here;