Hi Joe, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?
I’ve been okay, VENTS, thank you for asking. Hello to all the lovely people of the Dominican Republic and beyond. I can’t really think of a better opener at the moment. The person I am dating, when we first spoke on the phone, I asked what they were up to and they said “I am just relaxing–looking at an illustrated book on leprosy.” I kind of wish I had something like that right now for you, but alas.
Can you talk to us more about your song “Don’t Wait Too Long”?
Sure. With the basic feel and structure of the song, I was going for The Four Seasons colliding with a band like Boston kind of thing. I’m not sure if that’s what it ended up being once all the pieces were added, but that’s what I was doing at the beginning of the process. I also wanted something where I should show my range, from falsetto to croon to freak-out. I knew I wanted a big rocker to open the album as well, but it be something whose various elements, when pulled apart and looked at independently, mapped out what could be expected sonically from the album you were about to listen to in full.
Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?
Not exactly. I remember having the melody long before the words and most of this album was written before the words for “Don’t Wait” came along. As the verses came, I wondered how it fit into the overall theme of the record–which is Love. The first verse dealt with where I came from and then the expectations that came from the people I grew up with who hadn’t necessarily stuck with the things we all said we would do once we grew up. Perhaps I was delusional, I don’t know, but for better or worse, I was really willing to follow music to the ends of the Earth. I then realized it fit within the album’s theme of Love because it was about chasing music like an obsessed lover–willing to put it above any chance at stability or comfort. Once I got to that point, the rest of the song came together pretty quickly. It also kind of serves as kind of a breaking-the-fourth-wall acknowledgement of how big this project is and that this is my big stand…like in a film when the protagonist talks to the screen.
Any plans to release a video for the track?
Yes, but I am not sure how much I am allowed to say about that at this point except that it’s done and might even be up for viewing by the time this interview is being read.
The single comes off your new album Amour Bohemian – what’s the story behind the title?
Well, it is primarily a love album, so Amour, and it was written and worked on in several places around the world–from San Francisco to Guatemala, Italy to Prague, various other places where my very boho lifestyle can thrive, so Bohemian. Also, Bohemia is a region of the Czech Republic and the orchestral parts were recorded in the Czech Republic–so that fit nicely. It is also the soundtrack to a love-story film that exists only in my head and the album syncs with and also comments upon the narrative of my mental film.
How was the recording and writing process?
Very tough. I will write a book or monologue about it all someday.
What made you want to make such a huge album?
I felt like it was time for me to show what I could do. My ex was an assistant to the photographer Charles Gatewood, who recently passed on. He would always say “Put the book on the table,” as in, get the work done. Well, I not only wanted to put the book on the table, but I wanted it to have some weight to it. I feel like if I am going to make records, I want them to be able to deserve to be next to whatever they are next to in the record store. Records are sacred to me. If someone is going to buy something I have made, I want them to know just listening to it that it’s the best I could do at the time.
How did you choose the musicians? Did you pick them based on some particular elements?
I picked everyone based on the color that I knew they would bring to the palette I was constructing. If I am talented at all, a large part of it is rooted in that I am a good curator. By that, I mean I am confident in my ability to pull together the disparate elements that can manifest the sounds I have in my head.
What films get to inspire the music and lyrics on this album?
The music and lyrics are essentially the soundtrack to the film Amour Bohemian that exists solely in my head. So, I guess the question would be “What films inspired the mental film of Amour Bohemian?”
What aspect of love did you get to explore on this record?
Love of music, love of self, the love of humanity, one’s great capacity for love that may be too big to be directed at just one person, love taking the form of a contract, the fleetingness of love and finding beauty in that, dark love, selfless love and the promises that offers, the kind of romantic love that can only exist when two people are in an unfamiliar land together
Where else did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?
Locale played a major role in how these songs came together. Some of the songs were written in Guatemala and those feel like they grew right out of the rich volcanic soil there. Another was written on the flight back after the orchestral sessions in Prague and then with me continuing to bounce around Europe a bit. That song would not have happened at all if not for my various experiences on that trip.
Any plans to hit the road?
If it feels right and I feel like I am in a position to deliver the goods. In supporting an album like this, I would feel like a major asshole if someone came to see me and I didn’t put on a great performance that stood up to the record. There are a few factors that have to line up properly for me to be confident that I can do so.
What else is happening next in MERCH’s world?
Well, I have the basics of the next album essentially written as well as an EP. I am not sure which will come out first. I do know that the next album will be, at least, as large in scope as Amour Bohemian–if not more so. It will be more focused on sex. I have also been threatening to finish an opera–not a rock opera…an actual opera. There will also be a book or two out between now and the next MERCH album. The offer to score a film came up during this last year while I was in Hollywood, but the puzzle pieces didn’t quite fit. I wouldn’t count out me doing something like that for the right project before too long though.