“We started off in late 2011,”offered Karl Wootton, rhythm guitarist for Wellington rockers Merrin. “Before that me and Charlie (Phillips, vocalist) went out and did our acoustic duo thing, doing the open mic nights and things like that and we thought one day, fuck it, we want to increase the noise so we went out and we found our first bass player and our first drummer and three months later we hit the studio and that’s how our first E.P ‘Don’t Forget to Breathe’ came about.”
From there the word spread quickly throughout New Zealand and Merrin picked up supports to I Am Giant and Everclear and as the brand grew so did the band with the four piece expanding to a five piece in the last twelve months.
“In May last year our former bass player wanted to find a new direction in life and unfortunately Merrin wasn’t a part of it so we went back to the drawing board and we found a new bass player, Logan Wood,” Wootton said. “We actually did have a second guitarist about three or four years back who was Brisbane born but unfortunately he got called back there because of this job but we’ve always had that element of needing that second guitarist and it was funny because Angelo Pantelakis – who has joined the band now on guitar – his Dad and his sister came to a gig in May last year and Angelo’s dad is a mad 80’s music fan and he enjoyed the show and we caught up for coffee and his daughter is a massive guitarist herself and said ‘you should see my brother play’ so we gave him a try and that’s how we became a five piece.”
Even though Merrin had received commercial and critical success with their debut E.P, Phillips and Wootton felt there was something missing; a harder edge that would transform their music from something with potential to something captivating and so with the release of two songs this year, ‘Mr Dominant’ and ‘Sin’ have introduced their fans to an updated version of Merrin which they hope will catapult them into the next level of music.
“We decided to take hold and get a little heavier and harder and meaner and rockier,” Wootton stated.
“And a little more tragic,” Phillips laughed.
“It just felt good to go heavier and now it feels great,” Wootton continued, ‘Especially with ‘Mr Dominant’ and ‘Sin’. We’re hitting the studio in just under a month and we’ve got eight more songs to record for the album which we’ve run demos for and they sound fantastic.”
In picking these particular songs on which to launch their new direction, Wootton says the band wanted to choose the two that showcased their new direction as well as reassured fans they weren’t straying too far from their initial path.
“There is a truth behind ‘Mr. Dominant,” Wotton explained, “and then there’s what you see (laughs). When you watch the film clip it leads you in one direction but in reality it has another meaning altogether.”
That song in particular reflects a sad time in Phillips life, albeit one with a happy ending.
“We had to take someone to court to do with my Father’s death,” she sighed. “They thought they were mister dominant but we took him to court and won so we wrote a song about it. That was the best way I could see to deal with it so it’s pretty personal.”
‘And ‘Sin ’is just about sitting at the bar and drinking,” Wootton interjected, laughing.
“It’s basically to do with anything outside of the zone,” Phillips continued. "And not putting up with peoples shit. It can be an addiction of all sorts. It doesn’t have to be the fact that you’re sitting in a bar but it’s the fact that there’s a person trying to lure you into their way of thinking and you’re just sitting there going ‘I can see this all over your fucking face’(laughs). Those two singles are a starting point to our new sound. They are like the stepping stones I guess you could say. We get heavier and darker from there.”
“It’s like you’ve just opened the Merrin door,” Wootton picked up, “and you’re thinking that’s nice and then the door opens to a dirty, dark hallway…”
As the only two surviving members from the first incarnation of Merrin, both agree that they have had to grow and adapt to the constant demands of the music industry, with Phillips in particular having to take more stock of her role.
“I’m more of a bitch now,” she laughed. “I think I’ve become harder and a lot less naïve. There’s so much that you have to take in and try and get your head around from the start that now it feels like we’ve done a full circle back to where we wanted to be in the first place and we are going for it. We’ve got all of the little experiences from the last five years and taken them on board, like ‘we don’t need this now but we want this and we don’t need that either ’so I guess we have taken a step back a bit and realised what is important so in that way we are definitely a lot wiser.”
“And definitely harder,” Wootton added. “I occasionally let my face slip just a little when needed and speak out when I should. I don’t so much just accept things now.”
In coming up with the new musical direction, Wootton argues that it has been a collaborative effort from all the members of the band, and having that fresh injection within the circle has helped realise certain goals.
“It comes down to how we first write a song,” he revealed, “and then from there we all shape it together and then because every one of us enjoys music and we all wanna hear certain things once we get a song to a place and we are all enjoying it with the writing it helps us to develop it from there. A lot of modern rock these days can sound samey but we try to make our music a bit more energetic; a bit more rocking and something you haven’t heard before.”
“I would add that we’re getting to the point now where we like the idea of nurturing the people that are engaging us,” Phillips chimed in. “They are the ones we are going to expose ourselves to the most. If they wanna know us we’ll tell them all about us. They are the ones we really wanna nurture our music towards because they do care. A lot of the times they’re messaging us at three o’clock in the morning from the U.S. or Europe and asking how we’re doing and we don’t know them from a bar of soap but they love us and love what we’re doing so we tend to really hone in the engagement with them because we know one day we’re gonna get there and when we do we’re gonna go have breakfast with them (laughs). To be honest there is so much music out there these days that everyone can have that element of sounding similar but I think there’s little gems in amongst those where artists are trying to grow and learn and evolve from where they’ve been. We’ve done it. We’re still doing it and we will probably continue to do it.”