DRØME Exclusive: Merce Lemon Releases Debut Album
by Caroline D'Arcy Gorman
Photography: Eleanor Petry
Styling: Meg Schmitt
If you haven’t heard of Merce Lemon, rest assured that you will soon enough. Their debut album, entitled Ideal for a Light Flow With Your Body proves to be brilliantly refreshing, imbued with honesty and delicately crafted lyrics. Over the course of ten short tracks, Merce expertly takes the listener through a fast-paced journey of friendship, love, heartbreak, and—of all things—chocolate pudding.
Ideal for a Light Flow With Your Body opens with gentle confidence: “Do you see this? It’s rough / I look smooth but I am rough / I’m an actor, I’m a good sport / I leave the house, I talk to boys and I come home and I take it off,” and ends with a tribute to their friend’s cat—a delightfully raucous track entitled, “Johnny When He’s Sweet and John for All the Rest.” The album flirts with folk, rock, country and punk—-an amalgamation of Merce’s influences, having grown up both singing on stage with Kimya Dawson and playing in pre-pubescent punk bands. Though Ideal for a Light Flow With Your Body is Merce’s first ever full-length album, their history of musical talent is evidenced by this exciting and wholly successful debut. While Merce Lemon dabbles in different genres, one thing is certain—by the time you finish listening, you will be wishing there was more.
CDG: First of all, I really love the album. What is it like making something so personal and then putting it out in front of an audience?
ML: Thank you! It’s really vulnerable. I did theatre when I was younger but at some point I became aware of other people watching me and had to re-learn how to be on stage. Once I started performing again, it was so energizing and I just wanted to keep doing it.
When did you start making music?
I was in an A Capella group with my sister and our friends when I was seven and then I formed a punk band when I was ten. I started writing and performing again when I moved to Seattle, and it stayed in my bedroom until six months ago.
Word. That’s awesome. So it’s just you and a guitar at the moment?
It was me and a guitar for a lot of my shows. Recently, I’ve been putting together a full band, which has been really fun. It’s a lot less vulnerable to be on stage when you have people backing you up. It’s really nice.
Who are some of your biggest inspirations musically?
One of the big ones is Kimya Dawson. I used to sing on stage with her when I was ten. She always had kids singing with her, it was great! Half the time I didn’t know all the words or would be off key. Sometimes people who hear my music for the first time say it reminds them of Kimya, which doesn't surprise me considering how many years I have spent listening to her.
That is so badass. How did you meet?
My parents are artists and used to host a lot of bands when they came through town. Kimya would play shows in Pittsburgh and needed somewhere to stay and so she stayed at my house. Our friendship grew from there.
So let’s talk about Ideal for a Light Flow With Your Body. I’m obsessed with the album name. Where did you come up with that?
I actually got the title mostly from a tampon box! I jumbled up the words and realized it worked. And I love that it’s not immediately obvious until you say it. At first I wasn’t going to call the album anything, but I felt pressured when I was getting the album ready to go on Bandcamp. (Laughs) And a title adds another layer to the album and gives people something else to think about. I also just love naming things. I usually have lists around.
“Johnny When He’s Sweet and John For All the Rest” is one of my favourite tracks on the album. I also really like that you end with such a banger. Do you see yourself going in a more punk / rock direction in the future?
I have so many influences and directions I want to go in. But the cool thing is, you don’t have to choose a genre! “Johnny” almost doesn’t belong on the album but I love that it’s there because it’s a surprise and I want to keep doing things like that. That one was really transformed by my friend Zesty Sams. It was a song that I wrote and then he said, “I can hear this being really fast and loud” and it worked. It’s really fun to be loud! I love playing with drums.
How was the album recorded?
I recorded at Wormhole Recordings with Dylan Hanwright. Dylan was a big part of the instrumentation on the album and really helped me come out of my shell. He also inspired me to put a whole band together, because I finally was able to hear what my music sounds like with a whole band. When you’re just playing songs in your bedroom, it’s hard to imagine what they could become.
What’s it like as a young queer musician in Seattle?
The music scene here still feels very new to me, but Seattle creates really safe spaces. I feel really lucky to play and share spaces with mostly queer and femme people. I love the energy.
What was your process of coming to terms with your queerness growing up?
I grew up in a house that was very accepting and open so I didn’t even really have to think about my identity. I was raised very androgynously—I wore whatever I wanted, I cut my own hair, I didn’t wear clothes until I really had to wear clothes. The harder part was finding myself within the mainstream world. There is pressure to label your identity and I realized that most of the labels, for me, were constrictive. I’ve tried out different labels and I always felt trapped within them because identity is so fluid. “Queer” feels like the most encompassing label.
I love that you said when you were younger you didn’t wear clothes until you had to. How would you describe your look?
I dress very androgynously. A lot of big pants and tank tops. There is one shirt of my Dad’s that I wear, and everyone loves it but it’s totally falling apart. He was going to turn it into a rag and I was like, “I’ll take it!”. And overalls. I love overalls.
What’s next, Merce?
I am in the works of creating a queer country EP for the fall!
You can listen to Ideal for a Light Flow With Your Body here .
In loving memory of Johnny the cat who passed away.