Much like the horn'd horse blazoned on their assorted artwork, Spokane's Merlock constitute an intriguing beast. As we said back then, these guys peddle "a kind of caustic, trippy, and rough-around-the-edges stoner doom, and it lights a little fire in my heavy (metal) heart." Melding psychedelia with a distinctly hard-rockin' attitude, they impressed us Villagers with their 2018 demo EP, and we've been itching for more since our initial exposure. Luckily, as ye shall soon read, a debut full-length is in the works.
We'd like to thank Merlock for taking the time and energy to chat! As always, we're deeply honored that cool bands are willing to sit down and churn our such thoughtful answers. Read on!
Sleeping Village: Firstly, thanks for stopping by the Village! To someone who has never heard Merlock, how would you describe your sound?
Merlock: Our sound has evolved quite a bit since the demo. I think the best bet is to answer how it is: we got a guitarist who half-learned a bunch of Mastodon riffs but really wishes he had half-learned Thou riffs instead, a bassist who sweats Weedeater but doesn't smoke grass, a guitar who fried his ears listening to Boris and jazz you've never heard of, and a chaos barbarian for a drummer. Vocal styles range from Neurosisy lows to Deafheaven highs, with whatever else we come up with in between. Our newest track has some pretty rad Buzzo style vocals at the end that I'm really into.
SV: I've got to kick things off properly with the most important question on the docket: when will we get to hear more? This 3-track demo gets a ton of airtime at the Village, but we're itching for whatever you guys are cooking up next.
M: We're working on our first proper album, tentatively titled That Which Speaks, right now. This is the first proper record for all of us, so we're taking our time to get it right. We're set to start tracking with Bill Nieman again this winter, so hopefully a summer release & tour next year.
In the meantime, we're working on putting a split out. We recorded an early version of a track off That Which Speaks called "Idolon's Breath" a couple months back. That should be out this fall, hopefully in the form of a split.
SV: Musically, Merlock doesn't seem all that concerned with the status quo. Between the psychedelic leanings and the general weirdness, how do you typically go about writing a song?
M: Merlock is for the future. I don't really see the point in making music that exists solely to affirm an existing aesthetic. Genre worship is still worship, and that's just something Merlock isn't into (unless you're our Mistress).
We believe in a very organic writing process, which usually begins with a riff one of us is working on. We usually focus on grinding out one song out at a time, but they've gotten a lot harder to write as we've developed as a band. We're always pushing ahead, so sometimes we write shit we can't quite play yet. And, our songs have gotten a lot longer with a lot less refrain, so it just takes more time to work through the songs.
SV: From Baba Yaga to Cannon to ZorLac, you spread the talent around. How does being in other groups affect Merlock's dynamic?
M: All of those bands are currently defunct! Baba Yaga was my band back in Wisconsin, and I'd really love to get to put something proper out with them one day, but it's kinda tough when I only make it home once a year. Cannon was Luke's band from back in Montana. Andrew was doing double duty in ZorLac for a bit, but they're not currently active. I do play in a few other bands around Spokane, though.
That said, it doesn't really play into our dynamic; when practice rolls around, we're all there for the same reason: to be Merlock.
SV: Unicorns seem to perfectly embody both the aesthetic and mythical qualities that define Merlock. Is there anything particular about unicorns that appeals to you?
M: To me the unicorn is a symbol of thriving despite the world. Graceful. Majestic Powerful.
Or we just think it's kind of funny to put sparkly / purple unicorns on our heavy metal records and no one can stop us.
SV: Because I'm jealous I missed out, how was your show with the incomparable YATRA? In that spirit, are there any other bands you've played with this summer or during your winter tour that you can see making it big?
M: Yatra was fucking amazing. We had a rad time hanging out with those dudes. They were playing a bunch of stuff from the album they're recording right now, so it was a treat to see that. Though, we had been pumping a lot of Death Ritual and there were a few tunes from that record I'd like to have seen.
We got to play Rocky Mountain Riff fest, which is a dope fest put on by the Wizzerd boys. That was the first time I saw Hippie Death Cult, and they're making some pretty big moves. 111 is a dope record, so I expect Eddie and the crew to go far. Year of the Cobra is obviously killing it.
The biggest band that surprised me was BoscoMujo, a noise rock band from Brooklyn. Ken Minami is the best guitar player you've never heard of. Raw energy. The ten people at Calypso's Coffee that night were baptized for sure.
But there's so much that goes into "making it big" so it's hard to say. I'm not even really sure what that means most days. That said, I don't think there's ever been a better time to be in heavy music, so I think anyone who has the perseverance and keeps a good head about them has a shot. Provided the riffs are there, of course.
SV: My knowledge of Spokane is lacking, to say the least. In the spirit of discovery: what's the metal and rock scene like in your area?
M: It can be difficult to navigate as a new band in the area. Luke, Andrew, and I all moved here from other places, and we've only been playing shows as Merlock for about a year and a half. We're still establishing ourselves here, as people and musicians. We often struggle to find venues to book heavy shows, and even if we get a venue, it can be difficult find other bands to fill the bill.
It's been strange for me, since the scene back home in Wisconsin is very different. A lot of touring bands don't role through, so local bands fill that void. Here things seem to revolve around what dope bands are swinging through. Even then, it can be difficult to find a spot for them to play. Which is unfortunate because this is a really great stop for quite a few bands coming in from, and heading toward, the Midwest.
All things considered, there's a wealth of talent in Spokane, and the roughness of it has made everyone in Merlock a better musician. I've been impressed over and over again by the talent and dedication of the folks in Spokane to persevere through the ebb and flow of venues.
And, as an addendum to the last, what is the absolute best place to grab some food and a beer in Spokane?
The best downtown bars are Garageland, Mootsy's, and Berserk. Garageland has my favorite burger in town. Mootsy's is where we play most of our shows, and Berserk has some pretty rad punk / goth shows going on from time to time.
Luke is a brewer at NoLi brewery. Warm "Big Juicy IPA" has fueled a few of our songs, to say the least.
My personal favorite bar in town is Park Inn. They have some of the best pizza in town for sure and have a great deal on Miller Lite (the official beer of Merlock).
We'd like to thank you for taking the time! Are there any last thoughts you'd like to leave us with?
Just the usual stuff: thanks for taking the time to read this and give us a like / follow on our relevant social media accounts (Facebook & Instagram ). If you like our tunes, consider buying them so we can keep putting more out into the world. We just put a bunch of limited edition diy shit up on our bandcamp, so snag it up if ya can.
In the meantime, we hope to see you around the Northwest. We'll be hitting up Seattle and Portland for the first time up in September, come ride the Unicorn. We might have something pretty rad lined up for October, too.