Mercury's Antennae are an ethereal/shoegaze band based in Geneva and Portland in the USA comprised of multi-instrumentalist Erick R. Scheid (Translucia), vocalist Dru Allen (This Ascension, Mirabilis) and bassist Cindy Coulter (also formerly of This Ascension). They have released two albums, their debut "A Waking Ghost Inside" (2014) and "Beneath The Serene" (2016), both on  Projekt.

We read that your work is reminiscent of ’90s-era Projekt acts, ranging from the heavy moodiness of Lycia to the unadorned beauty of Love Spirals Downwards, but also the sweet melodic pop of 4AD acts such as Cocteau Twins and the blissful guitar noise of bands like Curve. What is your opinion of the ethereal/shoegaze scene in general and the place it holds today?

Cindy: A lot of the bands that I have been involved with have often been pigeon-holed as “goth” or ethereal, so it is nice to hear those comparisons!
I have never been a huge fan of categorizing/sub-categorizing music, but I also get that people feel the need to make comparisons in order to describe the music they like. Even I have done that.
Of course every band likes to think that their sound is original, but I don’t think we could ever boast that. What I can say though is that there aren’t a lot of bands that sound like us, and I definitely think our sound has cross-over appeal over multiple genres.
 As far as the ethereal/shoegaze scene, in general, I think that its mark and influence in musical history as well as today is undeniable. I have enjoyed the resurgence of  the original wave of shoegaze bands such as The Jesus and Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive and even Lush a number of years back (before they broke up again), these were all bands I never got a chance to see when they became popular the first time around, so it was amazing to have that opportunity. But I also think the Nu gaze wave of bands have also made their mark. I really enjoy such acts as The Soft Moon, The Joy Formidable, M83, Ringo Deathstarr and Tamaryn to name a few.

Erick: I don’t know if there are actual “scenes” for this genre these days. But I’ve come across lots of venues and themed nights dedicated to ethereal, shoegaze and atmospheric electro darkwave. There is a lot of hybrid music coming out where bands are combining lots of influences and styles their music. This is really exciting. It’s been inspiring to see bands like MBV and Slowdive playing live again. I find that most bands you really can’t put a label on… a good example is Mercury’s Antennae. We mix elements of electro, trip hop, shoegaze, goth, ambient and dream pop. 

When making new music, do you usually write the music first and then put the vocals on top or do all members bring something in and it works from there? Do you usually have a specific sound or mood in mind when composing or is the result just what comes out of your soul? 

Erick: It’s always from the soul… always. Usually it starts in my head based on life events and nature, relationships and existential thinking, followed by creating on the acoustic or creating a beat or pulse. I usually think in themes and sometimes conceptually. But it’s a lot of back in forth demoing between the 3 of us until the music becomes more formed and then Dru will add her parts. On our next album, bassist Cindy was a big part of the writing process as normally it’s just myself and then I send off demos. I wanted the next album to have a huge bass player presence and it shows.

Cindy: Usually Erick will start with an idea and send me the file. My process is usually to just listen to the track/demo a number of times and try to sort of aurally visualize what type of bass line the song is calling for. The work usually inspires me to go in a certain direction.
After I have spent time with the piece, I will demo my bit then send it back to Erick. He will usually give me a thumbs up, or ping back with some specific suggestions he’d like to hear, or we will collaborate and where we think the piece should go. A lot of it is about setting a mood and a tone. Erick will sometimes give me some criteria “deep low heavy bass here” or “solo on D string here” and he will sometimes even suggest a feeling he would like to invoke in the piece. Even though most of the time that we have worked together we have not lived in the same city, and creating music remotely can have its challenges, it can also be a very spiritual and moving experience to take part in.
Once Erick and I have done the instrumentation we will send a raw version to Dru for vocal enhancements and that is really when it all comes together.

Dru: My lyrics often come last and can take a while (ha-ha, sorry Erick). I will play around with a melody and hear different parts in my head working with each other, but not with real words. Sometimes I will often send a rough idea to Cindy and Erick to get an idea if something is working. Multiple times though the final lyrics have come on the plane on the way to a show or to record a song. J

Performing live and recording in the studio are two completely different things. Which of these two processes do you enjoy more? Any particular special moments you would like to share with us?

Cindy: I really do enjoy both processes immensely, but there really is something special about us performing live. We only get to do a few shows a year (if we are lucky), so having the opportunity for us to all be together in one place will usually result in a magical experience. I do feel the uniqueness of the three of us being in a room together playing music and connecting. There’s nothing like it in the world to me and I feel especially at home on stage with my creative collaborators. They are my kindred spirits, my musical family.

Dru: My experience in the studio has changed over the years, because in my first band we would go pay to record in a studio and “time was money”. There were a few stressful and emotional times. But with Mercury’s Antennae I have mostly moved to recording myself at home and sending tracks to Erick. This has its own peculiarities in that I am rather isolated and have to rely on my own intuition and self-evaluation, but I think I have also grown as an artist because of this, become a bit more autonomous. I like recording when people are together though because neat things can happen.
I love playing live though, I always have. To me, it’s really an offering to the people there, and even the universe in general. It’s not as often as it used to be, but I like going to shows a lot as well as a fan. Whether performing or being part of the audience, everyone can experience something profound together.

Erick: Of course the two are different and unique – playing live vs recording/studio. Performing live is amazing but even more amazing when there are people to play for depending on the place and venue. But creating and being creative is really a deep process… and to finally share that with the world is pretty special. I’d say I’d love playing live more.

Last year you released the EP "The Moon Viewing Garden" (2018) on Sett Records, an independent record label based in Chicago. Tell us something about this release and how it coincided with your participation in the Wave-Gotik-Treffen 2018 in Leipzig, Germany?

Cindy: That was a special release specifically for WGT. We wanted to release something new for a new audience, but it’s really a pre-cursor to our upcoming release later this year. The EP was something of a teaser. :)

Erick: The Moon Viewing Garden is a special mini release coinciding with our being on our new record label Sett Records. The idea was to release something small and dreamy and act as a prelude to our next release Among The Black Trees and showcase some new music as well rework two older songs. Performing at WGT was a huge dream come true and we wanted to share new music to people who would’ve been seeing us for the first time… and hopefully not the last.

Dru: It’s also interesting to note that in a way the relationship with Sett has its origins from way, way back when Cindy and my first band This Ascension were on Tess Records. Tess was begun as a vehicle for This Ascension but then included other bands such as Autumn and Faith & the Muse. Flashforward to today, and Autumn is still going strong—even better than ever—and Cindy and I are still doing music together. William Faith (Faith & the Muse) has his main project Bellwether Syndicate, and even Tess’s art director Clovis IV is on board… so it was just a natural fit to continue to work together and support one another.

You recently performed live at Whitby for the Tomorrow’s Ghosts Festival 2019, sharing the stage with bands such as Pop Will Eat Itself, Chameleons Vox and Christine Plays Viola. How was that experience, playing in Whitby, the seaside town with the ruined Gothic Whitby Abbey which was Bram Stoker’s inspiration for “Dracula”?

Cindy: It took a lot to get the three of us there, but it was so worth it. It’s difficult to put into words what a profound experience it was. None of us in the band had been to Whitby before (I had been to England on a number of occasions for travel, but never to Whitby). Visiting the Abbey up close and personal was an incredible experience and I am so grateful that we were invited to perform. We exposed our music to a whole new audience and the fact that we were well-received was an amazing experience. The organizers at the Tomorrow’s Ghosts Festival were so welcoming and incredibly professional. We hope to be invited back in the next few years. It was a very positive experience that we would love to take part in again.

Dru: I just want to echo Cindy’s sentiments that we were blown away by the professionalism and passion of everyone involved with Tomorrow’s Ghosts Festival, and the fans were tremendous. Whitby is a very special place, you can certainly feel it as you approach through the moors by car, and walking around the village…

What are your future plans for the band? Will we be having any new music from you any time soon?

Erick: We are looking forward to releasing our third album Among the Black Trees – a very serious and deep sonic album for us and I’d say it’s a little more heavy and layered than our previous releases. It’s been 3 years in the making!  We hope to tour and perform it in 2020 and it’s planned to be released on the lovely Sett Records again.

Cindy: Yes! That is the plan. We are still working on the details, but we are hoping to put out a full-length release before the end of the year. Stay tuned!

Dru: Absolutely—the 3rd album is almost done, so we will be quite vocal about it soon and try to get together for a show to celebrate. Thank you!

photo 1  by Clovis IV photography
photo 2-4 by Absinthe Promotions

Interview by Nick Drivas.