[YMX] Hey On Mercury, thanks for sitting down with us. What would you say to all our readers new to your project?
Hey! Thanks for having me. The band On Mercury is the solo project of Spencer DeBry, that's me! In 2019, I released the band's first album "Strightjackets Will Not Be Enough" and in 2021 the second album "Welcome to the Show". The music is all a vehicle to tell stories. Each of the songs tells one. A fan recently commented how cool they thought it was that each track is actually about something. I found that interesting but when you listen to much of the popular music today, they aren’t really thick with narrative though they are full of groove and hooks.
[YMX] When did you know that music was something you wanted to pursue at an artistic level?
My family wasn't thick with music, other than my mom who was a flute wizard, so other than the 2 years of piano, years of singing in choirs, and 1 year of trombone lessons, I didn't honestly pick up music until I was in my late teens with the guitar. And that trombone stint was really because of a Snickers commercial where a guy finishes his trombone lessons then takes a Snickers out of his case. I love Snickers so we rented a trombone and began lessons. But, the Snickers ran out and the lessons ended shortly thereafter. In college, I was in a few bands and ended up writing about half of our songs. My favorite venues were large house parties where the audience is right on the other side of your mic stand singing along with the song you wrote. Those are the experiences that got me hooked. After college, I went to medical school and then did a residency in psychiatry, which I affectionately refer to as the "dark haze". Through much of this crazy time I didn't play music at all. I didn't begin again until by first daughter was born. Sometimes only playing the guitar and singing would calm her down. By this time my previous bandmates were gone so I started a solo project with the band On Mercury.
[YMX] Do you feel more confident writing music alone, or within a team? Who would be a dream collaborator?
I love making music with people. Love playing music with people. It was always a dream to collaborate with my daughter, who is an artist in her own right, and I got to do that in the first album on the track "Shifting Sands" where she sings the chorus. I then worked on her album in 2020. So a dream fulfilled right? But a dream collaboration has always been to work with Jason Mraz. The guy has this visible passion for the music. It’s beautiful. And, his music is vibrant.
[YMX] You recently released the single "Curie". Can you tell us how that project came about?
Sure. The new single "Curie" is the 3rd track off the new album "Welcome to the Show". It is a song about Marie Curie, the scientist, written from the perspective of her husband Pierre. He was also a scientist. A few years ago I was in Paris visiting the Pantheon where Marie Curie is buried. You know, her coffin is encased in lead because her body will be radioactive for millennia. I couldn't get that image out of my mind. Here is this marvel of a woman, with 2 Nobel prizes at a time when men dominated scientific fields, who, through her pioneering of nuclear science, becomes nuclear herself. In life an inferno and in death a shining star. That imagery bounced around in my head until I woke up one morning with the line "She's right here, burning like coal, even in death a radiant soul, stealing our breath, a star out of control, shining so bright". The rest is the fun part of working a story out of the inspiration. Several songs have been like that for me. For instance, the sixth track "Rotterdam" is about my great grandparents. They were both from Rotterdam and immigrated to America on the same boat. This is a story I have been told by whole life. She was hiding from her father in the ships hold, determined to get to America even if is was against her parent's wishes. He was on the ship's deck waving to his bandmates in the queen's band who were playing on the shore to bid him farewell. They meet on the voyage, fall in love, and get married. I always felt there was a song in that tale. And there was! Track 6!
[YMX] Finally, what are your plans for the future?
I am currently working on an acoustic album that includes a few of the songs from the first 2 albums with some new material. I am hoping to have some collaborators with a few of the tracks too. It is fun to rework some of the songs for an acoustic version. I think the fans will enjoy them.
[YMX] Thanks for sitting down with us. Best of luck with the future.
Thanks for having me. I really appreciate it.
Curie is my favorite song on the new album. Written from the perspective of Marie Curie's husband, Pierre, it is at it's heart a love song. In life, she was a wonder with two Nobel prizes in a time when men ruled science. Due to handling radioactive material for years, she became radioactive herself. Her coffin is encased in a lead shield due to the fact that her body is going to be radioactive for millennia. In life an inferno and in death a shining star. That image is this song.
"And now she's shining in the dark, shining through me, into my bones, right through my heart. Behind these stones, still playing her part with these radiant tones. She's right here, burning like coal, even in death, a radiant soul, stealing our breath, a star out of control, shining so bright!"
The idea for this song came to me as I was reading the novel by Amor Towles "A Gentleman in Moscow". It is a beautifully written book. In it, the main character muses about bells in England being melted down to make cannons to fight in France. Those are melted down to make church bells that are then melted down to make cannon to fight in Russia. This imagery stayed with me for a few months and one day I woke up with this tune in my head and the line "Bong to bang, was it the bells that rang, or the cannonade that sang, the songs of joy or pain".
The new single "This Time" releases March 5th 2021. Some songs come to you fully formed. This was one of those gifts. The year 2020 was difficult for many reasons. Among that difficulty was the undercurrent of contention, spite, and anger toward each other. After hearing a particularly disheartening news story I sat at the piano and wrote this song. We are all looking for mercy but I believe if we give mercy there will always be enough to go around. Hope you enjoy the song.
This is a story I have heard my whole life. My father's grandparents came from Holland and their meeting is a fairytale. Her name was Lena and she was determined to make it to America. Her father was a gruff man who wouldn't hear it. So she made her plans and went to the harbor in Rotterdam. The captain of the boat let her on and hid her in the steerage. Her father came looking for her but the captain covered for her and after looking her father went to look elsewhere. As the ship was leaving port, the national band was playing on the shore to send off one of their own. Frank was a trumpet player in the band and was on the boat heading to America. While he was on the deck of the ship waving farewell to his bandmates, Lena was in the hold and could hear the music play. They met on the voyage across the Atlantic and fell in love. They married after arriving. My dad always told me that were it not for the ship's captain I'd probably be speaking Dutch! This song is about them, their courage and love. We hope you enjoy it!
The beginning of this song brings a smile to my face every time I hear it. Those trumpets rip and away we go. There are some people in life that are like that. They have this fire in them that burns like a supernova. You know nothing can stop them...unless they let the world crush that flame. I have seen that too. The world's cruelty, pride, spite, rage, and jealously can snuff the spark from the most creative and the most talented. It is a terror to see. This song pulls for the fire within to be greater than those forces without. It cheers on those who seek to create, build, and grow in the face of the world's weight. To those I say "BURN ON!"
Been working on new songs over the last year that I am really excited about. More stories to tell. More grooves to work out. More layering flowing out in the production. The new album is just about finished which will include 9 new tracks, one cover of my favorite John Prine song and two remixes by a couple of very talented EDM artists. For the album art I have been obsessed with vintage sci-fi art. With real-life seeming more and more like a show we put this into the art as well and love it. Super excited to share it all.
I have always been a huge fan of the band The Samples. Sean Kelly's lyrics and vocals, not to mention that signature guitar sound, always remind me of great times in the past. During this odd time we are living in I have been thinking of the lyrics to their song "Who Am I". A few years ago I started playing it as a mashup with the legendary song by Curtis Mayfield "People Get Ready". Felt like an appropriate time to share the combination and send our wishes for everyone to stay safe and think about what is most important. Thanks for listening!
Oh and you can download the mp3 for free on Bandcamp. Just enter zero for the price.
This is one of those songs that came over 30 minutes with the help of my little muse Lizzy. We were talking about our yearly trip to Imperial Beach, California when she said brightly, "Lets write a song about that!" If you ever find yourself in that area, head on over to Yum Yum Doughnuts and get yourself a Yum Yum Dozen which is 14 glorious doughnuts. The drunken swing to the song makes me nostalgic for the easy life of the beach.
This song was inspired by my Grandpa Gabe. At 17 he saw the attack on Pearl Harbor and like his older brothers, joined the military. There was just one problem, he wasn't old enough to enlist. He lied about his age and then went home to tell his parents about the elistment. His mother was understandably upset and told his father to take Gabe back to the recruiter and cancel the enlistment. My great-grand father thought about it and said that Gabe would have to live with his choices at some point and that he might as well start now.
Gabe was sent for basic training. After arriving his uniform was stolen so when he was to form up with his group on the parade ground, he wasn't in uniform. His commanding officer heard the explanation and told Gabe to go requisition another uniform. On his way to do that another officer stopped him and gave him another task. Gabe asked if he should do that first or requisition the new uniform first. The officer was so upset at the question that Gabe was sent to the brig for a week. In the brig they would remove the mattress during the day and the only thing to read was the New Testament of the Bible. Gabe was raised a catholic but hadn't read the bible. He read the book in the week he was there and felt it was true. After his release he sought out a church and was baptized. Unfortunately, the officer that put him in the brig was still upset and simply sent Gabe into the theater of the Pacific War. He had little to no training and found himself on the boats storming the beaches of contested islands. While he doesn't talk much about those days now, I imagine he had to grow up fast. As far as I know there was no episode described in the 4th verse but my grandpa is someone I have always looked up to, not only for his service in WWII but because he is a kind and thoughtful person. Love you grandpa!