Merchandise Talks Hardcore, EDM, Shredding in Tampa, and Miami's 305 Fest
Tampa, Florida is home to a long tradition of phlegm-throated snarling and buzzsaw shredding. In the '80s and '90s, the Gulf Coast industrial metropolis was a petri dish of brutality, producing extreme music legends like Deicide, Morbid Angel, Obituary, and Assück.
But what if we told you that the latest sound from Florida's westside wasn't brutal at all. And while the band in question, Merchandise, certainly "shreds," its plunge into rock 'n' roll abandon resembles that of My Bloody Valentine or The Jesus and Mary Chain far more than Cannibal Corpse or Napalm Death.
As a distant descendent of mid-2000s sensation Cult Ritual, Merchandise's roots lay entwined with metal's snarky teen cousin: hardcore punk. And that lineage more than secures the trio a spot at this year's 305 Fest, where they will be performing tonight.
But over the past few years (and a constant trickle of releases, the most recent being this year's Children of Desire LP), the band has been brewing an indie rock-synthpop-shoegaze melange that asserts its identity as not only one of the most exciting musical voices coming out of the Sunshine State, but the entire continental United States.
Crossfade: Is Merchandise an incidental cog in hardcore/noise transitioning into EDM/synth-music? Or are you leading the way? How did we get here?
Pat: Defining an era of music is pure speculation, and I can't think of a way to describe something that is constantly changing.
Dave: I don't know. What's happened has happened. Our musical development has been natural and we've never really spent much time considering it.
Carson: It's just music. We use guitars too. Everything is out of necessity. Everything is intentional, but nothing is planned.
This question is for Carson. How did you develop your vocals? Though there are obvious references and points of comparison, it does seem like a personally cultivated style. What was that process like? It seems like one would be shitting bricks trying to sing with such vulnerability.
Carson: My mother taught me how to sing. We would sing along to The Sound of Music and Singing in the Rain. Stuff like that. I had a very puffy, Midwestern upbringing in the midst of Cuban-run West Tampa. I always sang, even when we played straight post-punk. But no one could hear because the PAs at punk shows are never loud enough. It's not hard to sing that way. I practice in the dark mostly. Girls seem to like it.
I've heard rumors of Merchandise turning down tours with big name indie rock bands and refusing record deals from hotshot labels. Are these rumors true? What gives? If you could make a living off of your music, would you?
Pat: Rumors by definition are of public concern, and I can't think of anything further away from public concern than how I choose to make a living.
Dave: Those are exaggerations. If I could make a living from music, I would definitely do it. It's just not as black-and-white as touring with a big band or signing with a big label. There are other ways to be successful playing music. We're in no rush to make hasty decisions.
Carson: Yeah, we're in no rush. We have a very dedicated fan base with no reason to force any exposure or anything like that. Things will change like they always do without our meddling.
How does the music of Merchandise relate to your hometown of Tampa, Florida? Is it a rejection/protest of your roots? Or is your sound wrought directly from it?
Pat: I feel that our surroundings are definitely influential on us, but whatever bleeds into the music is purely incidental.
Dave: The music is a reflection of this city and the oppressive weight it casts upon those that live and work here. It's not a protest of our roots, just an extension of them.
Carson: Absolutely directly from it. But it would be very difficult to go into that in this short interview. Its like bar blues on the keyboard put back on guitar.
What kinds of bands does Merchandise play with on tour? It would appear you spend most of your time in the hardcore scene. Why do you think the punks have taken to your sound so much? Is this in any way connected to hardcore's obsession with The Smiths? Is it simply a matter of ex-members warming thick-necks up to music they may have otherwise ignored?
Dave: We grew up in the punk scene and those are the people we know. We've always played punk shows. I can't say whether or not we'll always be playing basements and underground spots. That's just where our fans are. Punk is notoriously close-minded. I'm sure seeing a band with strong roots in the hardcore scene playing this version of pop music may make certain people more inclined to open up to other things. But ultimately, I'd like to think it's just people appreciating good music.
Pat: I think our involvement in the punk and hardcore circuit is what has brought attention to us from these places and I reject the idea that we emulate anything to draw attention to ourselves by abusing our relationship with these scenes.
Carson: We have no scene anymore. Maybe we did when we were kids, but not now. I can't comment on other people's obsessions. But I can say that our obsessions run deeper than music. We play with the people that we're close to for the most part. I hope we can continue do that.
305 Fest with Bastard Noise, Iron Lung, Dropdead, Noothgrush, Torche, Jacuzzi Boys, Floor, and others, presented by Speedfreak. Friday, July 6, to Sunday, July 8. Churchill's Pub, 5505 NE Second Ave., Miami. Doors open at 4 p.m. on Friday and 1 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Three day passes cost $60 via speedfreak.bigcartel.com. Call 305-757-1807 or visit churchillspub.com.
Follow Crossfade on Facebook and Twitter @Crossfade_SFL.