Interview: The Young Evils' MacKenzie Mercer talks Bumbershoot and Motley Crue cover bands

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Seattle’s own The Young Evils are playing Bumbershoot on Sunday and are preparing to unleash a louder and somewhat darker sound on us all. If you’re familiar with their 2010 debut record Enchanted Chapel you know them to play catchy pop-acoustic songs laced with harmonies provided by singers Troy Nelson and MacKenzie Mercer. 

They’ve released a new EP titled Foreign Spells on which they’ve come up with a noisier and somewhat darker group of songs. That’s not to suggest that The Young Evils have completely abandoned what was great about Enchanted Chapel at all. In fact you still have the back and forth vocals from Nelson and Mercer and they have held on to their pop sensibilities.

They’ve just turned the gain control on their amps up a tad.

The Young Evils began about three years ago when Mercer and Nelson both worked at Easy Street Records. Troy had an idea for a guy-girl pop band and when he discovered McKenzie could sing by hearing her singing along to a record in the store – the band was formed.  They’ve added musicians along the way, refined their sound and now are one of Seattle’s up and coming bands.

As they prepare for their Bumbershoot set MacKenzie Mercer was kind enough to take some time and chat with Culture Mob.

Andrew Eide: The new EP is a little louder and maybe darker, is that a direction you guys feel like you want to go, or was this just an experiment on an EP?

MacKenzie Mercer: I think it will probably continue to go in that direction when we go back and do a full length. You know we just had Eric our new drummer join and he’s been amazing and he’s a phenomenal rock drummer and I think that adding all our personalities and Troy’s song writing, it’s just kind of morphed into that (sound). We still love acoustic stuff, acoustic pop songs, folk music but I just think this is a little bit more what everyone wants to be doing.

AE: So with this darker side coming out, that doesn’t mean you’re depressed does it?

MM: (laughing) No, not depressed. Troy and I joked that when we made Enchanted Chapel we had recently started dating, that’s what you do when you start a band with someone, and everything was sun-shiny and butterflies and summer time and then you get into the nitty gritty of the real world and so now we just want to sing about how much we hate each other.

AE: So we’ll be able to track your relationship by the sound of your records then?

MM: Right, eventually we’ll be a metal band.

AE: What is The Young Evils song writing process like?

MM: It’s become more collaborative than it was in the beginning. In the beginning Troy had this very strong clear idea of what he wanted to sound like. I came in and would have some ideas about things like what the band name should be or what the album art should look like. But now Troy really likes to write songs at home and he has a little 8-track set up. He’s pretty prolific and cranks them out, his metaphor for song writing is throwing spaghetti against the wall and I’m going to get as many as I can and a couple will stick. So he will crank them out and then play them back to me and we’ll decide on what we really like and bring them back to the group. Michael, our bass player, actually has probably stepped in and been the biggest collaborator with Troy, he has a tremendous ear for arrangements. He and Troy work so well together.

AE: Who are some of your main influences?

MM: I definitely think that Troy and I, when we first started working at Easy Street together, we had this mutual love for a lot of 70’s punk rock and a lot of 80’s hair metal. We’ve joked about doing a Motley Crue cover band for years. I think that was always there, me personally growing up my heart and soul has always been in rock and roll music and pop music. I listened to a lot of oldies, like the Everly Brothers, I think there’s a slight bit of 60’s doo-wap that sneaks in moments. We definitely like distorted guitars and I think our goal is to have great pop sensibilities and still have a rock edge.

AE: Did you have a name picked out for the Motley Crue band?

MM: We didn’t, in the very beginning we felt it would be very strange to have an acoustic guy-girl Motley Crue cover band.

AE: That actually sounds pretty cool, you guys should work that into your set.

MM: Actually, in the very beginning, we worked up a version of Skid Row’s ‘Youth Gone Wild’. It’s not been shared with any ears since.

AE: This is your first time playing Bumbershoot, what are your feelings about it?

MM: We’re really excited about it. When you grow up seeing the bands play at Bumbershoot you dream of playing it and I feel like the lineup this year is especially awesome. I have bands circled everyday and there are things that are overlapped and I’m trying to figure out how I’m going to get to them all to see as much music as possible.

AE: Who are some of the bands you’re looking forward to seeing?

MM: I’m excited to see Reignwolf do his thing. We’re all really big fans of his and he’s just an amazing performer. I’m going to try and see Low, Fujiya & Miyagi, The Vaselines and I really like The Fruit Bats and I’ve never seen them live before but they are one of my favorite local bands. I’d also really like to see King Khan and the Shrines, they’re one of my favorites that I’ve never seen.

AE: What are the plans for the band after Bumbershoot? Are you working on a new record?

MM: Yeah, we are itching to get back into the studio. We were excited to get Foreign Spells out so there was something tangible people could hear as far as the new direction. Since we write songs and learn them really quickly and Troy’s kind of an anxious fella, he’s always ready to get onto the next thing. We need to get start recording with him and I think the timeline is going to be January, we’ll get back in the studio and do a full length with this line up. I think we have half the material ready to go and we’re going to spend the next two months learning and perfecting these songs.

The Young Evils are playing on Sunday at The Promenade Stage at 4:30pm.

Here is ‘Dead Animals’ off of Foreign Spells:

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