Mermaidens are a three-piece outfit from Wellington, New Zealand, who are renowned for their intricate and unique songwriting, boldly raw but increasingly refined studio production, and a hypnotic live synergy that leaves audiences enchanted. Their sound offers a mesmerising dip into the realms of post-punk and psych, while the voices of Gussie Larkin and Lily West embrace warm harmonies and dreamy, hypnotic lyrics, entwined with dark and moody riff-based melodies, underpinned by Abe Hollingsworth's fluid and dynamic percussion. Their new album Perfect Body is due out on 4th of August via Flying Nun.
Mermaidens' entrance onto the NZ music scene was extremely strong following the releases of their widely acclaimed debut EP O in 2014 and subsequent album Undergrowth in 2016. As a result, they were offered dozens of national shows and international support slots, which led to them being picked up by Flying Nun records, who release the band’s first international album
Drawing inspiration from bands like Warpaint, Fugazi, Exploded View and Sleater-Kinney, Mermaidens formed in 2013, having been friends in high school. Lily and Gussie had nervously shown each other songs they’d written before collaborating together. The name Mermaidens seemed to fit well as it’s fun and a little bit silly, yet dark at the same time. As Gussie explains; “I guess that’s us in a nutshell.”
The band self-released their first EP O in 2014, which was a raw and enthralling DIY offering, recorded at drummer Abe’s parents house. There was a focus on capturing the ‘live’ element of the songs, which has always been very important to Mermaidens’ music. The tracks Wonder and Cold Skin were re-recorded for their debut album Undergrowth, as they were important pieces in the puzzle and the band felt they deserved a more polished and refined approach. The LP was released in 2016 and received critical acclaim and widespread interest amongst influential online music and style platforms including Noisey, i-D, and The 405. The excitement around Mermaidens’ debut album was encapsulated by i-D contributor Wendy Syfret, who described them as one of; “New Zealand's most enigmatic and engaging young bands.”
Perfect Body features many of the familiar characteristics of the Mermaidens sound, with twinkly, reverb-laden guitar lines, rich vocal harmonies and vibrant drums. They have expanded on these sounds, bringing in even more dynamic elements, building richer melodic layers and a wider range of guitar textures, as they explore different levels of dissonance. Each song bursts with energy and variety, with contrasting light and dark, and they’ve left space for mellow and brooding instrumentals underpinning a powerful vocal melody.
Thematically, the album is about growing up and developing their art, their minds and their bodies as they mature. Their lyrics are like a mantra to themselves. As Gussie explains: “While writing the album Lily and I had both been thinking and talking about pleasure and pressure. By that I mean the contrast of being in a blissful state, but with an underlying anxiety or uncertainty being present too.” The sun is also a recurring theme on the album - the feeling of craving the sun and being rewarded with the blissful sensation of its warmth on your skin, which ties back to the pleasure/pressure references throughout.
Having shied away from placing themselves front and centre in the artwork for previous releases, the new album marks a change for Mermaidens. They’re keen to command the listener’s attention rather than lulling them into dream space, so they decided to have a powerful image of themselves on the album cover. “The image still has a supernatural element to it but it feels very personal,” explains Gussie.
Mermaidens pride themselves on an engaging and polished live performance. Their impressive portfolio of support slots and sold out shows, attests to the charm and excellence of their live show. In just a few years Mermaidens have sold out major venues in New Zealand as well as supporting international acts such as Death Cab For Cutie, Sleater Kinney, and Mac Demarco, and Windhand.
As a band who have grown dramatically since their inception, both creatively and musically, Mermaidens are undoubtedly a band to watch very closely, and are set to make a similar impact on the global music scene as they have at home in New Zealand.
Mermaidens photos by Russell Kleyn