Each week, John Moyle explores notable Australian songs and music videos. This week: ‘Romantic Notions‘ and its atmospheric music video, by Sydney post-punk band Mere Women.
“Absolutely there is irony in the name ‘Mere Women‘, it is all irony,” Amy Wilson, keyboardist and songwriter of the Sydney post-punk band Mere Women told the Sentinel.
Explaining that the band’s name came about when an acquaintance of Flyn McKinnirey (guitar) had expressed dismay that he was in a band with two women, dismissing them as merely a “chick” band, she said: “We were furious and the name came from there.”
Playing live in warehouses and small venues in Sydney’s Inner West soon saw the band gain the reputation for being a formidable live act with a DIY sensibility that was also shared by the audience.
“It allowed us the opportunity to play a lot of shows, get good and grow a fan base,” Wilson said.
Ten years on, these stalwarts of the inner city post-punk scene are embarking on their great leap forward with Romantic Notions, their most considered and accomplished album yet.
“When we started, we were aiming to confuse people and now we’ve tried to take an idea and think it through and sit with them longer instead of jumping around frenetically,” Wilson said.
“Romantic Notions is an example of how we have progressed, and while we still want to confront people, we also want to explore ideas more and flesh them out.”
If the eponymous single ‘Romantic Notions‘ is any example of how Mere Women’s newly found introspection is paying off, their musical future is assured.
The single, with its overtones of surf music and a Nico-like approach to vocals, possibly owes more to power pop than post-punk, but legacy fans can be assured the band has lost none of its early approach to sonics.
It is just that those guitars and drums are such driving forces in a song about obsession that they have taken on a life force of their own.
“The song is about love and obsession and control, and all these dark forces are intermingled with conflicting feelings,” Wilson said.
Over Mere Women’s 10-year history, Wilson and McKinnirey have been constant figures, while bassist Trisch Roberts and drummer Mac Archibald are more recent additions.
The band usually play and record in Sydney’s Inner West but with the advent of Covid, they saw an opportunity to explore a new approach to the album making process.
Relocating to a comfortable shack at Cottage Point on the Hawkesbury River gave the four musicians a chance to bond, relax and explore their music at a slower pace – and it’s paid off.
“Flyn and I do most of the writing, he will write a guitar piece that is almost a song, and I will write pieces that can be manipulated and then we all get together and flesh it out,” Wilson said.
“Only a couple of the songs on the album have come out as originally intended as mostly things get changed when we come together.”
The band then took the demos to producer Tim Carr at One Flight Up studios in St Peters, where the album was recorded.
It was now a natural progression to start conceiving a narrative for the film clip to the single ‘Romantic Notions’.
“We wrote a lot of the album in the cottage so I thought that it would be good to do the clip there and try to capture what the song is about,” Flyn McKinnirey said.
Once again, it would be a DIY approach with the band assuming multiple roles in the production.
Gaining access to a Canon C300 MkII and shooting in 2K under the direction of McKinnirey was the start of a day long shoot in and around Cottage Point.
“We didn’t have any money and I knew someone who could get me the camera and we winged it,” McKinnirey said.
A friend named Kim, who works in makeup, offered her services and would be the only person with professional qualifications on the shoot, the rest being driven by enthusiasm cloaked in naivety.
Using different shutter speeds to give an unsettling view of Wilson’s changing inner reality during the car journey presented some problems.
“Mac was doing the filming of the car shots and he had to do some very strange things with his body to fit into the car as well as film,” Wilson said.
Throughout the clip, Amy’s make-up keeps developing as she progresses through changes to her eventual new reality.
The clip also features a brief view of a very special cloak that Wilson has used to identify and promote the album.
Made by her friend Arielle Gamble, it is a powerful visual motif for the album and the band.
“The cloak that I wear is also the artwork for the album,” Wilson said.
“We had a conversation about making a stitching that symbolises women’s work in a traditional craft art form.
“We went through each track on the album and used these symbols as iconography.”
After the main day’s shoot, the band felt that pick up shots were needed and these were done at 6am the next morning, with the borrowed camera.
Drummer Mac Archibald works professionally as a graphic designer and felt that he would take on the editing duties using Adobe Premier and After Effects.
When asked about the budget, McKinnirey said: “Four boxes of pizza, one went to the makeup artist, but the guy who lent us the camera didn’t get one.
“The rest went to the band as payment for me trying to boss them around.”
In old skool speak, the album and clip are both in the can and now the band has to begin the hard slog of promoting their work, including playing live after a Covid enforced hiatus.
That means working with Poison City, their Melbourne-based record company and planning gigs in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.
“it’s really exciting and I can’t wait to get to the other cities that I haven’t been to for so long,” Wilson said.
“Each city has its own distinct flavours and scenes going on, and I hope that as people get back to playing that they continue to thrive.
“We are playing at the Lansdowne in Sydney on June 17th.”
Not mere women at all.
‘Romantic Notions’ by Mere Women – music video credits
Directed by Mere Women. Starring Amy Wilson, Trisch Roberts, Mac Archibald and Flyn McKinnirey. Cinematography by Flyn & Mac. Colour, edit and titles by Mac. Hair and make-up by Kimberley Conroy (White Lion Cosmetica). This video was shot on the land of the Eora and Garigal people. Video licensed to YouTube by The Orchard Music (on behalf of Poison City Records).
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