Mercies is a DC-based power trio that benefits greatly from the work its members have done with other local bands. Guitarist-vocalist John Russell also plays in the jammier ThunderTyts (and was a member of Little Bigheart), bassist-vocalist Justin Scott writes electro-tinged indie pop as Stout Cortez, and drummer Ezra Finney also plays with City Folk. As Mercies, the band makes indie rock that is confrontational yet catchy, in the tradition of Wire and the Pixies.
The band’s self-titled EP gives a taste of what they’re about, pulling from a range of influences. The rollicking “Precipice” bounces along with the occasional shrieked lyric, while “This is Not About Control” is more brooding. The vocal interaction between Russell and Scott is interesting and always different: sometimes harmonizing, other times juxtaposing through counterpoint.
The EP piqued my interest, but their live show sealed the deal. Playing to a full backstage room at the Black Cat last Thursday, Mercies rocked on a visceral level only hinted at on their EP. The soundboard recordings do a good job of capturing that energy. “Decade” is the strongest of the bunch, with sharp guitar and bass riffs, Russell with his grungiest growl, Scott’s soaring “ohs” and “ahs” and rumbling beats from Finney.
Local music scenes often take on an incestuous quality, with musicians collaborating and growing together in various configurations. The fruits of that labor is evident with Mercies. Catch them at Sidebar Tavern in Baltimore on March 30 and Asylum in DC on April 7.