Take heart: An interview with Merriment

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The word merriment is synonymous with fun and joy, and the Tyler, Texas, indie folk duo of the same moniker is currently experiencing plenty of both, having just released their debut album, Sway.

Sure, there’s been lots of hard work and struggle along the way, whether it be defining the band’s sound, distinguishing themselves from their elder siblings in Eisley or learning the touring ropes while on the road. However, all of that hard work has paid off in a big way in the form of one of the year’s most delightful debuts.

Merriment, comprised of Christie and Collin DuPree, are currently touring with Eisley in support of Sway, but that didn’t stop Christie from taking time to chat with It’s All Dead about the band’s origins, growing up in a musical family, and what the future holds for the duo.

How does it feel to finally have the new album out?

It feels awesome. We’re super excited to finally have it out. We finished it over a year ago now, so we were anxious to have it out, and people have been saying some nice things about it, so that’s good! We’re pretty relieved.

It’s been pretty common knowledge that you and your brother Collin make up Merriment, but on the cover of Sway, there’s a third person. Who is it?

Everyone keeps asking me that, it’s so funny! He’s actually our drummer and our cousin. His name is Remington, but so far we have only done a few tours playing full band with him, so not everyone has seen him play with us.

So you have been doing this for awhile, but is there an exact point where Merriment became a real band, or was it more of a process or growth into what it is now?

It’s a little of both. I mean, we kind of started out just playing music for fun, writing and playing shows and stuff. At one point we realized that we were getting more opportunities handed to us and more tours and things like that.

That was around the same time that we had decided to come up with the band name Merriment and use that instead of just going by my solo thing. It kind of just evolved naturally, but at the same time it’s something that we definitely always wanted to do.

You obviously grew up in a music family – your older siblings are in Eisley – and I wonder what that was like for you growing up. Did they influence you in your musical tastes or push you in creating your own art in any way?

I would say, they definitely have influenced us, but we all grew up in the same house, listening to the same music together. We all started playing music for the same reasons – because we love it. Their sound specifically, I wouldn’t say that we’re trying to do the same thing that they are, but any similarity is purely coincidence because we’re brothers and sisters and our voices sound similar.

What was the writing process like for you and Collin? Did it change for you at all as you put together Sway?

Yeah, we had a lot more time to focus on this record. The EP that we did was recorded in [about] a week and the songs had already been written for a while. We were about to be out on the road at that point, so we just kind of tracked them and put it out.

But with the record, we had more time to focus on it. Collin and I wrote a lot of the songs together, whereas before it was just me writing the songs and then sending them to him to write his guitar parts and stuff. So he contributed just as much as I did during the writing process of this record.

I think because of that, the sound is a little more developed as opposed to our EP, which was just me. There’s a different voice on the record, which is Collin’s voice, and I think it brings a cooler element, just because I’m a fan of Collin.

You recorded the album in your hometown of Tyler, Texas. What was your favorite part of the recording process?

The whole process was lots of fun. We actually re-tracked everything in a couple of weeks with Charlie Brand of Miniature Tigers – he produced it. He was just so much fun to work with and he’s such a funny guy.

We all worked together really well and there were no major hang-ups or anything, so the whole process was really easygoing and fun. I don’t know if there’s anything that sticks out to me as my favorite part, but it was a fun process.

There’s an obvious growth in sound on Sway. In seems like you dabble a bit in folk, Americana and even a bit of alt-country. What influenced you as you moved towards a new sound?

Honestly, I don’t know. Influences and stuff – that’s a hard question for me because I listen to a lot of different stuff from any range of the spectrum. I listen to a little bit of Taylor Swift, a little bit of John Mayer, and then there’s Radiohead, Civil Wars – I feel like there’s not one specific genre that I listen to.

If things have influenced my writing, it’s not a conscious thing. It kind of just happens without me knowing it. It’s kind of hard to pinpoint what things influence what. The lyrics are one thing, but the music style is just kind of what comes to me naturally. I guess I wouldn’t really know what inspires it specifically.

It seems like a lot of lyrics on the album almost transition back and forth between very honest and reality-based to more to detached or dream-like, on a song like “Backwards”. What is the ratio for you between songs that tell of your own experience and songs that tell stories that you come up with?

I would say that most of them are personal stories, whether or not they’re something that I was going through at that moment or stuff that happened in the past. There were maybe only a couple songs that were lyrically random, I guess. A song like “Two Worlds” was just something that I wrote and thought it sounded cool and wasn’t about anything very specific. So there’s a little bit of both, but probably more on the side of personal experience.

There’s really a whole family atmosphere around all of you – you’re touring with Eisley right now, you’re signed to your brother-in-law Max’s record label. How important is that togetherness been for you as Merriment develops?

Our family is all super closer and they’re all super supportive of us and what we do. I feel lucky, honestly, to get to travel with my family, at least for now. It’s so much fun. We’re all best friends and we all get along.

It would definitely be a different experience if I were just in a band with a bunch of random friends. I’m sure that would be good too, but my family is very important to me. I would definitely say that it helps inspire me because I grew up in a house full of music and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

Is there any particular band making music right now that you would enjoy touring with or working with?

Yes! I always answer this question the same way, but Good Old War is kind of my favorite band right now and I think their fans and our fans would appreciate both of our music. I guess that would be a good tour for us just because – I don’t know if our music style is very similar, but I think our fans would like them and vice versa.

Have you noticed a change in audience reaction now that you’ve been out on tour and the new album is out?

Oh yeah, definitely. It’s just crazy because the album has only been out for a few days, but already there’s been kids singing along to the new songs. It almost makes me get teary-eyed when I see somebody singing our new songs because it means that they really like it, which is awesome for me. I’m just really glad that there are people that are responding so well to the record. It’s been awesome.

Right now you’re on tour with Eisley – what other plans do you have for the support of Sway during the remainder of 2014?

We’re probably going to be back out on the road in June or July. I’m not exactly sure who we’ll be touring with yet, but our booking agent is talking to a few people and we’re trying to work out all of the details and stuff. But we’re definitely going to be touring a lot, which I’m excited about.

So far, we’ve only really toured with Eisley because it made sense financially for us and them, because we would travel with them and they needed an opener that their fans would like. It’s just worked out that way so far and we’ve been so lucky to have so much touring experience while being able to do it with family to where it wasn’t this big, daunting, scary thing.

It was just natural for us because we grew up doing it this way. I’m definitely excited to be touring with some other bands in the near future – that will be really fun.

You can buy Sway on iTunes and catch the band on their current tour.

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

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