The Spirit of Eisley Perseveres on Latest Tour

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There’s no room for Sherri DuPree-Bemis to hide. The stage at the Hi-Fi in Fountain Square, a small artsy district just south of downtown Indianapolis, is small, just like the venue itself, and sits at the front of a tiny room packed shoulder-to-shoulder with onlookers. Unfazed by the mission at hand, the woman now tasked with leading one of indie rock’s most charming bands steps up to the mic and belts out the opening notes of an 18-song set.

Sherri is no stranger to the stage, but recent events have changed the dynamic. Earlier this year, it was announced that Tyler, Texas, outfit Eisley would continue on without two of its founding members (and two of Sherri’s sisters): Stacy King and Chauntelle D’Agostino. In preparation for a fifth full-length album coming in early 2017, Eisley is back on the road in their new formation.

For a band that has relied heavily in the past on whimsical harmonies and team vocal duties from each sister on stage, Eisley has a new feel with Sherri’s edgy delivery taking the spotlight. In an effort to retain the multi-vocal feel of the band, younger sister Christie DuPree now flanks Sherri onstage, providing her own unique twist to the songs.

Before Eisley’s performance, Christie and Remington DuPree took the stage as Merriment, a stripped-down indie pop act that resembles a lighter side of their older siblings’ music. Merriment debuted with Sway in 2014, an effort full of promise and light. As the duo prepares for their follow-up, it’s clear that Christie is more comfortable than ever on stage, whether performing upbeat indie folk tracks like “Backwards” or slow-burning acoustic ballads like “Patterns”.

Eisley

Eisley

On stage with Eisley, Christie offers range for the band, especially as they perform older tracks like “Brightly Wound” and “Trolley Wood”, serving as a soothing harmony to Sherri’s bite. Even so, the night’s set finds Sherri fully embracing the role of front woman in all the right ways. She owns the stage during performances of “Smarter” and “Many Funerals” and even sounds strong taking the lead on tracks that were previously piloted by Stacy, like “Ambulance” and “Shelter”.

As wonderful as it is to hear these tracks performed again after the band’s brief hiatus, the night’s best moment belongs to a rendition of their latest song, “Defeatist”. Here, Sherri sounds more confident than ever as she belts out the pleading chorus of, “You know I want to / You know I will fight / Down in the trenches / Holding your hand tight”. It’s a song of determination – one that fits the current mood of Eisley quite nicely.

The wait for more new Eisley music is likely to feel lengthy, but despite past trials, the band has never failed to deliver. As odd as it feels to gaze upon the stage and not see Stacy behind the keyboard and Chauntelle with her guitar, it’s still inspiring to watch Sherri carry on. On the band’s latest track, she labels herself a defeatist. It’s a bold self-assessment, but from our view on the floor, her demeanor is one of strength and resolve.

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.

Top 10 Songs of 2014

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Making a list of the top 10 songs of any year is a challenge. Each of us journeys through 12 months filled with highs and lows, challenges and dull moments. The soundtracks that fill those times are often created by our need for a particular sound or feeling in any given instant.

Does ranking these songs require us to distance ourselves from the emotions that helped them resonate? That’s debatable, but perhaps the true measure lies somewhere in between a relatable song that offered purpose or aid and a well constructed, perfectly executed track that showcases a band’s talent.

Needless to say, a lot went into the creation of this list. We did our best to break down what we feel were the best moments of 2014 – the songs that not only defined our lives this year, but the songs that made us perk up with rapt attention. Take a look and let us know what you think in the replies!

10. Merriment – “Backwards”

Perhaps best known as the younger siblings of the DuPree’s of Eisley fame, Merriment has certainly carved their own path with their debut album, Sway. The highlight comes in the form of “Backwards”, perfectly blending the band’s acoustic pop sensibilities with a folk sound that sets them apart from their peers. Christie DuPree’s vocal range is stunning here, especially on the song’s beautiful chorus. Dupree opens the song with the haunting lines, “Holding high your little head / Walking backwards in your steps / Nobody knows you’re dead”. The song is just as mysterious as it is charming, but catchy enough that you can’t listen to it just once. – Kiel Hauck

9. I Can Make a Mess  “Deciduous”

On an album of delicious pop songs, “Deciduous” stands out as one that has every ingredient of a good ICMAM song; gorgeous hooks, minimal production, Enders’ working every note of the vocal scale and the themes of finances and that love will overcome any problem. The song is at once a love song about being a musician, but acknowledges the fears that come along with it, including a singled out line where he quietly worries, “I hope one day my kids think I’m cool / Didn’t sell the farm to be the mule / I’m a fool”. – Kyle Schultz

8. Anberlin – “Stranger Ways”

Fans of Anberlin were fortunate to receive a final goodbye from the band in the form of 2014’s Lowborn. The best moment from the album comes on the 80’s inspired “Stranger Ways”, weaving the band’s tried-and-true songwriting formula with eerie electronics and synthesizers. In truth, it sounds like the best song Depeche Mode never wrote. Vocalist Stephen Christian opens with the chilling lines, “Locking eyes, a waning glance, mistook chance / Of adding meaning to the words forever”. The song climaxes during the bridge as Christian pleads, “Would you say with me, here in my dreams / If I promised you this heaven?” Alas, there will be no staying for Anberlin. Even so, we’re thankful for the fond farewell. – KH

7. XTRMST – “Conformist”

XTRMST are a welcome return to form for straight edge hardcore. The new project from Davy Havok and Jade Puget is what fans of AFI’s hardcore days have spent years hoping for. The guitar work is loose, hypnotically dark and as heavy as a physical attack. “Conformist” shows Havok in perfect form, swooning between spoken word and nightmarish screaming. The song is one of the few singles for an album that highlights the record succinctly. Each lyric is an attack on the listener, critiquing not only their way of life, but their tolerance of any other type of subculture with the repeated accusations of “You are conformist”. It’s an uncomfortable listen, but demands your attention for the rest of the record. – KS

6. Childish Gambino – “III. Telegraph Ave. (“Oakland” by Lloyd)”

Perhaps it’s odd that the best track on Because the Internet fits into the context of the album’s overarching story as a song sung by someone else. It opens as we hear the main character climb into his car and turn the key. The radio comes on, introducing the track, sung by “Lloyd”. Childish Gambino channels his inner-Drake on the track – it’s silky smooth as he sings of the confusion tied to romantic commitment. It’s background noise for our main character as he drives, but it’s speaking both to us and to him. “Everything you won’t say, you tweet it”, sings Gambino. It’s commentary on our internet culture – and an indictment on us all for our willingness to dive head-first into it. – KH

5. Say Anything  Judas Decapitation

Max Bemis’s most ‘Say Anything’ song is about how blogs, fans and the music industry criticize him for not making ‘Say Anything’ music the way they want. It couldn’t be more meta if he mentioned your name in the middle of it. Like the rest of Hebrews, “Judas Decapitation” forgoes the guitar work in favor of a hybrid mesh of flaring pop synth and intense percussion. The song is a scathing attack on the industry and his own fans about their interpretation of his music, which is one of the things that made his music so well respected to begin with. Lyrics like, “I hate that dude now that he’s married / He’s got a baby on the way, poor Sherri”, and “Spike his fifteenth espresso with drugs / So he’s convinced it’s a manic delusion to know true love / Be nineteen with a joint in hand / Never change the band”, show that not only is Bemis aware of every criticism of his music, he’s attacking them head on. – KS

4. Yellowcard – “Lift a Sail”

The title track on Yellowcard’s triumphant Lift a Sail is quite possibly the best song the band has ever written. Gone are the pop punk riffs the band was so well known for – “Lift a Sail” is an anthemic rock song, born from a painful, traumatic event. There’s certainly a sadness here, but the track itself is about rising above the wreckage. It’s something we can all connect to, because in one way or another, we’ve all been there before, struggling to make the choice to press on amidst the pain. When vocalist Ryan Key cries out the song’s massive chorus of, “If a cold wind starts to rise / I am ready now, I am ready now / With the last sail lifted high / I am ready now, I am ready now”, it’s undeniably the most chill-inducing moment of the year. – KH

3. Against Me!  “FUCKMYLIFE666”

This is easily one of the catchiest songs on Transgender Dysphoria Blues due to the melody alone. The bouncing guitars and opening strings tear against the throbbing drums to make a fast, energetic hell of a song. Each verse bleeds into the chorus, hiding the fact that the song is a traditional styled pop song elegantly layered in harmony. It also contains one of the strongest verses on an album full of memorable lines as Laura Grace sings, “Chipped nail polish and a barbed wire dress / Is your mother proud of your eyelashes? / Silicone chest and collagen lips / How would you even recognize me?” The song is short, brutal and incredibly memorable. It manages to stand as one of the best songs in Against Me!’s infamously great catalogue. – KS

2. PVRIS – “My House”

On their debut album, White Noise, synthpop trio PVRIS have promptly destroyed any notion of what a Rise Records band should sound like. Originally formed as a post-hardcore act, PVRIS made the surprising and wise choice to turn pop, littering their landscape of atmospheric synthesizers with bouncing drums and pulsing bass. “My House” is one of the most powerful pop songs you’ll hear this year, thanks in large part to the vocal work of Lyndsey Gunnelfsen. During the track’s massive, dance-worthy breakdown, she howls, “Haven’t you heard? I’m not yours anymore, I’m not yours anymore!” The song is ferocious as it is infectious, making it the most captivating pop song of 2014. – KH

1. Aaron West & The Roaring Twenties – “St. Joe Keeps Us Safe”

On an album whose theme is caving in, “St. Joe Keeps Us Safe” is the lynchpin for Aaron West & The Roaring Twenties that sees our main character breaking down in his mother’s kitchen. It’s a powerful acoustic epic fueled by the slow burn of electric guitar and the tortured cry of a steel guitar yowling in the background. Dan Campbell’s vocals mimic the story perfectly, sounding on the verge of breaking into tears as he describes Aaron’s walk home, eventually building to screams of “Take the car and run!” The descriptions alone would be worthy of being one of this year’s best songs, but the true gem is what should be an impossible feat: Aaron and his mother having an actual conversation. Around a kitchen table, they lean and cry on each other’s shoulders as Campbell sings, “I know things ain’t been good since dad died, I know you don’t need this from me / But mama I’m breaking, there’s no light in the dark, Diane left this week / She said, ‘Son look at me, I know we ain’t been this low before and I’m sorry Aaron / I know this year has been hard’”. – KS

Honorable Mention:

Emarosa – “People Like Me, We Just Don’t Play”

Kendrick Lamar – “I”

Architects – “Gravedigger”

Fall Out Boy – “Centuries”

Taylor Swift – “Style”

 

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.

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.

Review: Merriment – Sway

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Being the youngest in the family can be a real downer. Rarely getting to take part in games with the older siblings, being perpetually confined to the backseat, having to fight for attention. In the case of the youngest DuPree siblings, Christie and Collin, the age gap resulted in living in the shadow of indie pop act Eisley, featuring sisters Sherri, Stacy and Chauntelle and brother Weston.

No longer must they wait their turn. The Tyler, Texas, brother-sister duo, better known as Merriment, began touring in 2012 before releasing the Through the Rough EP that same year. They have since signed with Equal Vision imprint Rory Records and have released one of the most remarkable debut albums of the year in the form of Sway.

You wouldn’t have been remiss to think of Merriment as a sort of Eisley Jr. in their earlier form. Christie’s vocals share a familiarity with her sisters’ and her dream-like songwriting over the top of the duo’s stripped-down acoustic sound lent itself well to comparisons. With Sway, the band hasn’t been completely reborn from their roots, but they’ve certainly distanced themselves far enough to be considered much more than a carbon copy.

Indeed, Sway leans much more in the direction of indie-folk and even alt-country than it does indie pop or rock. The duo’s songwriting has grown bounds since Through the Rough and their melodies now shine brightly.

While the album’s first two tracks, “Take Heart” and “Tremendous Love” wouldn’t feel too out of place on Eisley’s 2013 release Currents, the real progression begins with “Somehow”. The song holds a distinct country twang that surprisingly fits the band quite well – Christie’s vocals swoop up and down over the strum of her guitar as she prepares the listener for her story with the line, “I would tell you but I don’t think / You wanna hear these words I’m ‘bout to sing”.

Along with the sonic shift, much of the album’s content takes a turn for the personal, with Christie sharing stories that hint at youthful pain, confusion and hope. Even the mysterious lyrics of album standout “Backwards” seem to point at something deeper, especially with the line “Take it from someone who sees both sides of the story”. The track’s infectious chorus is driven forward by appropriately controlled percussion, showing its hand as a folk song while remaining covertly pop.

It’s these sorts of transitions and meshings of genre that keep the listener maddeningly engaged. “Patterns” once again displays the band’s poppier side with a cute, catchy chorus that finds Christie emulating the vocal stylings of elder sister Stacy, while “Right Again” swings the band back in a slower, folkier direction with the sounds of a plucking banjo. Album closer “Unhinged” utilizes a string arrangement to push the song to a crescendo.

In truth, Sway is all about motion, whether it be in terms of the figurative heart or in reference to the band’s shifting musical stylings. If this collection of songs seems at all scattered, chalk it up to experimentation from a young duo with a whole lot of talent at their disposal. One could hope that the band bends in the direction of their country/folk sound in future releases, but to nitpick at the details would be to ignore the promise and downright infectiousness of this fresh debut.

Merriment are no longer the cute little siblings of the Eisley circle. With Sway, they have established themselves as their own separate and unique entity – one that is sure to improve and grow even more in the years to come. For now, Sway is an astounding starting point.

4/5

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.

Merriment to release debut album “Sway” on April 8

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At long last, indie pop act Merriment will release their debut album Sway on April 8 via Rory Records. The band released an EP entitled Through the Rough in 2012 before releasing two brand new songs late last year. You can find the album art and track listing for Sway below:

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Track List
1. Take Heart
2. Tremendous Love
3. Somehow
4. Now I’m Silver
5. Backwards
6. Two Worlds
7. Patterns
8. Spill
9. Nothing To Lose
10. Down By The Creek
11. Right Again
12. Unhinged

You can purchase two songs from Sway on a spring tour sampler recently released with Eisley over at bandcamp.

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Eisley announce spring tour dates with Merriment

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Tyler, Texas indie rock act Eisley have announced some spring tour dates with label-mates (and younger siblings) Merriment. In addition, you can also download a free tour sampler with songs from both bands over at bandcamp.

Check out the tour dates below:

Apr 01 Nashville, TN @ Exit/In
Apr 02 Chapel Hill, NC @ Cat’s Cradle Back Room
Apr 03 Washington, DC @ U Street
Apr 05 Philadelphia, PA @ Boot & Saddle
Apr 06 Uncasville, CT @ Wolf Den @ Mohegan
Apr 07 Boston, MA @ Brighton Music Hall
Apr 08 New York, NY @ Bowery Ballroom
Apr 10 Pittsburgh, PA @ Smiling Moose
Apr 11 Columbus, OH @ A&R Music Bar
Apr 12 South Bend, IN @ Subkirke
Apr 13 Chicago, IL @ Lincoln Hall
Apr 14 Kansas City, MO @ Czar
Apr 15 Little Rock, AR @ Stickyz RnR Chicken Shack
Apr 16 Houston, TX @ House of Blues Peacock
Apr 17 Austin, TX @ Emo’s
Apr 18 San Antonio, TX @ Jack’s Bar
Apr 19 Dallas, TX @ Trees

If you haven’t checked out Eisley’s latest full length, Currents, you’re missing out on one of 2013’s best albums. You can but it at iTunes.

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Thursday Spotlight: Merriment

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If you haven’t heard of Merriment, you’ve certainly heard of their relatives. Four of their older siblings and a cousin make up indie-pop vets Eisley and two of their brother-in-laws are Max Bemis of Say Anything and Darren King of Mutemath. Indeed, the two youngest DuPree siblings, Christie and Collin, come from a line of talented musicians, but they are certainly not to be written off because of their youth.

On the contrary, this indie pop duo is coming into their own, having opened for Eisley and Say Anything and cultivating their own fan base through their stripped-down sound. Now signed to Equal Vision Records, the Tyler, Texas duo is set to release their debut album early next year. They recently released two new songs, the first of which is the startlingly catchy “Backwards”, which you can listen to below:

The band is currently on tour with Eisley and Say Anything. You can follow them on Twitter. Also, be sure to download their two new songs on iTunes.

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Merriment release new song “Backwards”

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Tyler, Texas based indie pop duo Merriment has released a new song titled “Backwards”, which can be heard below:

Merriment is composed of siblings Christie and Collin DuPree, both of whom are directly related to members of indie pop act Eisley. The band is currently signed to Equal Vision Records and “Backwards” will be included on their upcoming album, which is currently untitled.

You can read more about the band and the song at American Songwriter.