There’s a tendency to label new bands with any sort of history with ex-this or ex-that, or in rare cases, with the moniker of “supergroup.” I’m hesitant to do any of that with Mercy Union, though, even though they’re ex-this and ex-that, and are in fact composed of members of some truly superb musical acts. Sure, you can hear the influence of their respective bands - The Gaslight Anthem, The Scandals, and Let Me Run, but they’re also a bit more than the sum of their parts.
On Wednesday, April 10, Mercy Union - Jared Hart (lead vocals/rhythm guitar), Rocky Catanese (lead guitar), Nick Jorgensen (bass) and Benny Horowitz (drums) - bring their East Coast brand of nostalgic punk and rock to the Thompson House opening for Laura Jane Grace and The Devouring Mothers. You might also recognize Laura Jane Grace’s name - they front another band you might have heard of: Against Me! It’s only fitting then, that Mercy Union be charged with getting each night of tour started, isn’t it?
I’ve been fortunate to get to know Rocky through his former bands Let Me Run and Rocky Catanese & The Chapter, and am happy to have helped bring Let Me Run and Jared Hart’s other band, The Scandals, to the area quite a few years back.
Jared was kind enough to take some time to answer a few questions about the band, so let’s get to it.
The band has an interesting pedigree, so to speak, rooted in the New Jersey DIY and punk scene… Can you talk about where the band comes from and how everyone came together to create Mercy Union?
This band started in the most organic way possible. About a year and a half ago, Benny and I were supposed to grab a coffee and catch up. That plan quickly turned into spending a few hours down in the basement of a practice space. All of a sudden, there was a structure of a song and the acknowledgement that we should meet up and do this again. Fast forward a few months and there was the skeleton of an album. Choosing who to play guitar and bass were easy and the whole thing came together with Rocky and Nick.
Your first album, The Quarry, came out with a lot of attention and anticipation for it from the start. Given everyone’s history in other bands, what was it like to release something wholly original that was likely to be immediately compared to what came before?
The most fun thing about making this record was not worrying about that. We didn’t really care what anyone else thought about it during and after making it. We wrote the songs we wanted to hear and hoped maybe someone else would dig them too. The comparisons are inevitable and often lead to the easy way out in terms of summing up a band’s “sound”. We’ve all been playing for so long that our personal styles are bound to spill over on occasion, but I feel like this record was a real solid departure from most of that.
Coming into a tour like yours with Laura Jane Grace and The Devouring Mothers - another band separate from what she’s best known for - what have you noticed is different from what you’ve experienced before, in your other bands? What’s the same?
The biggest difference is how completely respectful the crowd has been. Everyone is super polite and whether they like the bands or not, they’ve appreciated them being there. It’s been a lot of fun.
I’d say the biggest similarity is how the day is broken up. Get in the van, get to the show, play, have some drinks, sleep, let’s do it again.
You’re all “veterans of the scene,” so you’ve been through recording, promoting, and touring cycles before. Does anything feel different this time around? Can you talk a little about how The Quarry came together and what you wanted to consciously do differently with this album and band?
The biggest difference in this cycle is knowing that we’ve had full control over every decision that’s been made. We wrote the songs, did the artwork, pressed the records, and spread the word exactly how we wanted.
The Quarry basically sums up the feelings we were all having at the same time. The constant battle between what you have to do, and what you want to do, and in turn how that effects you as an individual.
I know the biggest thing we wanted to do differently was to do this on our own terms.
You’ll be in the Cincinnati area on Wednesday, April 10, and as far as I know, it’s the band’s first time here. What can fans and soon to be fans expect from your live show?
You can expect riffs and harmonies that hopefully are stuck in your head for days. Also, us dreaming about Skyline Chili
After this current tour, what’s next for the band?
We’re heading over to the UK and Europe in May and June for our first headlining shows there. I also think we have to write some new songs.
Lastly, something I’ll be speaking with each band I interview this year is a favorite charity or charitable organization of the band or band members - do you have any that you recommend our readers check out and support?
I personally support a couple great rescue groups in New Jersey called Home For Good Dogs and the German Shepherd Rescue of NJ. They’re both super close to my heart and have provided me with two of my best friends in the world.
Thanks to Rocky and Jared for taking the time to answer our questions. I’m really looking forward to catching their first show in Cincinnati this Wednesday, April 10, at Thompson House, when they open for Laura Jane Grace and The Devouring Mothers. Be sure to get their early to check them out, and hit this link to hear their debut album, The Quarry, out now on Mt. Crushmore Records.