The Planet Mercury

Fast approaching its sweet 16, college-rock stalwart Mercury Rev is as vital as ever, whether you're paying attention or not

Migration was recorded at the band's new Kingston, N.Y., studio (a converted drugstore) with longtime associate Dave Fridmann at the helm. Noted perfectionists, the members spent at least two days away from the studio, quietly reflecting on what they were working on, for every day they were actually in the studio writing or recording. And even if the musicians share a tighter personal bond now than ever before, Mercel laughs that their creative process is quite often frustrating and rife with tension.

"It's not always sweet bliss and harmony in the studio, but you gotta allow room for people to follow their ideas through to completion. You gotta resist the urge to squash someone else's ideas when you don't understand them, because it just may be that they're not fully developed. But it's not something any of us have mastered. We have our good days, when you're open to all the possibilities, and other days when, quite honestly, you don't wanna hear what someone's doin'. But you make the effort, and that's what's important."

And, he adds, once again having Fridmann as a no-nonsense producer and engineer was crucial to the album's formation.

Mercury Rev: "A lot of water has passed 
under the bridge, and we are a very 
different band now than we were."
Mercury Rev: "A lot of water has passed under the bridge, and we are a very different band now than we were."

"He's on equal footing with us, and we tell him what we like and don't like, sometimes in very blunt terms, and so does he. Not in a bad way, but in the way that only old friends can be with one another, like, 'Hey, you know what? This is not your best effort. I know, because I've heard you do it in the past.' That can be hard to hear sometimes, but that's the nature of our relationship and why we started working with him and why we continue working with him."

Mercel says the band is ecstatic about taking Migration out on the road after nearly a four-year U.S. touring layoff, and he cheerfully admits that Mercury Rev is "sort of starting from square one again." The band's continued success in England led to it putting out the album there nearly five months before Migration's May 17 stateside release, and the Rev has spent the first part of 2005 trekking through Europe with its legendarily rapturous show. Whether or not the album connects with American fans remains to be seen, but the group prefers to take a broader view of its ongoing creative journey.

"Hopefully we're working on maybe a little longer of an arc, where if we don't achieve the commercial success that some people expect of us, well, maybe you're not looking far enough into the future," says Mercel. "Maybe we're the type of band that will be evaluated on our body of work as a whole as opposed to, 'Oh, they had the big hit in 2005 and then they evaporated.' We're here for the long haul, and if that means no Top 10 hits, so be it. We'll still be around making music, that I can promise you."

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