Carey Mercer wrote the last Frog Eyes album, Carey’s Cold Spring, in an effort to come to terms with his throat cancer diagnosis and the death of his father. Two years later, he’s gearing up to put out a follow-up: Pickpocket’s Locket was written entirely on an acoustic guitar that he was left in his father’s will. “I was holding the guitar a lot, kind of savouring it: a Martin D-18,” he wrote in a letter accompanying the album’s announcement. “I had been making records for a few years with a computer, piling tracks on tracks, writing words over guitar licks already recorded in a studio.” In the same letter, he provided some touchstones for the new album: Douglas Sirk, Red Krayola’s Mayo Thompson, and late-’70s Bruce Springsteen. Check out lead single “Joe With The Jam” below to see how close he came.
My dad left me his acoustic guitar in his will; it was all he had to give, because he wasn’t a rich man. I wrote ten songs on it, and I think that was the real gift he gave me: a love of music, not just the way you all love it (music lovers), but also a love of creating it, sowing myself, in some small way, into the story of music.
I was holding the guitar a lot, kind of savouring it: a Martin D-18. I had been making records for a few years with a computer, piling tracks on tracks, writing words over guitar licks already recorded in a studio.
I came to think of an acoustic guitar as somehow akin to a computer, only in the sense that they are both tools of transmission, both effective in their own way.
An acoustic guitar is still, in 2015, a very effective way of transmitting one’s songs. I made a deal with myself: write ten songs, write all the words before anyone gets to hear any of the songs, memorize the songs so that I become the hard-drive that the acoustic guitar accesses. I mostly, if not totally, kept to this deal, which is rare: I’m generally pretty easy on myself.
I wrote about Joseph Beuys, about B. Traven, about God and Abraham and Isaac, about my dad being addicted to speed when he was 17.
I needed my crew and I found them. Three women: Melanie Campbell, my life-partner and long-time drummer, returned to the band after a hiatus. And my old friend Shyla Seller, an archivist and book designer who happens to also be a really precise and powerful piano player. And Terri Upton, who plays both stand-up bass, and electric bass.
I am a lucky person.
And then we needed some more crew, and we found them: our old friend and colleague Spencer Krug, who wrote string parts over the songs. And then Jesse Zubot, who played every string part on the record in one 10-hour day. And John Paton, who plays saxophone. And Paul Rigby, who caught a taxi cab over with his pedal steel guitar.
I wanted the following: Douglas Sirk strings, a noble spin on Corky’s Debt to His Father, some Darkness on the Edge of Town vibes.
01 “Two Girls (One For Heaven And The Other One For Rome)”
02 “Joe With The Jam”
03 “The Beat Is Down (Four Wretched Singers Beyond Any World That You Have Known”
04 “Death’s Ship”
05 “The Demon Runner”
06 “Rejoinders In A Storm”
07 “In A Hut”
08 “Crystal Blip”
09 “I Ain’t Around Much”
10 “Rip Down The Fences That Fence The Garden”
07/31-08/02 Sackville, New Brunswick @ Sappy Fest
09/11 Toronto, Ontario @ Smiling Buddha
09/11-12 Hamilton, Ontario @ Supercrawl
09/17-20 Victoria, British Columbia @ Rifflandia
09/18 Portland, OR @ Wonder Ballroom *
09/19 San Francisco, CA @ Fillmore *
09/20 Los Angeles, CA @ The Regent Theater *
09/21 Santa Cruz, CA @ Crepe Place
09/23 Bellingham, WA @ Shakedown
10/16 Seattle, WA @ Neptune
10/17 Vancouver, British Columbia @ Commodore Ballroom
Pickpocket’s Locket is out 8/28 via Paper Bag Records.