Brendan Scholz discusses the new Mercy Music album, recording at The Blasting Room, and what’s next for the band

Las Vegas rock band Mercy Music released their 4th studio album What You Stand To Lose on June 30th via Double Helix Records. Produced by Bill Stevenson – known the world over for his work with Descendents, ALL, and Black Flag at The Blasting Room in Fort Collins, Colorado – and mixed by Jason Livermore(Descendents, Propagandhi, NOFX, Hot Water Music), What You Stand To Lose sees the band finding inspiration in the fact that nothing should be taken for granted, no time should be wasted, and there is everything in the world to lose by not collectively fighting hard enough to succeed. Singer/guitarist Brendan Scholz started Mercy Music as a solo act, but soon recruited his good friend Jarred Cooper on bass and drummer Rye Martin. Since forming in 2014, the band has made a name for themselves with their incredible live shows and have toured Europe, appeared at top U.S. festivals such as South By Southwest, Punk Rock Bowling and Life is Beautiful, and shared the stage with legendary acts such as Face to Face, Flogging Molly, Against Me!, The Offspring, Bob Mould, Unwritten Law, Descendents, and Authority Zero. With elements of pop, rock, and punk, the band has always defyed genres and has a hard time being put into any particular category. Having had bands that helped him in his life, when he was at his wit’s end, to realize that everything would be ok, Scholz hopes that Mercy Music that be that band for others. With plans to tour the US, and hopefully hit Europe in January of 2024, the band is focusing right now on promoting the new record and getting their music out there as much as possible. Make sure to connect with Mercy Music via the following links to stay up-to-date on all album news, upcoming tour dates, and new music! Photo credit: Corlene Machine. You can visit the official Mercy Music store for the What You Stand To Lose vinyl HERE. You can visit the official Double Helix Records Store HERE.





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What can you tell me about your childhood and growing up in Las Vegas and discovering your love for music?


For as long as I can remember, music was all I really cared about and focused on, from any real memory I have. I really never wanted to do anything else. It was just kind-of ingrained in me for some reason. I always just wanted to play music.


What can you tell me about your musical journey prior to Mercy Music and what led you to form Mercy Music, which started out as a solo project?


I moved to Las Vegas in 2001 and started my first band here, probably about a year later, through high school. And then that kind-of disbanded and then I started another band with the bass player that is currently in Mercy Music right now, called Lydia Vance. And then all of the crazy rock star type stuff started to happen. We got a demo deal with Atlantic, but the record ended up getting shelved and everyone’s dreams getting shattered and all of that type of shit. I think we tried to rename it something else and we made another record that no one really knew about. I think at that point, everyone was just kind-of burnt out and we all just kind-of walked away from it. I’m not good at walking away from stuff, so I started the Mercy Music thing just as an acoustic thing, so I could just get in a car and tour. I really started doing that in 2012 and realized I didn’t really didn’t like it very much. It wasn’t a lot of fun for me or enjoyable. So I asked the bass player, Jarred, who’s probably also my best friend in the universe, if he’d be interested in committing to being in a band again. That was probably around mid-2014. And he did and it’s just been going ever since.


You have said that you listen to new and current music of all kinds, in an effort to stay relevant and plugged in as much as possible, but you have had a hard time lately finding bands you enjoy. What do you feel it is about much of the current music that’s coming out that is hard for you to connect with?


That’s a good question. I don’t know if because I’m getting older…I mean, no one wants to admit it’s because they are getting older. In the same breath, music is very cyclical. I think…I can’t really come up with an explanation as to why it’s so seldom that something grabs me. Not to say that I’m anybody. But, I have been having the conversation a lot lately that the 90’s, unlike any other genre, has managed to stay incredibly relevant. Whereas if you talk about music from the 60’s and 70’s while you were in the 90’s, that was considered oldies. And yet, 90’s music is still relevant today on the radio. I think that’s a really interesting thing.





Although you find it hard to connect with a lot of the newer music, do you think there is anything that you do connect with that has helped you develop and grow as an artist?


Yeah. I try to take anything I can from it. Honestly, I try really hard to be open-minded! I guess it’s really, and I’m starting to maybe see more of it…I know in the advent of technology maybe going out to shows and stuff like that isn’t as popular as it was and having something to do because the world’s at your fingertips now. Anytime I see younger kids or younger bands trying to do this, I think it’s awesome and inspiring and I hope it inspires other people to think it’s still something awesome to do. There’s a few bands here in Vegas that I’m seeing, younger kids doing it, and it makes me stoked again.


When you write songs, you have talked about wanting to be that someone that others were to you, when you were at your wit’s end, and helped you to know that it was going to be ok. Who are some artists, or other people aside from artists, who have done for you and what can you tell me about the relationship you have with your fans and correspondence you’ve had with them in the ways you guys have helped them?


Bands that were really pivotal for me, or records that I went to, were like Jawbreaker and The Replacements. And when I was a kid, you had, like, Nirvana and stuff like that. And some of those records are so special to me that, like, it’s maybe really hard to listen to now because it can almost take you back to that place and time. And that’s a really interesting thing I’m finding out as I get older. As it pertains to us, people come up to us at shows or people will write me, and if someone takes the time out of their day to tell me something or write me something, and that I’m worthy enough of that, of course I want to be there. I’m honored. I want to be a present person. I don’t think I’m better than anyone else, and if something I can say can make someone feel better, then that’s a win, I suppose. I’m always around at shows, at the merch table, and am pretty responsive to people who contact us on social media. That’s what’s cool about social media. I mean, it’s a double-edged sword, but you have immediate access to all of it.


You guys just released your 4th studio album What You Stand To Lose that tells the story of your life changes over the past couple of years. What can you tell me as the album as a cathartic experience for you? Having said that your goal was to learn from your experience and come out on the other side a better person. Do you feel that you achieved that with this album?


I think in writing the record itself, and I hate to sound generic, but it’s like therapy. A form of therapy. To have your thoughts collectively put to paper and to see it from that perspective. There are certain cases of some of those songs where there are multiple lyric sheets, because there are things that you maybe don’t want to accept or don’t want to touch on, but inevitably you know that you have to. I never want to put anything out that’s not real or authentic. I don’t like beating around the bush or being fake. In a lot of ways, looking at it now, you see more things than you did initially when writing it that weren’t maybe on the forefront for you, but subconsciously your brain kind-of works it out as you put pen to paper. It’s a weird process. A lot of those songs were written, so to speak, before shit really got bad, but it makes all the sense now. I do that a lot, where I kind-of predict…I don’t know if it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy or not (laughs)…where it makes a lot more sense a year later.


In having some darker themes on this album, as on previous albums as well, you have said you want listeners to feel happy, sad, inspired, depressed, and then happy again. How do you balance the heavier emotions with the more positive ones to acheive that goal? 


I think melodically, that everything, a majority of the time, is the counterpoint to lyrical content. Almost all of the time with everything we do, because I just write that way. It’s what comes out naturally. Lyrically, with this album specifically, I did have that in the forefront, the thought that it’s really fucking awful right now but there’s some comedy and some hope to be seen. I tried to have songs that lean more on that, to take it less seriously, and that there is a light, however small it may be, at the end of the proverbial tunnel. With this record, more than the other ones, I’ve kept that thought forward, as opposed to just being knock down, drag out, fuck everything, kill yourself.





A little more of a hopeful spark on this one.


Yeah. I know I keep saying “as you get older”, but one day at a time. Especially in the music business, you never know what’s going to change 8 hours later. So you’ve just got to hold on. I mean, we’ve been a band for 8 years and we had the best year of our career last year. So it’s not worth giving up over.


With this album, you guys had a lot more time to work on the songs, the most amount of time of any of your albums. What can you tell me about that process and how it  contributed to the album in a way that perhaps wasn’t present on your previous albums?


I mean, it’s good and bad for me because I’m an over-thinker. We had a lot of time to put it under the microscope and make each song the best I thought it possibly could be. And there were things where I overdid it and we had to step back again and get back on course (laughs). But yeah. To have that at your fingertips and be able to listen before committing to anything, and not having that thought, like, 2 months after you’ve finished a record that “man we should have done that”. I think that was hugely instrumental. And also just us being able to have our shit together in the studio and get it done as quickly as possible I think was hugely beneficial on all accounts.


Do you guys tend to write most of your songs before recording or do you ever write, or totally rework, songs in the studio? 


I can’t say we’ve done anything more than minor arrangements (in the studio), and not very often. We’ve never been privileged enough to sit in the studio and write a record (laughs). That can be really expensive in 2023. Usually everything is prior, unless it’s something that absolutely needs to be elongated or rearranged. We had a few, the first day we got to the studio. The night we were there, Bill had some arrangement notes and we messed around with a few things and started the next morning because he was happy with everything.


You have talked about how right out of high school you did a record with Bill Stevenson and maintained a friendship with him. What was it like getting to record your new record with him at The Blasting Room all of these years later? What do you think he added to the recording process and album?


For lack of a better word, it was an amazing, awesome experience. For me, it was like I had kind-of something to prove. I went there when I was an idiot kid and had a few other people who maybe weren’t the best players on the planet and it was kind-of a nightmare. And leaving on that note sucks, and going back in (laughs), it’s like wanting to make your dad proud of you. So, I had that going for me, just on a personal level. Bill, just because he’s been such a huge influence on me as a musician…especially with this group of songs. We’ve talked about doing, I think, the last 2 records with him and the timing didn’t line up. It’s something we brought up in the studio while recording. He was really happy he could do this batch of songs because he felt he could add something to it. The universe just kind-of aligned with it. But it’s nice to have someone who knows where you’re coming from. In the same breath, we kind-of do stuff that’s out of left field for him, too, because we aren’t necessarily the punkest band on the planet. I remember we were at falsetto parts and Jarred (the bass player) was like “How was that take?” and Bill was like “I don’t fucking know! I don’t record stuff like this.” It was great and having someone who understands the majority of what you’re doing and what you’re trying to get across is invaluable.


You have talked about how when you were shopping this record to different labels, some of the bigger ones only cared about Spotify numbers and IG follower counts and didn’t seem to care about the actual music. Having been in the industry for a while now, what are your thoughts on the state of music right now and the effect it has on not only established artists, but newer artists who may come into music and focus on those things as opposed to the music they are making?  


You know, with technology it’s amazing that anyone can come on and have a platform now and every now and then lightning strikes and it’s amazing. But the double-edged sword again is that everybody has a platform. But, I’m not sounding overly jaded when people ask those questions. In this era, if you can’t prove to be self-sufficient and an asset on your own, no one else is going to want to fuck with you, for lack of better words. If you can’t prove that you can do it by yourself…like, that’s just where we’re at in the business. I mean, the money in music…there isn’t a lot and everyone is trying to get blood from a stone. Unless you know the right people, it’s hard. It’s not like I’m completely disillusioned when I get responses like that, but there are always exceptions to the rule and bands break through sometimes. I’ll never stop trying. At the end of the day, you just have to keep doing it because you love it and you can’t really expect anything other than that. You just have to trust the process and keep going. And in my case, what else would I be doing with my life anyways. I mean, maybe it’s not exactly where I want it to be, but it could be so much worse and we’ve done a lot of things that other people would kill to have done.


How did you learn about and come to release this record with Double Helix Records?


Double Helix was introduced to us by our friend Yotam from the band Useless ID, and I have nothing but amazing things to say about them. They care and are invested in the actual music and that’s not really something that’s heard much anymore. They also stayed onboard while we were still hearing from other labels and they never shied away or gave up. That says something unto itself. There were situations with some labels where we know we could have done something, but at the cost of just being another thing they put out and have to deal with and just having the attitude that they’re doing us a favor. And that, to me, isn’t worth it. With somewhere like Double Helix, they’re equally as committed as we are to having people hear the record and care about it. To me, that’s more important than a maybe more technically successful label. Just having people in your corner who give a shit, I think at the end of the day is the more important thing.


How do you feel that you guys and your music has evolved with each album?


I mean, I always want the songs to be better and to raise the bar. I don’t think there’s a large departure in genre. In saying that, when I started the Mercy Music thing, I never wanted to put a cap on it or a label. It’s like, whatever I write is going to be this band. We get that a lot, like we hit a lot of genres. We’re not really genre-specific, even though we do get lumped into the punk thing quite a bit. But I always just tell people we’re a rock band, as dumb as that sounds, but I don’t have a better way of putting it. I feel like we could be on tour with the Foo Fighters or we could be on tour with NOFX. We’re kind-of like the black sheep in that way.


You guys have also done music videos for, I believe, 3 songs on the album so far. Is that something you enjoy doing and when coming up with ideas for the videos, is it more of an individual or collaborative process?


It starts as…Eric Cannon, who is been doing our videos, it starts with his initial idea and then we can really bring a round table on it and tweak things here and there. But I generally just trust where he’s going with things. If I have anything that I think is pertinent, or something I’m dead set on having, we’ll discuss it. But I can’t take credit. They’ve been his ideas, definitely, from the inception.


What do you like to do outside of music?


I wish I knew (laughs)! I have 3 kids. I’m lucky that I still get to do this and have a support system in place to be able to do it. I don’t really have a lot of time for anything else. It’s kind-of like just being a dad and being in a band. I’m lucky to have a day job that let’s me work remotely from the back of the van. If I had time for a hobby, I would try to have one.


What’s next for you guys, aside from promoting the album? Do you have any tours coming up or starting work on new music?


I’m always writing. But yeah, right now just staying out as much as possible. We just did the West coast proper and just got back on Monday, I think. I don’t know what day it is. But, we’re going to hit the Pacific Northwest and then hit Utah, Denver, stuff like that through September. We’ll be announcing that stuff soon. And then I’ll be doing some solo runs through October/November. And again, more on that soon. That’s the plan right now and we’ll be doing Europe, I’m being told, as early as January 2024. So yeah, just promoting the record as much as we can right now is the goal. And staying busy.





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