NJ/NY band the 65’s put out a terrific debut last year called STRIKE HARD (Dromedary Records). If you dig the crunchy sounds of bands like Superchunk or Husker Du then this band will be right up your alley. New bassist Cindi Merklee was nice enough to answer some questions I threw her way.
What was your introduction to music as a kid?
I have two brothers who are considerably older than I am and both played in bands. I had an old hand-me-down turntable and a budding record collection before I entered grade school. By the time I was in high school we had an 8 track studio in our attic. It was the 80s and hair metal reigned supreme in Jersey yet I was privy to some amazing local original bands who really shaped my perspective on music – Chris Moffa & The Competition, Sleeve Coat, The Ambivalent Brothers (featuring Ed Seifert who is now with Speed the Plough – Dromedary mates of ours). My siblings were also really into the Hoboken scene back then. I was exposed to a ton of great music growing up. Robyn Hitchcock & The Egyptians, Game Theory, The dB’s, IRS era REM, Guadalcanal Diary, Husker Du, Throwing Muses, The Replacements….all stuff I probably would have missed otherwise.
What was the first song you remember hearing that floored you?
“It’s All Too Much” by The Beatles. I was maybe 4 or 5 years old. Yellow Submarine was one of the first records my brothers gave me. As outlandish as it may sound, I have a very vivid memory of obsessing over that song at that age. Call it a transcendental experience – I have no idea – all I know is I was struck by this notion that the world is way bigger than whatever I saw in front of me at that moment. That song still floors me, and still reminds me how small we are in the grand scheme of things.
Prior to the 65’s, what were your (and the other guys) previous bands?
Back in the 90s I played bass in Balloon Squad. I spent most of the past 10 years or so doing the singer/songwriter thing out of necessity more than anything else since I didn’t have time to commit to a band. John had played with the High School Sweethearts, Electric Frankenstein and The Dark Brothers. Joe was also in The Dark Brothers, C.I. Infidels & Puggle. Dan has been doing the singer/songwriter thing too in recent years but had been in Shirk Circus in the 90s with Josh Silverman who was also in The Dark Brothers.
How did the deal with Dromedary Records come about? Al is quite an intimidating indie figure, no?
I’m not sure how their paths initially crossed but the way I heard the story is that Joe would occasionally send Al demos of stuff he was recording with Dan. This may have been around the time Joe reached out to me asking if I’d be interested in providing some backing vocals on a track or two. A couple of days after popping that question he asked if I had any interest in playing bass in “the band”. Apparently it was evolving from just a couple of friends drinking, playing guitars & recording when they felt like it. I was working full time and going to school full time when this transpired but didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to play with Joe & Dan – I had been a fan of their respective bands for years. Two months later we had our first gig at Maxwell’s. A little less than a year after that Al approached us about signing with Dromedary. We love Al.
What do you remember most about the recording of STRIKE HARD?
Unfortunately for me, the album was just about done by the time I came on board but Joe was adamant that I have some part in it. One afternoon when we were up at Kevin Lacatena’s to master it I suggested recording one of my solo acoustic songs to go on the record. Joe already had a solo acoustic track on there so it wouldn’t have been entirely out of place. Everyone was in favor of the idea so Kevin handed me a guitar & planted two mics in front of me sitting on a couch in his basement. It’s not the most polished performance, but I’ve never been big on polish.
What is the photo on the cover of other record?
The front cover is my guitar after a solo acoustic show. Being a bass player by nature, I tend to be a bit of a basher on guitar and have a tendency to rip my cuticles open. Those are my bloody guitar strings. The back cover is my blood splattered all over my brother’s SG which I borrowed when I stood in with Stuyvesant last summer for the mid-west leg of their tour in support of Fret Sounds, which was also released on Dromedary.
What does the live show deliver that the record does not (if anything)?
I think Dan & Kevin did a great job of capturing the energy of the band on the record. We take it up a notch or three when you see us live though. It’s louder. It’s more aggressive, more dynamic, and occasionally we’ll bust out a Zeppelin or Dave Brubeck cover.
What is your 5-day band dream bill (with the 65’s on it, of course)?
50 Foot Wave
The Night Marchers
The Joy Formidable
What is one song you wish you had written?
“He’s a Whore” – Cheap Trick
What next for the band? Touring? More recording?
Shows in/around the northeast, promoting the current record, writing & recording for the next one, keeping Al happy.
Any final thoughts? Words of wisdom? Closing comments?
I can only feign wisdom at this age. Thanks for checking us out though. Lots of good things happening at Dromedary HQ – we’re happy to be a part of it.