MERCH is the recording monicker of Joe Medina, who creates richly grand cinematic vocal music. On the new MERCH LP Amour Bohemian, which out November 3rd, is an immense project featuring contributions from 65 different artists, including the 30-piece Prague FILMharmonic, who have collaborated with everyone from Werner Herzog and Quentin Tarantino to the Arcade Fire, Joanna Newsom and Adele. Members of The Growlers and The Blank Tapes are also featured on the album, which Oh Sees’ John Dwyer is already calling “a ren-rock masterpiece.”
When Medina began work on Amour Bohemian, he wanted to record with a symphony orchestra. “I did some of the basic arrangements myself,” Medina says, “but I needed help, so I tracked down arranger Richard Hieronymus to an island off the coast of Washington. He was the string arranger on the cult classic 1968 album The Grey Life, by singer-songwriter and psychedelic pioneer of The Blue Things, Val Stoecklein. He also wrote scores for Roger Corman’s films, Phil Spector, and the Wrecking Crew, the L.A. session band responsible for so many of the ’60s songs you hum, from the Beach Boys to Nancy Sinatra.”
A densely layered, wildly ambitious record rooted in Medina’s love of vintage film soundtracks, Scott Walker and Lee Hazlewood, Amour Bohemian‘s cinematic sound is a brilliant fusion of classic pop, psych and garage that’s peppered with reverent nods to the old-school crooners, Mexican ranchero, French chanson and ’30s big-band jazz. Medina shrieks and howls like a descendant of The Mothers of Invention and croons like Leonard Cohen, evoking a serendipitous combination of love and estrangement.
Today Glide is excited to premiere “Marriage”, one of the heartwarming crooner tunes on the album. Accompanied by a simple yet elegant string section, Medina’s vocal bring to mind poetic navel-gazers like Lee Hazlewood, Burt Bacharach and Leonard Cohen. With the choral backing, the song sounds like it would fit right in at a Las Vegas showroom in the Sin City heydays of the 1960s. There’s also a loping, country groove to the song that adds a rougher edge to the tune and makes it just as fit for the dive bar as it is for the velvet-lined lounge.
Joe Medina has plenty to say about the song:
“With ‘Marriage,’ I wanted to create a song that questions our modern society’s rituals of love and how what we take in can reinforce outdated notions, even if we logically know better. So it starts with a feel like one of those old familiar tunes, whether it’s ‘Earth Angel’ or ‘We Belong Together,’ or a hundred other songs from that era that use the idea of ‘owning’ your partner as some sort of romantic ideal. ‘Earth angel, Earth angel, will you be mine?’ or ‘You’re mine and we belong together.’ I think any rational person in the modern age can look at that and think that does not equate a healthy union, but the way those songs sound just really tug at you, right?
So with my song, I wanted to take those kinds of sounds and just really throw them at you (the melody, the orchestra, the slack-key-style guitar solo, the opera singers, and so on)–making you open to suggestion by thinking you are hearing a certain kind of song but really just questioning the whole thing altogether, and our motivations for holding onto these institutions and traditions in our lifetime.
That being said, it was vitally important to me to show the distance we’ve come from that time by making the song gender neutral. Originally, there was a line that went ‘Where they’d pray for the bride and groom.’ I stayed up many a night trying to figure out what to do with that lyric to make it not a she/he thing. Thankfully, a friend of mine named Claire blurted out one night, “How about ‘for the happy two?’”
Of course, being that the notions that have been instilled in us are tough to shake (as much for me as anyone else), the song ‘Marriage’ takes the approach of ‘Won’t you say with me forever, though we both know it isn’t likely.’”