Drunken Mermaid loves storytellers, especially when they spin tales of the Wolfman, an assassin, a private having an affair with his captain’s wife, a demon that steals brides-to-be in the night, a detective hunting a serial killer…und so weiter….
Describing their unique mix of folk, rock and blues as Gothicana (best original genre term since KW Jeter coined “Cyberpunk”, btw), The Agency has just released its second album, Of Ghosts. The Agency is: Steven K Driver – Vocals/Guitar, Garry Cosgrove – Drums, Steve Beyer – Guitar, Andy Ludbrook – Bass, Kerry Ramsay – Vocals, and Scott Wall – Piano.
Drunken Mermaid spoke with Steven Driver last month, just before their Halloween show at the Washington Arts Centre and immediately following their album release.
drunkenmermaid.com: Tell us about yourselves. How did The Agency form?
Steven: We’ve all know each other for a while now and various combinations of us have played in bands together off and on for about 15 years (we started young). The Agency… really came about when I was talking to Garry about writing some stuff and he challenged me to do it myself. I wrote a load of songs and took them to Steve Beyer (guitar) to record them at our rehearsal room Tonfabriek. I suppose at that point I’d been writing for myself more than with a band in mind but Andy (Ludbrook – bass) got involved and we co-opted Scott Wall (piano) and various other friends and recorded the first album For the Brave and Troubled. That’s kind of a raw record and it’s kind of a souvenir of us finding our feet a little bit. When it came to thinking about the second album Of Ghosts, it was clear that we were a band now and my initial writing was different to the first album because writing songs with a singer/songwriter and band ideas in mind is different. It becomes a lot more about leaving space. The first album was released in 2012 and I think that’s really how long this incarnation of the band has been together if there was some planning and writing from 2011.
drunkenmermaid.com: What is your favorite original song or album to date? Why?
Steven: We tend to go with whatever is latest. It’s easiest to be passionate about our latest material. For us the first album For the Brave and Troubled was really about finding our sounds and it’s quite a raw record. Our second album and just released Of Ghosts is different because whilst the first album was just me writing songs the second was me writing songs with a band in mind and then we fine-tuned them together. The reviews for both albums have been positive but more people seem to be picking up Of Ghosts and probably the material with songs like She is more accessible. The songs are stylistically different and people have been picking up on and favouring different songs, which is pleasing and kind of what we were hoping for.
drunkenmermaid.com: Who are your major influences? What do you take from them? What do you add or do differently?
Steven: Our influences vary massively between the various members of the band. There have been lots of comparisons with and mentions of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds but to be honest we’ve delved into their back catalogue since reading the comparisons rather than before. When we go round the band for influences Andy usually goes with the Beatles, Steve with the Velvet Underground and Garry with Mogwai. We also listen to bands like the National and the Felice Brothers. Our hope is that because our influences are so varied the sound we create is unique if it also has some people feeling nostalgic. Reviewers have heard all kinds of things and drawn favourable comparisons. Largely due to the vocals on our music we tend to be compared with bands fronted by a baritone.
You decide – here’s She:
drunkenmermaid.com: What song do you wish you’d written? How would it sound as performed by you?
Steven: There are so many but largely played by us they would be slower and darker. The only cover we’ve talked about doing is Ghostbusters. We’ve done covers in the past and Garry is in a wedding covers band as well, so we tend to stick to original material ourselves.
drunkenmermaid.com: Are you signed to a label?
Steven: We have our own label: Solarbear Records. It’s great to have such tight control over our music and marketing. However, we’re very much open to working with labels that can help improve our distribution and profile.
drunkenmermaid.com: What would you like your fans/ audience to know about you?
Steven: That it is all a little more tongue in cheek than people might think at first. We’re actually quite jolly and approachable fellows.
drunkenmermaid.com: Tell us about your live gigs.
Steven: We can only go off what other people say but we have some loyal followers that are extremely enthusiastic about our live performances. One thing that has been repeated is that people talk about the power of the band. Others talk about the sense of space in our music. There’s a fair bit of ‘banter’ when we play live so that we can show the more tongue in cheek side. Some people claim to follow us to hear Andy’s stories in between songs which I would wager are rather tale tales about his time in prisons and such in Mexico.
drunkenmermaid.com: What does the future hold – is there a particular direction you’d like to take your music?
Steven: At the moment we’re still promoting Of Ghosts and playing gigs to support the release. However, we’ve actually got much of album three written. So, we’re going to take some time out soon to rehearse and record that. Our sound matured between album one and two. That will probably carry on to album three, too. Our sound tends to be quite varied but with a very definite thread and something very recognizable in the way the way the guitars are played and the vocals. So far the new material is, if anything, even more varied.