IN A small studio just off London Road, a group play to an audience of a handful of people.
It’s the official launch of Sheffield’s Mercury Rising, an electronica-cum-rock ‘n’ roll outfit featuring Reverend and the Makers’ Joe Moskow and songwriter Steve Edwards.
And tonight, in this bedroom-sized recording space, the band plugs away with material from its debut, Mercury Rising. It’s a huge, intense sound and in spite of the intimate setting, Mercury Rising throw themselves into a groove as if they were performing to thousands of people.
Mercury Rising’s huge, intense riffs resonate around this box-like chamber as if it were a giant dance floor – they know how to create an atmosphere.
And atmosphere is what the group’s about or rather, leaving the earth’s atmosphere, as frontman Steve Edwards explains. “The name of the band is taken from a Seventies science fiction film and the album’s all about this idea of travel.
“There’s a concept running through the album that’s loosely based on a character not dissimilar to Star Wars’ Luke Skywalker – a kid who feels he is destined to something better and escape the backwaters of his upbringing.”
As part of his escape, Edwards explains, this character travels to space, only to face death, but his faith and love for a girl on earth keep him strong and sane.
“It is contradictory but then that’s what the human psyche’s about – we want adventure but we also always want to go home as well. And adventure can be lonely too – in seeking adventure there’s also a sense of loneliness.
“Adventure is – after all – usually about one person’s quest to look for enlightenment.”
The track After Glow takes the theme even further: “That’s about the kid having gone through a worm hole or black hole and becoming locked in stasis and wakingup to find he is cryogenically frozen.
“He has an out-of body experience and doesn’t know whether he’s dead or alive.”
The themes in Mercury Rising are the existential questions most of us consider.
“You definitely start asking these sorts of questions to yourself as you get older,” says Edwards. “And the idea of travel and adventure is probably analogous to personal adventures with music but also loving my family very much and loving home.”
Like its theme, the music travels too. Keys adventurously meander into various sonic terrains while live drums pin the music down to an earthy, visceral rhythm.
At a time when hipsters scoff at the 70s concept album, Mercury Rising is resurrecting it as a perfectly legitimate art form.
“I listen to a lot of King Crimson, Can and there’s even some Pink Floyd in there as well,” says Edwards and indeed this can be heard on the album, along with whiffs of Led Zeppelin and soulful, funky streaks, which nod to Stevie Wonder.
The force behind the band is Joe Moskow’s musicianship and Edwards’ songwriting. “Joe’s a genius,” says Edwards. “He has these fantastic ideas and comes up with these sonic soundscapes and I’m able to give structure to the songs and bring some focus into it.”
Edwards and Moskow are well qualified in what they do.
Moskow is responsible for some of Reverend and the Makers’ big synthy keyboard licks while Edwards still tours as successful singer-songwriter, a career that took off after his multi-million-selling single World Hold On in 2006, which reached number one in the Italian charts and top ten in the British, Belgian, Danish, Finnish and Dutch charts.
It is also the 15th most-played track in Mexico and was the soundtrack to the Guess Jeans 2010 web advertising campaign.
In true mercurial spirit, the band’s name may well mutate into something else itself.
“We’ve spotted that there are a couple of other bands with that name in America and if we’re going to have a name we may as well have one that no-one else has got, so it may change yet. Watch this space.”
lMercury Rising play at the Harley, Glossop Road, on Saturday (November 11).