Explore the gear behind the Sydney post-punk group's latest record.
Few local releases in 2021 have sounded quite as urgent and anxious as Mere Women’s fourth full-length effort Romantic Notions does.
The album, recorded with Tim G Carr at One Flight Up studios, was in its formative stages as the extent of the global pandemic began to reveal itself last March, with news of impending lockdowns and rising case numbers filling the Sydney post-punk quartet with an overwhelming sense of dread as they tracked the record.
Out today via Poison City Records, Romantic Notions balances sonic potency and thematic poignance to make for a record that’s all-killer and absolutely no-filler. Driven by the magnetic vocal performances of Amy Wilson and bolstered by the band’s knack for ominous, sparsely layered song craft, it’s an album that encapsulates all the harrowing feelings of the past year into a fully digestible eleven-track runtime, and certainly stands up as one of the best local post-punk releases to arrive so far this year.
To get a better insight into the creative process of the record, we linked up with Mere Women for a glimpse at some of the guitars, amps, keyboards and effects that helped create Romantic Notions.
1974 Fender Telecaster Deluxe
Flyn McKinnirey: ‘I’m lucky enough that my old man is a guitar enthusiast, he gave me a 1974 Fender Telecaster Deluxe. Whether it’s true or not (I think someone was having a laugh) he tells me he bought it for $500 off The Saints’ guitarist back in the ’80s in Brisbane. My brother also claims I “borrowed it” from him 15 years ago and never returned it, I remember it differently.
‘This guitar is everything for me, it’s worn and bruised but the sound it makes can be terrifying and delicate all at the same time. The double humbucker allows for such a crunch that our producer once described my guitar sound as a piece of hardwood on fire (whatever that is!). I also snuck a little bit of my Maton SRS808in the studio for texture, most apparent in ‘As You Please’ and ‘W.Y.G’!’
Dr Scientist Reverberator
Flyn: ‘I got this pedal years ago from Deluxe guitars in Melbourne but it’s made in the U.S. Its fake wood veneer panel sucked me in. It’s got eight settings but I tend to stick with just the one (H2 with the mix and level halfway). The reverb I get out of this is like no other, almost every show we play guitar enthusiasts come up to chat about the rack of pedals I’m using, only to be shocked the wood veneer block is the only one in my chain (apart from a tuner of course).
‘I do lie a little, the new record, Romantic Notions I especially cranked an ’80s Boss chorus on multiple tracks in conjunction with the Reverberator. When both are pretty well maxed I get a pretty ethereal tone in combination with the Tele, this is probably most evident on ‘Someone Loves You’ and ‘Imperfectly’ on the record.’
Vox AC30 w/ Celestion Blues
Flyn: ‘I write the speakers in the title because Vox seemed to change it up a little with those Greenbacks, I’m not a fan. There’s a real grunt I can get out of my Vox that I can’t get out of the newer models, especially those using the Greenbacks. I don’t use a drive pedal unless I absolutely have to so the natural break up of this amp sits so perfectly with the double humbuckers of the Tele and the Reverberator.’
‘On our second record, we recorded in a cold-storage warehouse out in western NSW and this baby was afforded a warehouse of its own, sitting there in the middle of the room like it was some sort of time-bomb. Giving a little of the reverb this amp has with the addition of the room verb and the reverberator does something special to my ears, you get mistake tones and sounds and to be honest, they’re the best!’
Nord Wave/Kawai Chord Bass II
Amy Ruth Wilson: A lot of Mere Women’s key parts have actually been written on a $100 Kawai Chord bass II. That style of playing is particularly evident on ‘Charms’ and ‘Imperfectly’, pretty much straight after we recorded Romantic Notions it blew up and we had to send her to the tip.
A Nord Wave is actually played on the record and all our records! It’s as dynamic as a synth can get without ever finding out all the built in sounds. From menacing sounds like the opening “brown note” (as we call it) of ‘Romantic Notions’ to the delicate piano of ‘Imperfectly’. ‘It’s All out Now’ shows the real ability of the Nord Wave to use oscillation and combine sounds to create something unique.
Fender Jazz Bass
Trischelle Roberts: We use a ’76 Fender Jazz Bass black with pearl inlay. It was found for Trisch by a kindred bass player. A real fine play, weighs a tonne but is incredibly dynamic and has a beautiful, deep resonance.
Gallien Krueger 400RB + Mesa Boogie cab
Trischelle Roberts: Not sure if it even counts as a Mesa amp any more, it had a previous life as a hire amp so it’s filled with zombie parts these days. The combination of the two gives a bit of a Kim Gordon kick.
Electro-Harmonix POG 2
Romantic Notions uses a bit of the POG 2 pedal, which takes years to master supposedly. It allows us to draw upon a real drone, especially when Amy doesn’t play keys, we experimented with creating a cello-like tone which brings a little bit of Portishead to the mix.
Altering the octaves give a nauseating imbalance that can sometimes, sometimes come off as brilliant. Gets a workout in ‘As You Please’.
Romantic Notions is out now through Poison City Records.