Whilst one side of the world begins its long-awaited reopening with hospitality returning to full capacity in England, parts of Australia have been plunged into extended lockdowns. With the release of her upcoming debut record ‘Simulation Ride’, singer/songwriter Merpire, aka Rhiannon Atkinson-Howatt, speaks to Clash from her home in Melbourne, Victoria.
First emerging onto the indie scene back in 2018, the singer has gone onto sell out headline gigs and support Australian acts such as Julia Jacklin. Before the recently imposed restrictions, Rhiannon also joined friends Rat!hammock to play a string of epic live shows with Spacey Jane and Hockey Dad.
One precursor for her debut record came earlier on in the year with dreamy indie-pop single ‘Village’. The opening track is deeply introspective, from the lyrics to her aesthetic music video. ‘Village’ essentially depicts how not everything is as it seems from the outside looking in. Laced in bittersweetness, it’s spectral and raw, and the authenticity in Merpire’s lyricism suggests that real relationships are not always the sugarcoated fairytale that you imagine to experience, and that’s okay. As ever, Merpire’s vocals feel validating and not only act as catharsis for the singer, but for her fans. Melodically, Rhiannon manages to strike the perfect balance between vulnerability and mystery with her movie-like romanticism.
The musician has a skill for making sun-drenched sounds that have a post-break-up poignance, as if you are watching (or belong in) a coming of age film. Perks Of Being A Wallflower (2012) is one of the first films that come to mind for Rhiannon as we discuss what helped inspire the cinematic aspects of the album, another being The Graduate (1967). “I’m just gonna live in this daydream all day now,” Rhiannon adds when describing how such movies make her feel. It’s no surprise that ‘Simulation Ride’ acts as her own musical diary entry, with whispers of musings and dreams she hopes for and experiences. It’s emotionally exposed and as she says “it exists in hope of connecting with fellow daydreaming experts in creating their own personal simulation ride… I take you through the rom-com and horror sections of my internal video store.”
Merpire shares how her debut record centers around “finding positivity in anxiety”, and in such temperamental times, the themes the singer explores will help many. The artist navigates through her own anxieties in tracks such as ‘Yusiimi’ one of her personal favourites. Describing herself in the third person, it’s cloaked in floaty and delicate indie-pop melodies. Innocent and introspective, she converses with her inner self, "I wanna be like you see me". Rhiannon explains how important the track is as the final song on the record. She adds how the whole album recalls relationships and finding silver linings, “it’s all about how I see things, how I envision life as movie scenes”.
‘Yusiimi’ focuses on her ultimate self and wanting to be the best person she can be. Undeniably, it’s a fitting close to her album as it acts as an ode to herself, being proud of how the record, in itself, is an embodiment of how she has endeavored against what life has thrown her way. ‘Yusiimi’ serves as an uplifting reminder to value your worth, even when you doubt it.
‘Lately’ showcases Merpire’s mesmerising vocals and intricate harmonies. Confessional lyrics such as "I am nothing without you / I have nowhere to be" follow her contemplation after a breakup a few years back, wondering whether she’s the only one suffering, the only one crying over its end. The track embodies lusciously produced guitar music, rapturous and sparkling.
‘Simulation Ride’ follows the hazy highs and crushing lows of daily life, and what a time for it to be released as the world goes through a rollercoaster ride of its own. Rhiannon shares how the record is “more of a personal expression of everything I've been learning over the past five years”. In the ways she turns to artists such as Soccer Mommy in periods of isolation to feel a sense of belonging, Merpire hopes the same for ‘Simulation Ride’ to listeners. It goes without saying that Merpire’s debut album is an antidote to much of the heightened emotions experienced by so many of us right now.
WHERE: Melbourne, Victoria
3 Songs: ‘Lately’, ‘Heavy Feeling’, ‘Yusiimi’
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'Simulation Ride' will be released on July 23rd.
Words: Sahar Ghadirian
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