VC Pines is Jack Mercer, the former frontman of The Carnabys, who has moved away from the realm of indie-rock and immersed himself in a well of alternative soul, poetry and punk performance. Alongside a seven-piece band, VC Pines delivers deep organ drones and trills to provide the dark underbelly for this alt-soul avenue, while a seventies-esque sound sugarcoats the grit with trumpet and trombone.
With ‘Golden Gai’, (rel 20.7.18) we’re submersed into a world of Tarantino-style tension, underhand dealings and Jack Mercer’s bold, dynamic vocal. Listening to this cinematic single, some may be surprised to hear that the song was inspired by all too real events, as Jack tells us:
“Golden Gai was drawn from a time on tour in Tokyo. Me and the bassist were ushered into this lift on the street and told about a club at the top… The doors opened and we stepped out into a massage parlor with the lights off and no one in it. Doors were locked, we nearly had our money stolen and these two women were screaming at us but hey, we lived to tell the tale, and I lived to turn it into a song.”
This past year was when VC Pines and tracks like ‘Golden Gai’ became fully realised when the artist tucked himself away in a studio above one of the oldest pubs in Britain, he’s called on the musical influences closer to his heart although seemingly irreconcilable…
“My influences though, stem from punk and soul really with a lot more on the side.. It’s a strange mix but they were the CDs I could steal from my Dad, so my ideas come from Richard Hell, The Stranglers, Iggy Pop, Nick Cave to Curtis Mayfield, Bobby Womack, Otis Redding Sly & The Family Stone etc. Then when I got older I really got into poetry and fell in love with John Cooper Clarke and Gil Scott Heron’s works. It all kind of culminates and comes out as VC Pines. There are lots of influences coming from all different directions, but that’s what makes each song unique in its own way.”
Jack Mercer’s new moniker VC Pines also lies very close to the artist’s life experience. Standing for Violet Coloured Pines, this name relates to the musician’s condition of synaesthesia, in which neural networks allow senses to cross over, and for Mercer, this means that he hears sounds and sees colours at the same time, more specifically called chromesthesia. Throughout history, many famed musicians have been diagnosed with synaesthesia in its various forms, including Duke Ellington, Dev Hynes, Mary J Blige, Grimes, Tori Amos and many more. For Mercer, his synaesthesia is a symptom of Temporal Lobe Epilepsy, and here he describes a recurrent experience:
“When I was a child I was taken to Wolfeboro in North America with all these massive Pine trees and stuff. I hardly remember any of it, but sometimes if I have a seizure or episode I feel I can remember being there again and I can see these huge trees in my head. All of this has been a huge influence on how I write and think, and how I am.”
Having spent four years touring with his previous band and becoming a festival regular; including repeated Isle of Wight slots, touring across the World, European and many, many National Tours he has already built a huge live reputation. It’s a reputation carried over into VC Pines, as any audience member at the band’s Notting Hill Arts Club performance back in February will tell you – VC Pines has energy in spades! No doubt they’ve saved some up for their next performance at London’s The Social on August 1st.