The Mercury Wheel
Formed by Andrew Calara on bass & vocals, Clifton Weaver on guitar & vocals and José Rendón on drums, The Mercury Wheel is a rock/soul band from Los Angeles.
Influenced by artists from various genres, the band has been making music together for the past four years and got the opportunity to perform at the Echo Park Rising festival.
The band is currently working on some new music and performing more shows in Los Angeles. They recently did a show with the art rock band Here Lies Man. More shows to be announced soon!
Introduce the band.
The band consists of José Rendón on drums, Andrew Calara on bass, vocals, and backing vocals, and myself (Clifton Weaver) on guitar, vocals, and backing vocals.
How did you guys meet? How long have you been working together?
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when and how we met. It would have been at one of the many 60s/indie rock/soul nights that have been happening in LA for years. We’ve been working sporadically over the past 4 years, most notably backing soul legend Nolan Porter. In the past year, we’ve been more focused and working consistently. We’ve played the Echo Park Rising festival and have a show coming up with Antibalas member Chico Mann’s new project, Here Lies Man.
How did you come up with the band’s name? What’s the story behind it?
I saw a photograph from turn of the century New York. It was a group of suited men riding bicycles. The caption said, “The Markus Mercury Wheel Club”. It caught my imagination and after playing around with the words, I had “The Mercury Wheel”. I thought it was enigmatic and vague enough that, musically, we could go in any direction.
Andrew: I can barely pronounce The Mercury Wheel.
How would you describe the sound of your band?
This is always a difficult question for me. My own personal influences are so varied and they all factor in to what I do. When you include José and Andrew, the task is even tougher. However, right now there’s a strong 60’s soul and rock influence. The great thing about having so many influences to draw from is we can grow in unexpected and interesting ways.
José: We never set out to play a particular style, which has been working out. It allows us to keep pushing ourselves and to focus on writing the best material we can.
Andrew: I definitely bring any pop and hip hop influences if you hear it in the music.
Do you remember the first show you’ve ever played together? How was it like? What lessons did you learn since then?
Yeah. Our first show as The Mercury Wheel was backing Nolan Porter. It was an absolute honor to perform with someone of his status. In retrospect, though, we could have performed much better but that’s all part of the process. In the time since that first show, we’ve definitely learned how to operate as a true unit rather than 3 people playing individual parts at the same time.
José: When I met Nolan, I told him that If he ever needed a band to back him up, I was a drummer and I could make it happen. Never did I imagine that within that year, our first show would be backing him up. It was a very memorable night. I remember having a big smile on my face the whole time. Much love to Nolan and his wife Patrice.
Tell us about your songwriting/recording process. How do you usually work?
The songs that I’ve written start with a chord progression. Once I have a rough musical arrangement, I’ll try to figure out a vocal melody and fit some lyrics to that. Of course, there’s not really a set formula. That’s just the way things have come about so far. Andrew has also written a couple of songs that we perform. I’m not sure what his process is but, he usually brings them to the band fully formed.
José: I feel that, as a drummer, it is really important to listen. To listen to the chord progression, the changes, the melody. I then come up with a beat that compliments the particular song we may be working on. I try to keep it simple yet…tasteful.
Andrew: I almost always start hooks and melody first and work everything else out from there. Within the structure of The Mercury Wheel though I definitely try to leave more space instead of telling everyone what to do!
Is it easy to be an artist in Los Angeles? How does this city help you build your career?
I’m not sure. I’ve never been an artist anywhere else. I don’t think it’s easy to be an artist anywhere. There are so many financial and personal hurdles to constantly overcome and they seem to be similar most places. LA does afford many opportunities for musicians of all levels to hone their craft, whether at small clubs or warehouse parties. There’s always a chance to play.
José: There are so many talented bands and musicians in LA. I feel inspired when I see an amazing band or singer. I grew up playing shows in backyards, living rooms, clubs, bars…anywhere. There has always been a show to play or to go to. It’s just a matter of being open minded, making friends, getting tight as a musician and really getting out there. LA is a big city but with hard work, anything is possible.
Andrew: I grew up in Long Beach so the LA area is forever home to me. It’s insanely competitive and every horrible part you’ve heard about it and forces you to raise your game. But there’s also some great people involved some of whom have become really good friends. They definitely motivate me to be something more than whatever I am now. Plus I got a great deal on rent!
Do you follow today’s music industry? What are your thoughts on the industry?
I don’t really make it a point to follow the “industry”. I’m always listening for new music and newer groups but I’m not checking the charts to find stuff. In general, I think a lot of mainstream chart music is kind of boring. Everything is starting to sound the same, to me at least.
Andrew: I’m definitely the one here who follows today’s music industry the most by far. I listen to everything new that comes out! I would rap if I was capable of rapping. I would love to write for Ariana Grande or Rihanna. I’m not sure the other guys would agree so that’s probably just me!
How do you usually promote your music?
Promotion usually consists of making digital flyers for Instagram and Facebook. Also, we use Facebook event invites and an email list.
What’s the hardest thing about artists? And what is the best thing?
It’s kind of a cliche but artists can be moody and difficult. I guess it’s a way to maintain the integrity of their work. The best thing? Open mindedness and attention to detail. I’m sure there’s more but that’s what comes to mind right now.
José: To me, the hardest is probably the punctuality aspect. Lol. We are not the most punctual people. The best, I think music is a genuine art form. When you play a show, you get to create a vibe and connection with the audience. Nothing like it.
Andrew: Punctuality, myself included.
What do you want to accomplish as a band?
I think the most any band can really aspire to is to write great songs, play well, and make great records.
Why do you make music? What keeps you going?
Part of it is hoping to live up to what my heroes created. Of course, I actually enjoy playing, writing, and performing too. So even when things aren’t going quite as planned, I try to remember the love of my heroes’ work and my love of the actual craft. Those things keep me going.
José: I get a satisfaction like no other from playing music, particularly, from playing live shows. I strive to be better every time I play. Music is very personal to me and to be honest, I do it because I love it and I am grateful when people appreciate it. I have been fortunate to have supportive friends and family throughout the years.
Andrew: I’ve played music since I was 7. I don’t know no better. I still sing in my car at the top of my lungs. I jumped into a few mosh pits this year when I said I retired. I can be 80 at a nursing home and I’ll find my way to an instrument or mic.
What are you currently working on? Any upcoming projects?
We’re always writing and we’re still working on getting some decent recordings out. Having day jobs and hectic work schedules complicates matters but we’re getting there. Like I mentioned before, we’re excited to be playing with Here Lies Man this weekend.
What’s your purpose?
Ultimately, in my opinion, we’re here to repay the influence we received. If someone hears our songs and gets out of it what I got out of music, our job is done.
José: I have always had the “play every show like it’s your last” mentality. I give it my all at every show and in every recording. I think preparation is very key though. I am very passionate about music and love to share it.
Andrew: Just here to fuck shit up.
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