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MP3 The Mermaids [EP] - FOLK: Modern Folk

If you pushed them to their logical extremes, Josh would be Ace of Base and Hillel would be Tom Waits on a good day.

5 MP3 Songs
FOLK: Modern Folk, POP: Folky Pop

Although they have been meaning to think up a more exotic story, Hillel and Josh actually met through Josh’s mom, at a birthday party in Connecticut. They didn’t talk too much at the party, as Josh was intent on impressing Hillel’s friend Walter with his supposed knowledge of Latin American history. Over the next few weeks, they met again at various community events and at Jeremiah House, the Catholic Worker house Hillel shared with his friend Steve in Bridgeport.

Hillel and Josh moved to New York City around the same time, in the spring of 2003. Josh was staying with his friend Boris on the Lower East Side, and Hillel moved in with Walter in Washington Heights. They played some songs for each other and traded home recordings, and Hillel recorded a few of Josh’s new songs at Walter’s house. At some point, Josh proposed that they collaborate on some songs, and their partnership was born. Through the winter and spring of 2004-2005, they worked on a number of new songs, providing each other with feedback on music and lyrics.

In the early summer of 2005, Hillel’s friend Chris Brown, a Canadian musician who had been making good records and playing around New York for years, agreed to record their debut EP. They went to Chris’s house in Brooklyn and played a few songs for him, and he said “grooving” and proclaimed that he had some ideas. The next time they met, Chris was eating breakfast at the local diner with his sound engineer, Lurch. They had been up all night driving back from Canada, and Lurch was on the phone with someone who had annoyed them, claiming to be Chris’s lawyer and threatening a lawsuit.

During the summer of 2005, Hillel and Josh would go out to Chris’s house in Brooklyn every week or two to record music. This usually involved arriving in the early afternoon and waking up Chris and Lurch and whichever friends happened to be sleeping over. Lurch would make strong coffee, which he sweetened with chocolate and cinnamon when they ran out of sugar, and everyone would get down to business. When the guitars and vocals were feeling solid, Chris’s friends Tony Scherr, Mike Mazor, and Jason Mercer came over to play bass and drums. Once, when Hillel was recording but Josh was somewhere else, a group of Canadian musicians who had spent the night at Chris’s house recorded backing vocals on Josh’s song, “It All Goes Hand in Hand.” They had had a long night and were already getting started again, and they ended up doing most of the recording from Chris’s bed. Hillel and Josh have played a few shows together at Rockwood Music Hall on Allen Street. Josh also sang backup vocals for Hillel at the Living Room, where they were recorded for Roy Szuper’s documentary film “The Gonzo Music Diaries,” and at Southpaw, where Josh was so nervous he thought he might pass out.

Hillel is better than Josh at playing the guitar, but Josh plays it upside down. They both grew up listening to folk music and then discovered rock and roll. Hillel writes more songs than Josh does. Hillel’s latest song is called “It’s All Over Now.” Josh’s latest song is called “When It Happens.” To generalize very broadly, Josh leans more toward pop music and Hillel leans more toward folk and country. If you pushed them to their logical extremes, Josh would be Ace of Base and Hillel would be Tom Waits on a good day. If they were the Beatles, Hillel would be a cross between John Lennon and Paul McCartney and Josh would be a cross between Ringo Starr and a flying shark with machine guns instead of fins. Together, they are the Mermaids. Enjoy.

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