Merlot Embargo is a Los Angeles based Rock/Pop songwriter/producer pair (and husband/wife) who just released their debut album "Don't Look Back". We connected with the duo to find out more about their unique name, the new album, their creative process and much more. After reading our exclusive interview with Merlot Embargo, support this amazing duo by purchasing their debut album on iTunes.
I'm a big fan of the name 'Merlot Embargo'; what significance does it have to you?
Geoff: Hah! We've generally left the origins of our name a bit mysterious, but lets just say we named our band based on a big fight we had. It's kind of funny now, though.
Scarlet: Seriously. We're laughing. Trust us.
How would you describe your music to someone who hasn't heard you guys?
Geoff: Scarlet's described us as a "modern-day, unconventional family band," and although that doesn't really describe what we sound like in specific terms, I think it does get at the spirit of our vibe, and in a roundabout way, even our sound. I'm a little less creative with my words, so I might say we're sort of americana singer-songwriter pop rock. Although there are definitely songs on the record that don't really fit in that description either.
Scarlet: We have been influenced by such an array of musical icons and styles, you can hear all of them in almost any song you hear on the album. There's not much that doesn't get us grooving so you're likely to hear an even more eclectic collection of sounds in our next few songs. But words that come to mind are: Vintage, Soul, Grit, and Groove.
How did the automobile accident in 2014 affect you as musicians and has it changed your outlook on life any way?
Scarlet: I think it had a huge impact on getting the ball rolling for getting this album done. I walked away with an almost subconscious but indelible impression on my mind of one big question: Would I have had any regrets if those had been my last moments? And the ONLY one that kept coming to the forefront was that I knew I had a lot of unfinished work in me musically. And to not give it one really good shot would have been a serious regret.
What's the creative process like for you in regards to the development of a new song?
Scarlet: The two places where ideas come to me the most are the car and the shower. On occasion I might say to myself it's time to write a song and grab a guitar and just do it, but mostly it has to start with one little thought, musical line, catchy turn of phrase that just won't leave my head. I have a so many random voice memos on my phone of me just scatting or singing stream-of-consciousness style. And many of the songs have their origins in there.
Geoff: I'm less abstractly creative than Scarlet, so my role in producing and arranging seems a little more like work, although I enjoy it immensely. My whole goal is to find the best way to present the song without getting in the way or overproducing, which is really easy to do these days with unlimited track counts and virtual instruments up the ying yang.
Tell us about your debut album "Don't Look Back"; what are you most proud of with this release?
Geoff: Man, there are so many things that went into it, it's hard to pick one. So I'll pick a few: I'm really proud of the fact that I can forget about all of the specifics of all of the details that went into each track and just enjoy the music - hopefully that means we succeeded with the production - that it doesn't get in the way of the songs. The second is the variety on the whole album. I think each track is unique and interesting, and yet still sounds like us. Also, on the engineering nerd side of things, I'm pretty proud of the fact that the stuff we recorded is 99% real instruments that a real person played. (There is a single software instrument in one song that we ended up keeping. If anyone wants to have a guess what it is, please write us - if you're the first to get it right, we'll send you a t-shirt :-)
Scarlet: That it's finally finished! It's an incredible feeling of accomplishment to have been working on something for so long (2yrs and some odd months) and actually finally have a THING. Especially since the thing actually sounds pretty damn good -- I'm just so glad it actually does sound good.
If you had to pick one song from the album as your favorite, which one would you select and why?
Geoff: For me it's "How to Survive an Apocalypse." That song went through a several revisions before we arrived at the arrangement on the album; and i had a bit of a love/hate relationship with it for a while.
Scarlet: "Apocalypse" is definitely a good one. I think my favorite one to sing is "Freaks On A Train". I've had my ups and down in that relationship as well.
What's a typical Merlot Embargo live performance like and will you be touring in support of the "Don't Look Back" album?
Geoff: We're a pretty relaxed bunch on stage. I know some bands rehearse everything down to the details, but that's not what we've done. I think we've got a bit of a good back and forth stage banter and presence, and having a pair of front people is nice too. For one, it means I don't have to worry about dead time if I need to tune my guitar or something.
Scarlet: Yeah, I don't stop talking so filling gaps has never been much of a problem for me. We don't have a tour set yet, but if it ends up making sense and working out, we'd love to. At first we'll be sticking to local clubs and opportunities though. Our website and social media sites will keep everyone updated on any upcoming shows.
What's next for you musically after "Don't Look Back"?
Geoff: We're always writing and working on new material. In fact we just got hooked up with a day in a nice studio this weekend, so we'll be working on a new tune - maybe it'll end up as a single, maybe for the next album; we'll see.
Scarlet: Actually yeah I've been writing since I finished writing the tunes on this album. So hopefully by the time we're ready to solidify the next one I've weeded out some pretty nice songs. We will also be releasing a few singles and some more music videos for the other songs on the album.