“Aren’t they that Black Wire band?” a friend asks when I mention Mere Women. “Kind of,” I say. “Not anymore.”
This is not only because the Annandale record store and venue, Black Wire, is gone. Mere Women played 20 or so times on the stage between its record racks but in April, the DIY space capitulated to years of Kafkaesque wrangling over rent and regulations, closing its doors for good. A farewell gig at Red Rattler in Marrickville failed to make the loss feel real enough to mourn. In Sydney, at least, so it goes…
In any case, Mere Women are no longer the anaemic post-punk three-piece they began as in 2010. They didn’t “re-invent” themselves but moved, in increments, towards a fleshier, more visceral sound. Last year, bass player Trisch Roberts joined singer Amy Wilson, drummer Katrina Chew and guitarist Flyn Mckinnirey. The first time I saw them as a four-piece I was struck by the contrast. Before, the songs were airless and stark. People slowed down on their schooners: brows furrowed, clinging on. With Roberts onboard, Mckinnirey’s guitar was set free to conjure strange and beautiful sounds. The band indulged us in brief, saturated moments of gluttony.
On their third album, Big Skies, comparisons between Wilson and Siouxsie Sioux will be numerous – and justified. You hear it most on ‘Numb’, where Wilson’s descending “ohhhs” express emotion corralled by sternness. Mckinnirey’s guitar on the title track sounds like a warning of ill will in our peripheries – yet a warning that’s issued from another room. Each player in Mere Women is wrapped in their own world. Distant even from each other. You wouldn’t be surprised to see them lay down their gear at the end of a gig and walk in opposite directions.
Listening to Big Skies, my mind keeps returning to Parramatta Road. To Black Wire and to people in hoodies out the front, long necks of beer in rumpled paper bags, as a few blocks away the road is made unrecognisable by the ruptures of Westconnex.I don’t feel sadness as keenly as a distance from sadness.
Mere Women are launching Big Skies at The Red Rattler on June 23rd