After a run of rousing releases throughout the last few years, US duo Merlot Embargo are back for 2024 to deliver their shimmering new single 'Paper Thin'.
Bringing back more of that warm and lofty dream-pop aesthetic they have been building for themselves over the years, 'Paper Thin' makes for a vibrant return from the pairing. With its rich and inviting textures perfectly set to some uplifting vocals throughout, they continue their ascent as one of the more enchanting names doing the rounds right now.
So with the new single available to stream now, we sat down with them to find out more about their origins and what has been inspiring them lately.
What was the first instrument you fell in love with?
Geoff - definitely guitar for me. I’d played piano for a bit as a younger kid, and had a good ear, but I hated reading music, and quit after a while. When I picked up the guitar in high school it clicked pretty quickly. I loved the instrument and had an insatiable appetite for learning new songs, practicing, and even learning to read music (again).
Scarlet - My dad had always played guitar at home, and so it was guitar for me too, although from a different angle. For me, guitar became more of a songwriting tool.
What kind of music did you love when you were younger?
Scarlet - I always loved some of the classic country & western singers: Dolly, Patsy Cline, etc. That, and the girl pop stars of the day like Paula Abdul & Madonna. You know the classic movie tropes of a girl singing into her hairbrush to the latest pop hits? Totally me.
Geoff - I grew up in a very conservative (Christian) church, and there was a super focus on religious music. When I was a kid it wasn’t nearly as hip as it is today though. It wasn’t really until college that I got out of that mindset and started listening to new stuff. I gravitated towards jazz music, mainly because I figured if I got good at jazz guitar I could play anything. But I ended up liking it!
What was the first album you remember owning?
Scarlet - Mine was Tragic Kingdom by No Doubt!
Geoff - I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that mine was Michael W. Smith’s, “Go West Young Man.” (If you know that album, you came from the culture I did!) One side benefit of this was getting turned on to session guitarist Dan Huff, who’s an absolute monster musician and played on a ton of his in the 90s.
What is the one song you wished you could have written yourself?
Geoff - Oh, so many. Top of my list is probably “Samson” by Regina Spektor though. It’s lovely in her quirky way, but so beautiful and sad and just grabs you in the feels. Or it does me, at least.
Scarlet - “Leather and Lace”. Love love Stevie Nicks; she’s such an inspiration for me.
Do you have any habits or rituals you go through when trying to write new music?
Scarlet - I tend to write when I’m inspired or depressed. Regrettably, I don’t have too many official songwriting habits, other than just sitting down and playing through it on guitar until it feels right. I suppose a phone audio memo is a habit, but that’s pretty standard nowadays. I do still often write the lyrics down in a notebook though. But not always.
Who are your favourite artists you have found yourself listening to at the moment?
Geoff - I have this weird thing where I hardly ever listen to music for pure enjoyment, although I do enjoy listening to music. There’s always some ulterior motive, like trying to see if I can play a similar lick, or come up with a groove inspired by ___, or whatever. If you look at my spotify listening history, I can see what I was working on at the time by combing through the strata of songs. It’s also corrupted by all the stuff I’m playing for our 6-year-old daughter. That being said: Mike Sabath, Michael Vest, Radiohead, The Police, Dominic Fike, Magic!. There’s also a Christmas album from Lauren Daigle that I listened to on a fluke and fell in love with.
Scarlet - Honestly I’ve been listening to less music than normal this last month. I think I needed a little bit of a cleanse or dry January or something, haha. There’s a bit of Geoff’s problem too in that I listen to a lot of music that I need to learn, so it’s sort of hard to say what I’d be listening to on my own accord.
If you could open a show for anyone in the world, who would it be?
Geoff - Oh man, hard to say, but I’d lean towards someone just huge, like Taylor or something. I think our music is different, but her people seem like they could be our people? Or at least adjacent?
Scarlet - Easy. Ben Folds. My college dream.
What do you find is the most rewarding part about being a musician?
There are so many. There isn't a drug in the world that can touch the high you get after playing a great show - I feel like artists are always chasing that. Some other regarding bits: occasionally someone will write us and say something like “Thanks, your song really helped me get through xxx” or something to that effect. It’s humbling and satisfying to hear that you actually had a positive impact on someone. Release day for a new song is pretty fun, as is stumbling upon your own song that you haven’t listened to in a year or three, and remembering how good it still is.
And what is the most frustrating part?
Also so many. (Remind me, how can you make a living at this?) We haven’t figured it out yet. As an indie artist, there is so so much back-end work that is completely unrelated to actually making music and songwriting: keeping up with social media, (which we are trying to get better at), hustling for gigs, jumping on calls to pitch your music to people, writing bios, updating websites, scheduling releases, getting people to do artwork and videos for cheap because you can’t afford to pay them, doing rando side cover gigs so you can actually pay your band, the list is endless. We’d love it if we could just write music, record it, and play shows.
And what is the best piece of advice you have received as a musician?
"Make music every day, even if only a little bit." Balancing music with our other commitments is a challenge to be sure. Intentionally making space for creativity, practice, and the other things we do is important. We sometimes find that the quick little bits evolve into something better, too.
Merlot Embargo's new single 'Paper Thin' is available to stream now. Check it out in the player below.