DateOctober 6, 2016
When Up + Downtown Music Festival’s artistic director, Brent Oliver, contacted Our Mercury about doing another show, it was the last thing on any of their minds. It’s been almost 10 years since the band parted ways, and just as much time since the release of their last record, Haunted by Your Love. With so much time away, Ben Stevenson (guitar/vocals), Dan Laxer (bass), John Watson (drums), and Eric Budd (guitar/keyboard), are soaking up the new challenge of playing together again with their upcoming midnight set at The Brixx.
“We’ve all moved in so many different directions,” Stevenson says. “So it’s been an interesting exercise to come back to your old self and re-do what you were doing before.”
For Oliver, the suggestion from a member of the festival’s board of directors, Ryan Rathjen, spurred his interest. Their fondness of the band going back many years was a big reason for reaching out to them, and felt they’d be a perfect fit for the festival’s eclectic lineup.
“First and foremost I’m a fan,” says Oliver. “I’ve always been a big Our Mercury fan and I really like Ben’s solo stuff. I helped out Aaron Getz with the Hot Plains Festival a couple of years back and he always wanted to get local bands back together for it. I thought that was a really great idea.”
Our Mercury’s history in the Edmonton music scene goes way back, with Stevenson, Laxer, and Watson starting the punk band Misdemeanor around 1995. They would later change their name to Our Mercury, with Budd joining the group around 2000. With Stevenson and Laxer being back in Edmonton, the guys find themselves reminiscing about their time in the local punk scene.
“I miss the camaraderie of the scene and the community that was out here,” Stevenson says. “It’s very different now. I still have good people that I know and work with in Toronto, but that sense of community is just different when you get older.”
The band is a bit discouraged from calling this a “reunion” show, citing bands from the past that get back together for a quick cash grab. While they may not have any plans of doing any more shows together down the road, they love the idea of getting a chance to play when the time feels right.
“We didn’t want to think of this as a reunion show. It’s just us playing a show, but we happen to be a band that hasn’t played together in a long time,” jokes Stevenson. “We never had a falling out or anything and there was never any bad blood. We’re all really close so for us it’s just awesome to get to hang again.
Laxer and Stevenson have been away from Edmonton’s music scene for sometime now, both currently calling Toronto home. Laxer went on to receive his PhD in history, studying the music of early Canada and the fur trade. Stevenson released the critically acclaimed EP Dirty Laundry in 2014, garnering a Juno nomination for Best R&B/Soul Recording; Stevenson will also be doing a solo show the following Sunday at Yellowhead Brewery with local boys Altameda.
While prepping for their upcoming show at the festival and reminiscing about favourite gigs of the past—their packed and sweaty 2010 show at the much beloved local venue, The Artery, stands out as a favourite for Laxer—the guys are grateful for a chance to revisit old songs and see friends that have followed their careers up and until this point.
“It’s cool that people are still interested in us playing,” Stevenson says. “It’s been almost 10 years since we split up so it’s just wild that people are still down to hear us play.”
Laxer echoes the same sentiments and is grateful for the chance to step away for a bit and be around people who helped shape the community he was a part of many years earlier.
“It’s been great to be back in Edmonton,” he says. “It’s beautiful here right now. I get to see old friends again and be around people that mean so much to me. As much as this was the last thing on our minds, at the same time it’s always on our minds.”