In the summer of 2011, Monmouth County's pop-punk band Mercer Avenue will release their first album, "Hip Hop Is Dead," recorded with producer Doug Leibowitz of Animal Sound Studio. The unsigned group has been together for three years and, between managing college-work and music, already have impressive credentials. Mercer Avenue has played at many venues, including Sayreville, N.J.'s Starland Ballroom and has been on stage with Nicole Atkins, Kenny Vasoli, The A.K.A.'s (Fueled by Ramen), Just Surrender (Razor and Tie), The Years Gone By and Someday Never. Additionally, the group recorded with Tim Flanzbaum, an assistant engineer on Paramore's album, "Riot!" Mercer Avenue's accomplishments have not come easy. "We have been recording material for about two years now, completely funded by the band's show revenue and money from our own pockets," said Dan Lisi, the group's guitarist and vocalist. "It's definitely been a struggle, but we make the best of it." Sounding like a hybrid of Green Day and Blink 182, the band said they have been compared to Jimmy Eat World and have diverse influences like Outkast, Dr. Dre, The Beatles, Guns and Roses, Taking Back Sunday, Jimmy Hendrix and Third Eye Blind. The track "Like You Mean It" is an example of the band bringing together their wide variety of influences into one song, having a unique chord progression. Pat Hynes, guitarist and vocalist said it was his favorite to record. "It was kind of a deadline song that I needed to get done before we went into the studio, and I stayed up all night and knocked out the whole thing in one straight shot," Hynes said. "I think the recording came out great." Lisi described how the band has turned its difficult moments into music, specifically mentioning the group's popular song, "Still Breathing." "After one of our drummers ditched us on the way to a preproduction session with Tim, we were at an all time low in morale," Lisi said. "We ironed out the music and focused the song about being stronger and better off after he left. It meant a lot to me that we could take one of our roughest moments and turn it into one of our most popular songs." What sets Mercer Avenue apart from other pop-punk bands is their unique sound and dedication to writing songs. "There are a lot of bands that will write a song in 10 minutes, but that effort is reflected in the finished product: a 4 chord progression and predictable lyrics," Lisi said. "Each of our songs gets its due respect, taking many hours to write, rewrite, and produce." The members of Mercer Avenue agreed that the most important aspect of their songs is its honest and meaningful lyrics. "All of our songs are based on experiences we've actually dealt with and I think the listener will pick up on the emotions we're trying to convey, and walk away knowing that we obviously do care about what we're saying," said Hynes. Tom Smeaton, the group's lead vocalist, said that the influx of superficial music on the radio motivates the honesty of Mercer Avenue's lyrics. "When you put your heart into music and give it a meaning, I think people respect that and gravitate toward it. It shows them they aren't alone," Smeaton said. Patrice Kubik can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Up-and-coming Jersey group preps first album