“We knew we were never going to be the same band that we tried to be between 1998 to 2004. Back then, we could dedicate everything to being in a band, being poor, etc.,” says Reno.
The year 2004 marked the end of the illustrious Tiger Style Records, and not soon after, Kindercore Records followed suit. Gone were the two labels that TMP had most closely associated themselves with.
“At that point, we didn’t have a record, we didn’t want to go on tour, and we wanted to work at our own pace,” says Reno of the hiatus. Over the course of the following years, the band wrote and recorded when time permitted, played a few one-off shows — mostly in the Florida area — and kept relatively quiet. They all delved into their side projects and took up day jobs. Reno works for a graphic design firm in Gainesville, and the rest of the band members are in Brooklyn, involved in various aspects of the music industry. As far as side projects are concerned, Dave Leblue is in Paper Cranes and Textual, which features a rotating cast of TMP members, and Reno plays on and off in Holopaw.
The Mercury Program – “Arrived/Departed”
The Mercury Pogram – “Katos”
But even while cooling off and taking a bit of a “break”, the guys were able to finish up an album’s worth of material, which ended up becoming Chez Viking. And despite the record being released in late 2009, TMP have had the rough tracks and songs finished for three years.
“In certain ways, the songwriting on this record was no different from that of the rest of our catalog,” explains Reno. “However, we had enough time so that everyone really had a chance to put a lot of thought into how everything fit together.” In fact, every track on the 32-minute album feels perfectly conceived, and there isn’t a second of filler anywhere on the record.
Chez Viking is, in Reno’s words, “the most rocking material” the band has written since their self-titled full-length. Rather than employing the dynamic rise and falls so commonly found in TMG’s song structures, Chez Viking opts for carefully-crafted transitions which rely more on technique and subtle variations on theme. And unlike some of their peers, TMP are able to experiment with the length of their songs so as to not alienate casual listeners who may not be able to handle a 10-minute-long opus.
The Mercury Program – “Slightly Drifting”
The Mercury Program – “Tequesta”
Some might place TMP under the umbrella of post-rock, instrumental rock, or a myriad of other subgenres, but these labels simply describe a band that is very technically proficient and doesn’t have a vocalist. That doesn’t come close to portraying TMG’s uniquely layered sound, with vibraphone, Rhodes piano, and delayed guitar atop intricate drumming that fits in lock-step with brilliant bass lines.
Ultimately, pigeonholing the Mercury Program’s music into a genre is a very difficult task. “We’ve been called math rock, but we really don’t sound a lot like anyone else we were being compared to,” Tom muses. “Genre is something we really only consider when asked and otherwise don’t pay attention to.”
The Mercury Program’s Chez Viking will receive acclaim from all angles, not just because fans have been eagerly awaiting its arrival for the past seven years, but because it is arguably one of the bands’ best pieces of work. More immediate than their previous records and marked by extreme attention to detail, the album exists as a perfectly realized cohesive musical statement.
Luckily for all of us, the long wait is over, and the band has no foreseeable plans to break up. Let’s just hope it doesn’t take another seven years for another release.