Mersiv puts all his thoughts into form with his debut LP, ‘Pretty Dark Loud’ [Interview]
Anderson Benoit Gallegos, known best by his stage name Mersiv, wanted a creative outlet, one that would allow him to put all his thoughts and feelings into tangible form. After a past few years characterized by a nearly constant touring schedule, Gallegos would get just that once the the pandemic positioned him at his home in Colorado with more than just a little time to kill.
It was a first for Gallegos, whose career as Mersiv began in 2016 when he packed up his car and made the move from his small hometown in northern Louisiana to Denver. Traces of his southern accent have been all but entirely eliminated—”If I drink alcohol, I guess it comes out,” Gallegos told Dancing Astronaut. In the meantime, Mersiv has become almost synonymous with the Colorado mountains and the city of Denver.
The city was already becoming known as the bass music capital in the United States, with Denver attracting big-name acts such as Illenium and GRiZ, by the time Gallegos made his move. With the famous Red Rocks Amphitheatre in easy driving distance and weekly shows at venues such as Black Box, Ogden Theatre, Temple, the Fox Theatre, and more in sight, the city’s thriving scene made it a hub for talented producers, and Mersiv was no exception.
At the time when he was first beginning his career, he would describe his music as “pretty dark loud.” He felt the phase was an apt description mainly because he was unsure of what genre his music fell into.
“Years ago, whenever I started producing, that was the way I described it to my friends,” he said. “I didn’t have a genre to describe it. So that name, that ‘pretty dark loud’ essence stuck with how I described it, like the feeling and the emotion. I know it’s super basic, but that’s the easiest way I could explain it to people.”
The three words continued to to sit at the forefront of his thought process when making music, and he realized that “pretty dark loud” would make a good album title. Five years later, it would become just that.
Mersiv’s debut project is open for interpretation, with Gallegos saying he doesn’t want to share too much of his own perspective on the LP in the interest of not overshadowing its public reception. One doesn’t necessarily need Gallegos to do that, given that tracks like “Afterlife,” “Ghosts,” and “If I Was A Raven” clearly reflect on loss.
Pretty Dark Loud served as a form of therapy for Gallegos, who dealt with significant losses within his own life over the past several years. As he sat down to create his debut album, he reflected on those no longer with him and created something that spoke to those emotions.
“One thing that I really learned from this record is to embrace your emotions and that it’s okay to sit with them. Like, it’s okay to feel a certain way, whether it’s good or bad and that those feelings aren’t permanent. They can pass,” he told Dancing Astronaut.
Without the prospect of a tour over the pandemic, he was able to spend more time honing his skills as a producer, which resulted in a 20-track record that takes listeners through highs and lows.
“[Making the album] was like a therapy for me,” he said. “You know, dealing with a bunch of personal shit that life throws at you. Everyone has their things that they struggle with, and this was just a way to kind of get that out in an audio format. To express different feelings that I had and stuff. A lot of it was made during COVID-19 just ’cause I really had that time to be alone, be by myself, not have to worry about creating sets and shows, so it was a time where I could really dive in with myself and with my production and really experiment because I didn’t have a timeframe or anything. We didn’t know when COVID-19 was going to be done.”
In line with the intention of therapy, across its many forms, Pretty Dark Loud was created with the intention to heal. The tracks are cathartic in nature, both for Gallegos and for whomever is listening. “Severing String” reassures listeners “it’s okay, don’t get down, it’s alright,” the lyrics repeating like a mantra in an effort to soothe. “If I Was A Raven” finds him adding instrumentals to Elephant Revival’s “Raven Song.” The lyrics, “If I was a raven, I’d fly on through the heavens/ I’d fly to all my loved ones/ If I was a raven/ If memory’s worth saving, I’d savor the feeling/ Of knowing love and loving/ I’d remember the feeling” become balanced against dark instrumentals, the song’s beg to be reunited with those who have been lost.
“Those are very, very, very personal. That’s the point. If I can [speak to] whoever’s listening, that’s the goal for me is to relate to you, to help whoever’s listening to get through their struggle and their loss that they’re going through. Because everybody has to deal with it at some point in their life. Life isn’t forever. It sucks,” he said.
Pretty Dark Loud still aims to celebrate life, as well. The LP balances loss and emotional catharsis with “heavy fun tracks on there that are a time to have a party atmosphere, a party mood.” And that’s what Gallegos wants his sound to be—that which can straddle life’s darkest moments with its most carefree.
In the midst of finding time to produce a 20-track album during the pandemic, Gallegos joked that he also managed to finally make it out to the Colorado mountains and learn to snowboard. “That was one of the main reasons why I moved to Colorado,” Gallegos said. “‘Cause I was like, I wanna do music, that’s number one, and if I fail, you know, I don’t have any kind of college education, so I’ll just be a ski bum and live in the mountains and enjoy life and just be content with nature. And I finally got around to snowboarding last year for the first time, because I’ve just been so busy grinding. And I was like, I need to take a second to relax and appreciate, you know, nature, and stuff like that.”
While a full snowboarding EP won’t be arriving just yet, Gallegos’ debut album includes tracks like “Night Vision” that can bring a zen-like groove written to “relate to [his] process of how I’m always staying up at night,” and self-described “party atmospheres” that appear in “Fire Dance” featuring Attitude. Like everything with the Mersiv project, the album’s layout was intentional. Rather than go from pretty to dark to loud, Gallegos wanted to create the experience of a show within the LP’s tracklist.
“Once I had the ideas, I put them in a big playlist,” Gallegos said. “I was just constantly going through the order and rearranging it, and there were a lot of big changes throughout that.”
The end result is a record that manages to start off with softer melodies before transitioning into party anthems that will get the club shaking, then back to the tracks that go deeper into self-reflection and loss. Pretty Dark Loud takes listeners on a journey, holding their hand the whole way through.
The project has been years in the making. Producing Pretty Dark Loud itself took Gallegos nearly two years, and he’s been sitting on some of the tracks for even longer. “Sky High” featuring Knat Turner had initially been made sometime around 2016 and 2017, and Gallegos says that he’s not someone who is able to write things out in just one sitting. “I’ll make a bunch of ideas and sketches and I would work on those throughout the year.” Even “If I Was A Raven,” which he says had been the easiest track to write and came to him easier than most of the others, had been tweaked to perfection over a period of two years.
“But it all starts from a feeling, like any type of emotion. Whenever I’m like, super, super happy, or really sad, or depressed, or if I have a moment of anger or something like that. Whenever I’m feeling a certain emotion very intensely, that’s when I’ll go into the studio and start writing. And that’s when those songs started to come to life. Because when I’d just try things and I’m just, you know, screwing around, I don’t really have a feeling. It’s just a bunch of blips and boops, stuff that doesn’t really make sense for me personally. So, whenever I do experience an emotion in full force, I’ll take that time to write.”
The pandemic provided time for Gallegos to stop and take a breath. Previous tracks had been released in the midst of touring, and Pretty Dark Loud had been at the back of his mind for years. The pandemic wound up becoming a blessing in disguise for the producer, who shared that he had begun to feel overwhelmed with his hectic schedule.
“And I feel like the world goes so fast, sometimes,” he said. “Like we’re all human beings, trying to make it, trying to grind, or just get a life. And I feel like sometimes it’s so busy that you don’t really get a time to settle down and to relax. Just feel what you’re feeling or whatever you’re going through, whether it’s good or bad. I just feel like there’s so much going on. And with COVID-19, with the whole world stopping, it was a chance to not be anxious about the future, or what’s coming next, like the schedules and stuff like that.”
As far as live shows go, Gallegos is opting to hold off on a full tour schedule for a little while longer. Although he played a show in Detroit ahead of the album’s release and has a few opening shows for CloZee scheduled in December, the majority of Mersiv’s touring schedule is pretty light. “We’re not going full force,” he said. “We just wanted to take it slow, and you know, get ready for a big 2022 and 2023, and go really hard in the next few years.”
The time off has changed Gallegos’ perspective on touring, with the producer sharing that it prompted him to learn how to better take care of his health and mental well-being:
“I think I will be more equipped to dealing with the road whenever we get back out there. ‘Cause it can be really hard. It’s like, not sleeping enough, not eating enough because you have a weird sleep schedule and waking up at weird times to go play. Food is not open late at night, that kind of thing. It’s just weird. You have to really plan and schedule out your day and what you’re going to do to take care of yourself.”
After losing his mother, Gallegos has been tasked with taking care of himself. His mother introduced him to music as a child, with Gallegos joking, “my mom forced me to play piano when I was a kid, when I was in like second grade, and I hated it.” But he shares a sentiment familiar with many musicians, namely, that he wishes he had stuck with it in order to have a better understanding of how to write songs and melodies. He picked up a guitar in high school, played covers of other songs, but never wrote for himself.
Later, Gallegos began DJing every day after school, and eventually found himself asking, “well, how do they make this stuff?” He sat down and taught himself to produce; it would take him four years to release a track of his own.
“This whole record is basically the experience and feelings that I first felt from hearing electronic music,” he concluded. “This is what I’ve been working for this whole time since I started, I just didn’t know it. But this record is everything I’ve been working towards.”
Featured image: Trey Karson