In Session: Merci Van

SARATOGA SPRINGS – As the world continues to open up, the 518-music scene continues to come back in fantastic, new – and old – ways. With bands seeming to pop up left and right, one such act is Merci Van. Featuring Alicia Macier-Van Scoy on guitar and vocals, Ed Cormac on drums, and Katlyn Celentano on synthesizers, the band is reconfiguration of members from other 518-DIY favorites, William Hale and Hill Haints. Well on their way to making a solid impression, Merci Van have already put out a brief Demos EP and have a slew of performances lined up in the area.

I had a chance to sit down with the band this week. What follows is our conversation.

From left-to-right: Alicia Macier-Van Scoy, Ed Cormac, Katlyn Celentano.

Lucas Garrett: Thank you, everyone, for sitting down tonight to talk about your band. How’s everyone doing?

Ed Cormac: I’m doing good.

Alicia Macier-Van Scoy: Great.

Katlyn Celentano: Doing well.

LG: So, I know Alicia, and I know you, Ed and Kat. But I’ve never had a chance to talk with either of you. It’s pretty cool we’re finally all sitting down. How did the band start?

AM: I was playing with pencildive one night and Ed and I were drinking at the bar. We’d been threatening for months to get together and work on something. We had just the right amount of alcohol to agree to it.

EC: True story.

LG: Where did the band name come from?

AM: A lot of band chat and playing off words. I think it started off as a place on my last name, and we were just making phonetic sounds with it. We loved Merci Van because it looks so nice in writing but it sounds a little sinister when you say it.

LG: What does everyone play in the band?

AM: I sing and play guitar, and so far I’ve written everything we’ve done.

EC: I play drums, which was what we’d talked about that drunken night while watching pencildive. I really wanted to play drums with somebody because I’ve been learning to play drums during the pandemic.

AM: That’s when I started learning how to play guitar.

KC: I play the synthesizer which is something I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve had synthesizers since early 2020 or 2019, and I’ve never had a chance to use it until now.

LG: What are you working on right now?

AM: We just tracked and released some demos on Bandcamp and all the online streaming platforms to give people an idea of what we sound like live. We have a bunch of great live shows coming up.

On September 19th, we’re at Desperate Annie’s (Saratoga) with Small Ghosts and William Hale. October 1st, we’re playing the BAMF Fest (Bacchanalia Festival). Our time slot is 1:30 pm at the Franklin Alley Social Club. On October 14th, we’re at Rare Form (Troy) with Burning Sun and Ben Seretan, and on November 11th, we’re at Troy Speakeasy with William Hale, Small Ghosts and pencildive.

We’re excited to be out and playing again with the people that we love. After that, we’re going to hit the studio and get this stuff down in an album for everybody.

LG: How many songs do you have now?

KC: Six or seven… something like that.

AM: We do have a tried-and-true long song… I learned that from both Luc (Van Scoy, William Hale) and Asa (Morris).

LG: Alicia, every time I’ve seen you, you’re either playing the violin, mandolin, or accordion. How is it playing the guitar?

AM: It’s a lot of fun. I honestly think sometimes not knowing how to play it for a while is relaxing in a way. I don’t have that pressure that “I should know how to do this,” and end up going with whatever is available to me. It makes it easier to be more creative.

LG: The reason I ask is because the violin is in perfect fifths, and the guitar is mainly in perfect fourths.

AM: Yeah, it does mess with my head a bit. Transposing stuff from violin to guitar has been very frustrating for me and I gave up on that rather quickly. I realized I had to start from scratch and let my brain not think about it in that way.

LG: Merci Van is a lot different than what I’m used to hearing from you, Alicia. Why don’t we talk about everyone’s creative influences and what they bring to the band?

AM: Yeah! I think a lot of my stuff has a folk-background. Everything I’ve done you can trace back to Roger Miller, even. The Kinks… anything that is more feeling based than complicated. I really love what’s happening with the sound where they will take my folk songs and turn it into something nostalgic, but that doesn’t sound the same.

EC: With drums, I try to think of hip-hop and dance music. I try to approach it like that. I take it in chunks and beats, and I feel where Alicia is coming from with the guitar stuff and lyrics and come up with parts. Some stuff reminds me of Arcade Fire. I keep that “808” drum machine thing going on in my head. I really like the way the beats and breakdowns go in hip-hop.

KC: I guess for this band, most of my influences are coming more from like soft-rock and more acoustic-style emo music. I’m following along with the melody but dancing around it at the same time, which is a little bit different than what I was doing playing bass. I was chugging along with bass, but I feel this gives me a lot more freedom to express myself musically. It’s a lot more fun this way.

LG: What’s neat about this band is that every member has known each for a while but now they’re doing something they haven’t done in their other projects. It’s a very nice change-up to see. Is there anything that you’d like to discuss that I may have missed?

AM: I think it’s really cool that these aren’t the instruments you normally see us working on. It gives all of us that freedom to reach out and try new stuff. It’s a lot of trial-and-error with what we do and that’s what has made it so much fun. We’ve all known each other for a while but never got to work together. It’s been great in that capacity!

LG: Thank you, again, for sitting down tonight!

EC: Thank you so much, Lucas.

AM: Thanks!

KC: Thank you.

LG: Have a great night.

AM: Bye.

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