The Merindas. Complicated. Melbourne: Heavy Machinery Records, 2021.
Conceived during the peak of national lockdowns, a new EP by pop duo The Merindas is set to invigorate listeners. The dynamic pairing of Kristel Kickett, a Ballardong Whadjuk and Nyoongar woman (from Tammin, WA) and Candice Lorrae, of Jawoyn and Thursday Island heritage (born in Darwin, NT) have captured the attention of audiences across the country, and have developed a dedicated fan base since relocating to Melbourne from WA, where they met. Over the years the pair have evolved from doing covers at the movie premiere for The Sapphires to performing their own fusion of electronic pop disco, soul, contemporary R&B and House music. Their first album We Sing Until Sunrise / Ngaangk Nookertiny Ngala Warangka was released in 2020, ensuring the two were more than prepared to navigate a release during a global pandemic.
Speaking with Kristel and Candice over the phone, it was refreshing to hear them brim with optimism as they discussed Complicated: both were at ease with the uncertainty ahead. Complicated is a fitting name for their EP. It captures the difficult socio-political climate we are living in while being packed with the feelings, expectations and freedoms of pre-Covid life. Restrictions did not taper their enthusiasm for music and creating new work. Instead, the album became a way to reflect on what they were experiencing: ‘It just relates to everything happening right now and everything is just complicated. But it doesn’t have to be: we should still be having good times’, Kristel explained.
The record came together quickly: the duo booked a hotel room in Sandringham for two days, running melodies and riffs by each other and writing lyrics on the spot. ‘We don’t force a song’ they explained. ‘It has to come out naturally and if not much happens in the beginning we just leave it and know it’s not right.’ The ease with which they work and write together echoes through each track with a burning energy that becomes addictive: you immediately want to listen to their songs again. In ‘Boomerang’, disco-infused melodies are blended with the lyrics ‘your love comes back’. The song evokes a romance, which ‘comes back like a Boomerang’. The repeated lines beautifully physicalise the metaphor of circling back to someone. Kristel and Candice sing ‘I’m living on the edge but don’t you let me go’, revealing the pleasure and pain we often feel in love.
In the title song, The Merindas proclaim that ‘we should be out here celebrating’. But instead—as listeners are more than aware—everything is complicated. As the track builds it becomes a call to action asking that we find ways out of the isolation and gloom many of us are experiencing. The lyrics transition into a beguiling dream-like fantasy—‘I’m feeling like another dance on the clouds with sweet romance’—and remind us of the delights of our imaginations. It’s complicated when these fantasies feel out of reach, but engaging with them is more important than ever and can still delight. As Kristel and Candice said during our conversation: ‘We love writing music that uplifts. It’s an outlet to escape the bad shit happening in life’. Their latest EP exemplifies this message and is sure to uplift and excite listeners. Listening to Complicated is an immediate way to feel the joy and love that awaits us in better times.
Timmah Ball is a nonfiction writer, researcher and creative practitioner of Ballardong Noongar heritage. In 2018, she co-created Wild Tongue Zine for Next Wave Festival with Azja Kulpinska, which interrogated labour inequality in the arts industry. Her writing has appeared in a range of anthologies and literary journals, including Meanjin, Right Now and Etchings Indigenous. Timmah was awarded Westerly’s Patricia Hackett Prize in 2016 for her powerful essay ‘In Australia’, published in Westerly 61.2.