Hoffer and Titchenal met back in the day on a suburban traveling hockey team, but it was music not hockey that has endured into their professional lives. “We cut our teeth on bands like Megadeth, the old Metallica,” Titchenal said, his shoulder length dark hair and dark eyes fitting for his hard-rock core. Their tastes have developed into a blend of 1980’s pop and hard rock music that is nearly impossible to encapsulate. “We love all the elements of great pop music, but we were kinda hard rock guys growing up and [Matt’s] got a voice that isn’t hard rock and our guitarist is into Brit pop music,” Titchenal explained. Like most bands, Holding Mercury has seen its lineup change. The recent incarnation features Brooklyn native Ashok Warrier on lead guitar and Jason Batchko, formerly of major-label band Caviar, on drums.
“With Jason and Ashok, we’ve never sounded so good,” Hoffer and Titchenal agreed. Not only do they share the same professional vision, they like and respect one another. Their self-produced debut record, Downfall of an Empire, is available for downloads on the band’s site, Holdingmercury.com, as well as making the rounds of radio stations like Q101. Mercury explains their sound with the tag line, “The Police chasing The Killers in getaway Cars.” Whatever Downfall is, no two songs sound alike, which may explain why it took 18 months to produce. Some of the ambient synthesized harmonies, especially at the opening of several of the 10 tracks, bear undeniable marks of the edgier pop bands of the ‘80s like Crowded House and The Cars. But it’s a terrible simplification.
Franz Ferdinand beats run into Killeresque explosiveness, there’s some angry dark howling in the chorus of the single “I’m Not Well” that harken to their speed metal roots, and the ballad “Anchors Away” showcases Hoffer’s vocal range. If anything, Hoffer’s smooth but powerful voice is the only constant running through the album. 87 However different the songs are, they are unified by the bands’ dedication to investing everything they have to making it work. “If you want to make it you can’t have a serious day job and be a musician,” Hoffer said, “I’ve tried it and it just doesn’t work.” After college and dismal stints in the corporate world, Titchenal and Hoffer reunited and formed Holding Mercury. “I live on eggs and jalapeños,” Titchenal said happily.
“Like Matt [Hoffer] said, we’ll sell everything we have to keep it going because we love the music.” They’ve gotten enough funding to create a mid-level indie label, Bad Nero Records, they booked their gigs, developed their own website and are making the rounds not only on Q101 but at venues like Metro, Double Door and the second coming of Bottom Lounge. They’re also increasingly appealing to younger crowds. On their way down to this year’s South by Southwest they picked up some festival cash by stoping for a gig at Ottawa High School. “Most of those type of gigs [college cafeterias and high school auditoriums] you’re playing next to a popcorn machine,” Hoffer said.
There were over 1,100 screaming students who showed up. “They bought everything we were bringing down to SXSW,” Titchenal laughed. Tapping into the younger crowd has given Mercury a stronger, loyal following. Young women, especially, are keen on the good-looking rockers with the dark edge. Listening to Downfall, checking out Holding Mercury locally, their sound runs around your head like, well, a hat. And their expectation of success isn’t mad at all; it’s inevitable.
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