Local Noise: Mercer Avenue

“Our first drummer was from Spring Lake,” explains lead singer Tom Smeaton, when asked about the genesis of the name Mercer Avenue. “One day, we were just biking around the towns down there when Dan fell off his bike. He landed in front of the Mercer Avenue street sign, and the band name came out of that. I guess you could say it was a joke on him at the time, but it really stuck. Not to mention we never thought of anything better!”

Mercer Avenue has accomplished quite a bit since their 2007 formation, including shows at prestigious venues such as the Stone Pony and Starland Ballroom, and recording with Tim Flanzbaum, who previously worked on one of Paramore’s platinum-selling albums. And the group released not one, but two CDs in 2011, Nothing Left Behind and More Than A Statement.

Joining Tom in the band are Dan Lisi on guitar, Pat Hynes on guitar and vocals, Joe Zorzi on bass and vocals, and James Tittel on drums. “Dan, Pat and I went to high school together,” says Tom. “Dan and I started the band with our old drummer, Drew, and Pat was brought into the fold shortly thereafter. Joe and Dan have known each other since they were, like, 6 years old. So when we looked for a bass player, it was a natural fit. We actually met James when he replied to an ad we put up looking for a drummer. It’s a little unconventional, but I think it worked out well for everybody.”

Tom grew up listening to bands such as Green Day and New Found Glory, but feels Mercer Avenue gets more of its musical influence from groups such as The Starting Line, Fall Out Boy and Taking Back Sunday. While not necessarily obvious from the music, he feels there’s a little Bruce Springsteen and The Beatles in there as well, as those are bands they look up to quite a bit.

While they tend to get lumped in with the glut of radio pop-punk bands, Mercer Avenue has a little wider range stylistically than what those groups usually get credit for. “I don’t like putting us into a category, because we get judged by people’s assumptions about other bands in that genre,” relates Tom. “But in reality, we’re an alternative/pop-punk band. We play a lot of upbeat music with melodic vocals and riffy guitars. My best answer for this question would be to listen to the music for yourself and make your own judgments. That’s the best way to go about it.”

“The fans always loved ‘5056,’ off of our first EP, but now a lot of people gave us good feedback on ‘Honest Enough,’ the closer on More Than A Statement. People seem to relate to it a lot. For me, I loved ‘(We Won’t Go) Easily,’ off our first EP. I don’t think that song ever got it’s real due, unfortunately. But on the new record, my favorite is ‘Smoke And Mirrors.’ There’s something about that song, it’s just a little different from the rest. But of course, it doesn’t matter what I like, everyone really needs to judge for themselves in the end.”

As far as the future, the guys in Mercer Avenue are just taking everything as it comes, and letting things fall where they may. “Honestly, I don’t know,” Tom muses. “I love music, but it’s tough to count on as a future. I can’t really sugarcoat that. If it doesn’t work out, I still want to work in music, probably on the promotions and marketing side. My dream job, though, would be to host a sports-talk radio show. That just looks like the best job on the planet.”

Meanwhile, Mercer Avenue plans on having as much fun as possible while they are along for the ride. “Most of our recording stories aren’t funny to anyone but us, but it’s always a fun time in the studio,” Tom laughs. “Except the time we all got food poisoning from a Chinese take-out place. That sucked. I guess you just have to be there, if you know what I mean. As for shows, we do a lot of stupid things. We chant, ‘1, 2, 3… Jermaine Dupri’ before we take the stage. Pat breaks strings at probably 80 percent of our performances. Our first Starland show, we got bumped up by like an hour and a half and had to stall while our friends rushed in from all around the county. A lot of our stories involve us getting screwed in some way or another. So if you like self-deprecation, we’re the band to go to!”

You can find out more about Mercer Avenue, and about the new releases and upcoming shows, at facebook.com/merceravenue and at merceravenue.bandcamp.com.