“Incredible vocal, it is jam-packed with soul… He can push this voice into a pop realm and make some really, really big tracks and potentially a big name for himself… This new one right here is the first step towards that…” – JACK SAUNDERS, BBC RADIO 1
“Soul Pioneer” – WONDERLAND
“VC Pines, something very special going on here” – HUW STEPHENS, BBC RADIO 1
“Songs that speak of self-doubt and self-reliance in a constantly fluctuating world, it’s perfect for these anxiety inducing times” – CLASH
““Smoke Without Fire”, a soulful blast of sax, squidgy synths and an especially groovy guitar line redolent of the one on “Use Me” by Bill Withers. The track comes from his forthcoming EP, Concrete, which you should definitely keep an eye out for.” – THE INDEPENDENT
“His tunes are huge, emotional stories that have the power to both devastate and reassure” – DORK MAGAZINE
After returning in February to release his highly-praised single ‘Smoke Without Fire’, which was premiered by Jack Saunders’ on his BBC Radio 1 show, and supported by online tastemakers including Wonderland, The Independent, Under The Radar, SPIN, When The Horn Blows, Vanyaland, and Sodwee, as well as landing spots on Spotify’s New Music Friday UK, The Other List amongst others, alongside a Mahogany @Home and COVERS session of Lionel Ritchie’s iconic track ‘Hello’, VC Pines has now returned to announce the details behind his eagerly-awaited new EP ‘Concrete’.
Following on from his 2020 collection ‘Skully’, ‘Concrete’ is more of a reflection of his environment after finding himself locked down in the capital during the coronavirus outbreak. Previewed by the new lead single ‘See You Soon’, which saw him collaborate with Bad Sounds – they co-wrote, produced and mixed the track – he has spent the last year channelling a nostalgic attitude towards his neo-soul sound, creating a warm and captivating return which looks to pay homage to the origins of his aesthetic.
Speaking about ‘See You Soon’, he said, “See You Soon is about the various changes you see in people throughout an evening, and then the song evolves into the kind of afterparty you know you shouldn’t have gone to… It was wicked to work on this tune with Bad Sounds and really draw out different emotions and end up with loads of contrasting elements within the song. Inevitably, the song has that kind of conversation where you know you need to leave, but the person you came here with doesn’t want to, it makes you prang but the instrumentation sounds so inviting.”
While adding about the EP, “The Concrete EP was written during and just after the nationwide lockdown we had last year so it was a period of time for me where I was really able to just stop for a second and think about where I am right now as a person and as an artist, and focus on the things I really yearn for – Where I want to be, the things I want to do and also to reflect on things that have happened in my life and conversations that have shaped me.
“I get a lot of my inspiration for imagery and film, and had a lot of time to delve into that obviously… I tend to watch something or focus on an image and write to what I think fits, even if it’s a total juxtaposition to what I’m looking at (they’re often my favourites). I had this image developing in my head of London at night, towards the end of a night out, when nothing good for you tends to happen… This idea of stumbling round the street lamps and lying face down on the concrete hit me and that’s what I wanted to encapsulate with these songs, the image of London nightlife, following several themes of romance, nostalgia, paranoia and overthought, guilt and forgiveness. I think the fact that we were locked down, couldn’t go out and couldn’t see people really built this idea of busy London nightlife into a stronger visual in my head as a way to try and experience it and block out the cabin fever.
“I looked at some of the eras and events that have really inspired me, and I fucking wish I could have been in London during the 70s. There were soooo many different looks, sounds, events and ideas going on and I think a lot of it came together and found its way into the music. I want to fit in a space as an artist that makes you listen and think ‘that’s gonna be sick to see it live’ so I wanted to incorporate the huge sounds developed in the 70s from funk, soul and Motown bands but also use similar instrumentation to my previous work with the Violet Collective so we’ll see if that’s been achieved when we can finally get back to touring eh.”
‘Concrete’ EP Tracklist:
Smoke Without Fire
See You Soon
Compared To Someone Else
PRE-ORDER/PRE-SAVE CONCRETE HERE
VC Pines will be making his live return on Wednesday 28th July at St Pancras Old Church, London. Tickets on sale now.
Speaking about the upcoming show he gave this insight, “I knew I wanted to do an EP launch show to celebrate ‘Concrete’ (just like we all would have been able to do a year and a half ago without question) but there’s still a bit of uncertainty and all that. My team and I have been looking at some weird and wonderful places that could be adapted to any sudden changes but also maintain that intimate feeling and so we found St Pancras Old Church! I’m desperate to showcase the new tunes for the first time and finally play live to you all again. The intimacy of this venue will provide a unique experience for us all and I think the tunes are going to sound beaut in there. Hope you can make it. VC x”
Born and raised in London, Mercer is possessed with an uncanny ability to transport his listeners to completely new territory. On his new EP, ‘Concrete’, he leads you through a labyrinth of side-streets, dive bars and late-night haunts, introducing you to a whole host of characters along the way – Crooning over beats and brass that meander under street-lamps and through fog, searching for something.
Mercer describes the songs on Concrete as “purple” in colour; he has synaesthesia, one of the symptoms of temporal lobe epilepsy, which he was diagnosed with aged 17. It’s a condition that makes Mercer better equipped than most to delve into those themes of nostalgia, given how it can cause sudden sensations of déjà vu. “I thought I was going mad,” he says, of the period before his diagnosis, when he was studying performance at a local college. “I’d have blackouts, then really strong nostalgic episodes.” It’s how he landed on the ‘Pines’ in his artist’s name. “My parents went to New Hampshire when I was a kid, where those big pines are. And when I started having seizures, I kept remembering those trees.”
His latest material is a showcase for many of Mercer’s talents, not least among them his extraordinary voice. It’s one capable of filling stadiums and festival fields, as he showed with his previous band supporting the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Blondie, Patti Smith and Kings Of Leon. While still a powerhouse vocalist, he now offers yearning melodies, beautiful cadence, and a melancholy croon redolent of Grammy-winning artist Brittany Howard.
Fans will recognise Mercer’s favoured themes of romance, confusion and loneliness from 2020’s VC Pines EP, the critically lauded ‘Skully’, which included the sublime single ‘Bluebirds’. Inspired by the poem of the same name by Charles Bukowski, the song saw Mercer attempting to shake off the trappings of modern life in order to return to the best version of himself. Meanwhile ‘Cracks’, which has more than a quarter of a million streams on Spotify, dealt with the fallout from a relationship grown toxic with unspoken resentment. Concrete is an ambitious step up from that impressive debut; the latest VC Pines work is a project that lives and breathes. As Mercer puts it: “These songs are about experiences, hedonism, and the things we learn from.”