NEW SINGLE : VC Pines returns with the smooth and soulful new single ‘Smoke Without Fire’, out now

Following on from the release of his highly-acclaimed EP ‘Skully’ last year which attracted enormous praise from BBC Radio 1’s Jack Saunders and Huw Stephens, along with support from BBC Introducing, The Line of Best Fit, DIY and more, London-based artist Jack Mercer aka VC Pines is back to his smooth and soulful ways on the intoxicating new single ‘Smoke Without Fire’ produced by Jonathan Quarmby (Tom Walker/Lewis Capaldi) and mixed by Bad Sounds.

Channeling the same broad and enticing neo-soul sound he has been producing, ‘Smoke Without Fire’ makes for a wonderfully warm and vibrant return. Adding a funk and brass-filled production to his rich and luxurious vocals, his newest delight showcases his new EP ‘Concrete,’ which is set to arrive later this year.

Speaking about the new offering, he said, “Smoke without fire is about hearing various rumours and not knowing whether or not to believe them, but being sure that rumours wouldn’t have started without some kind of spark – ‘No smoke without fire’. This song was written at the height of the first lockdown which made things more frustrating being locked down and not being able to tackle rumours and problems rising up around me. I think that’s why the lyrics are so jagged at points ‘now I bleed where the cuts don’t show, another toothache that grinds the bone’. This song was also a turning point for me, discovering a new sonic avenue to delve into. I want to fit in a space as an artist that makes you think ‘that’s gonna be sick to see it live’ so we thought about making the track faster and hit hard throughout but I also wanted to deliver the right energy to someone bopping down the street so we kept this smooth constant groove and let the horns and flute crash into the choruses. 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’.”

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.”

Leave a Reply