So I recently learned about an Oakland-based punk/surf band called Dark Beach consisting of two awesome, mermaid-loving girls named Melissa (on drums) and Faith (on guitar and vocals). Here they are:
On their Facebook page, Melissa and Faith call their genre “gloomy girl punk rock,” which is really what every band should be. Plus they sing about mermaids, which everyone should, in a gloomy girl kind of manner. Well, they did one mermaid song, called “Mermaiding,” and made this goofy, celebratory, super-fun video to go with it. Look!
If that doesn’t make you want to slip into a tail and throw your Fender Stratocaster underwater, I don’t know what will. Here are some more ultra-glamorous photos, followed by my penetrating Q&A with this fish-tailed duo:
So tell me about your band. How’d you two get together? What’s your music like overall?
MELISSA: I had seen Faith’s old band, Hooray For Everything, play around town throughout the years. It seems like we were always bonding over our love of grunge music, old movies and feminism. I describe our music as surf-goth. It is definitely catchy but there is a bit of a dark, rough edge to it. Our friend Jack told me we sound like a goth version of the Go-Go’s. I’ve always liked that description.
FAITH: Melissa’s old band Sweet Nothing and my old band Hooray for Everything used to play together. When both bands weren’t active anymore, we said, hey, let’s play together! And history was made. I guess our music is a mix of chick riot, dark wave, surf and garage/punk.
You say your lyrics are influenced by feminine fiction and myth. Can you talk about that?
MELISSA: Faith writes all the lyrics so I don’t really contribute to that side of things. But we both have an interest in female characters which I think is totally natural but strangely enough it does make us stand out from other bands. I think it’s cool. I have heard enough songs about falling in love and partying to last me a lifetime so working on songs about a variety of female characters is more interesting.
FAITH: I try to tell a story with most Dark Beach songs, to take recognizable tropes and characters from fiction—robots, mermaids, vampires, swamp monsters—and make them compelling and sympathetic and new.
What is it about mermaids that appeals to you?
MELISSA: What doesn’t appeal to me would be a shorter list! I’ve always been attracted to the otherworldliness of them. They kind of remind of vampires, there’s a certain romanticism to them and they look like us (to some extent) but can never fully be a part of our world. Faith has done a lot of research on Mermaids and she found that in most cultures mermaids originally had a negative connotation. They were often known as sirens who sunk ships and caused a variety of problems for travelers. So it’s interesting that today a typical mermaid is thought of as beautiful and carefree. Their legend has definitely morphed a lot over the years and their complex history only adds to the appeal. I have also always had an affinity for beach/surf culture.
FAITH: I think the most appealing thing about mermaids are that they represent a woman who is unattainable and untouchable to human men. They’re mysterious and their worlds are off-limits to us. There are so many kinds of mermaids, too. Hollywood mermaids are all fun and good, but the fiji mermaid and other grotesque half-fish-half-human creatures fascinate me as well.
Do you guys identify as mermaids at all? Have you always loved them?
MELISSA: Yes, in spirit. I have always been into mermaids and my interest only seems to intensify as I grown older. It defies logic (ha ha).
FAITH: Yep, I’m a walking mermaid. I have always loved mermaids. It’s a childhood fantasy I can’t seem to shake.
Can you tell me about your song Mermaiding?
MELISSA: Faith wrote the song. In preparation for this interview I listed to the “demo” version she gave me back in the summer of 2011. Of course I was drawn to the subject matter and I remember really liking what I refer to as the “rocking” part that comes in around 2 minutes in. The song seems to have elements of rockabilly and surf but the quieter parts remind me a bit of a lullaby. I think overall it’s pretty unique. I remember having trouble envisioning what to play during the intro but once we decided on the cold start of the tambourine and bass drum things easily fell into place. The sparse intro really makes it stand out from our other songs.
FAITH: As a kid and teen, I used to be obsessed with all things Marilyn Monroe. I remember in Norman Mailer’s biography on her there was this quote that really stood out that someone said about her, that she was a “mermaid in shark-infested waters.” I thought of mermaids for the first time—and female beauty—as prey. When writing “Mermaiding,” I imagined a mermaid’s life as difficult and scary, constantly eluding men with hooks and staring sailors, and peace as a sisterhood-love with fellow mermaids.
Did you guys get tails for the video shoot or did you have them/use them before?
MELISSA: I had bought a black tail but decided to rethink my costume about a week before the shoot. I didn’t have enough time to order a new tail (shipping would take too long) so I made my tail with some fabric form Joann’s Fabrics. I didn’t finish it until the day before we left for filming! Everything came together last minute but overall I am happy with the monochromatic “surfer girl” look.
FAITH: I bought it for the shoot, but you can bet it’ll be used again. Maybe we’ll play a show in tails!
What was the video shoot like?
MELISSA: I had originally envisioned doing a darker, more moody video that aligned with the song lyrics but we pretty much went in the opposite direction and for the most part it just felt like playtime in the pool. Shooting underwater was definitely challenging but I was expecting that. The hardest part of the video: keeping the wig on my head!
FAITH: Like a super fun mermaid pool party for two. And, yes, we didn’t realize what a challenge it was to a) keep wigs on our heads and b) play our instruments underwater. Being a rock and roll mermaid ain’t easy.
Have you hung out with other mermaids/people in the mermaid community?
MELISSA: I haven’t. Fellow mermaids should hit us up on Facebook! It would be great to meet them, even if it’s just a digital meeting. It seems like a highly creative community that I would like connect with. I also want to mention that Faith and I did a podcast discussing mermaids, maybe people in the community would be interested in checking it out.
FAITH: No. But I would love to!
Why do you think people like mermaids so much, anyway?
MELISSA: There’s a certain segment of the population that will always be in love with beautiful, mysterious female characters. Also, it seems like mermaids are truly independent, free of day jobs and the variety of responsibilities us mere mortals have put upon us by society. That type of freedom and playfulness is very appealing to most people.
FAITH: They’re hot. They’re mysterious. And you can never catch them, you can never “have” them, you can never sleep with them, you can never get too close to them.
Any advice for aspiring mermaids?
MELISSA: Keep your head held high both above & below the sea.
FAITH: Use a lot of bobby pins when you fasten that wig to your head, girl.