Archive | September, 2011

Pearl and the Beard’s Mermaid Influence

27 Sep

So my friend Lisa Pannek told me about one of her favorite bands, Pearl and the Beard, and their extreme love of mermaids, which they generously cite as one of their influences. As Lisa explained to me, “I love their vocal harmonies, broad range of musical styles, and energy. They put on one of the best damn live shows I’ve ever seen and every song makes me move.” When I asked her if she finds them mermaidly she said, “I do think it is mermaidy in that it calls, to me at least, like a siren song. I’m unable to stay away.” So I immediately went and perused their music, including their extremely popular Will Smith medley video on youtube, which I think you’ll agree is quite delicious, stylish, and amazing:


 
As is the gorgeous “Black Vessel”:


 
So I emailed the band, which consists of Emily, Jocelyn, and the handsome gentleman crooner/seaman Jeremy (or, alternatively, “three voices, one cello, one guitar, one glockenspiel, one melodica, several drums, one accordion, ninety-six teeth, and one soul”), who are all very good looking in their human guises
 

 
even whilst wearing the same sweater
 

 
and Emily wrote back the following:

We can’t believe you wrote to us: Jocelyn and I (Emily) have been hiding our true identities and moonlighting as musicians. We ARE mermaids. Though I have yet to make it to the mermaid parade myself – Jocelyn has been and made her own costume (she had to disguise her mermaid self as a beautiful goldfish.) We would LOVE to be interviewed! Jeremy is a fervent admirer of mermaids, and, in fact, has found himself bewitched by a few (not counting the two he spends most of his time with).

I knew it.

And so, shortly thereafter, the following interview took place between yours truly and Jocelyn, in which the band’s true mermaid nature is discussed in depth. Because I ask the penetrating questions on behalf of mermaids everywhere.

I understand that Pearl and the Beard is very influenced by mermaids as well as by other aquatic entities. Can you tell me in what ways mermaids exert this influence?
We try to harness their inner sensuality when we perform… it keeps us poised, graceful, and just generally sexier.

Is it true that Jocelyn and Emily might actually be mermaids themselves?
Of course.

I understand that gentleman crooner Jeremy is extremely susceptible to mermaid allure. How does this affect your band dynamic?
We try not to tour too close to the ocean without bringing along plenty of rope to lash him to the mast of our tour van. Boat.

How would you guys define the allure of mermaids?
Their enchantment has been a mystery for so many centuries over so many different cultures… I’d be hard pressed to say anyone could think of one thing that makes them so alluring. But they just… are.

Would you say that, fashion-wise, you guys have a mermaid style? I couldn’t help noticing the blue shimmery dress in the Will Smith video, which I believe would be the envy of any mermaid.
I actually bought that dress to wear to the Coney Island Mermaid Parade in 2008, so you are right on! That dress may be the best $30 I’ve ever spent.

Do you have any mermaid songs and/or do mermaids pop up on your albums anywhere?
We have two; Vessel from our debut album, God Bless Your Weary Soul, Amanda Richardson and the reinterpretation of that song for our EP Black Vessel. For me, Vessel communicates the mental anguish of the sailor desperately battling against himself and the sirens, whereas Black Vessel is actually the sound of the anguish itself.

I secretly believe that the accordion is a very mermaidly instrument, especially when they’re very glittery. Do you all agree? Are there any other instruments/sounds that you’d associate with mermaids or find especially mermaidly?
Funny you should say that, as there’s a lovely accordion section in our song Swimming, from our new album Killing the Darlings. It was played by producer Franz Nicolay in a very romantic, swoony style that I think most mermaids would enjoy.

Besides yours, what music do you suggest aspiring mermaids listen to?
Lost in the Trees have gorgeous string arrangements and siren-like vocals on their album “All Alone In An Empty House” that beg to be listened to over and over again. Sharon Van Etten’s music is smooth, sensual, and mysterious as any mermaid should ever hope to be. Larcenist is the perfect band for every mermaid who wants to grow legs and mingle on the shore with a pack of sailors. Oh and Kate Bush is probably the queen of mermaids.

I read somewhere that you guys like Hans Christian Andersen and his gorgeously weird dark fairytales. Is the little mermaid a favorite of yours?
Absolutely. I love that his tales were so dark… they reflected a sense of magic and reality at the same time, rather than the Disney-fied cookie-cutter endings to stories our generation’s children have grown accustomed to. Andersen’s Little Mermaid had to deal with tragedy just like the rest of us do, and I find the darkness in that moral very uplifting.

Micah Moore’s Mermaid Studio

19 Sep

So I met Ms. Micah Moore at MerCon in Las Vegas. A computer engineer by trade, she’s also a mermaid, of course, as well as a mermaid art proprietor through her online gallery The Mermaid Studio, where you can procure all manner of mermaidly gorgeousness. She also, by the way, just won Dive Bar’s photo contest with this lovely shot, as she is obviously very multi-talented:

And here is Micah in her truest state:

Our gorgeous and illuminating Q and A follows.

So what is the Mermaid Studio?
The Mermaid Studio is an online art gallery that sells mermaid-themed artwork, representing artists from around the world. Fine art of a wide variety, e.g. paintings, sculpture, drawings, photography, etc., is available for sale as well as custom commissions. Any artwork depicted in the online art gallery can be ordered as a print. In addition, The Mermaid Studio sells mermaid-themed merchandise.

The website, www.themermaidstudio.com, also provides links to all types of mermaid-related sites. In addition, up-to-the-moment information on where to find mermaids around the world is presented on The Mermaid Studio’s blog. And updates on current mermaid events are found on twitter. Plans are in the works to open a physical gallery in upstate New York.

Can you tell me about your artists?
The Mermaid Studio sells artwork and takes commissions for artists who create pieces in various styles and mediums. Here is some biographical information on four of our artists:

Ashley Benner is a painter and photographer who trained in Foundation Studies at Rhode Island School of Design and Art Education at SUNY New Paltz. Ashley’s forte is in dynamic color choices in her paintings and magnetic composition and image editing in her photography.

Garett Grassi is a self-taught artist who can create literally anything. Garett has turned client’s dreams into literal forms throughout the country. Garett is a renaissance artist who can work in any medium, but whose strengths lie in metalwork and drawing.

Melissa Murray went from a dual-degree in Physics and English Literature from the University of Colorado at Boulder to studying Sculpture in England. As a stone sculptor, she has her own studio in Cambridge, England and has exhibited and been commissioned for work worldwide.

Dani Leventhal works in a variety of mediums but has primarily created mermaids in clay. Dani’s work has been exhibited worldwide, including MOMA PS1. Dani received an MFA in Sculpture from the University of Illinois at Chicago, an MFA in film/video from Bard College and a BA in Art from Earlham College.

Can you share some examples of your favorite mermaid art—both that you represent and don’t represent?

Some of my favorite artwork includes the following:

Sacred Cow by Roberto Fabelo

Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid by Ashley Benner

Mermaid Gate by Garett Grassi

Blue Water by Kerry James Marshall (a study for Blue Water is in MOMA, NYC)

Mermaids by Boris Vallejo

Why mermaids? Have you always been interested in mermaids?
I grew up in a New Jersey shore town, Long Branch, where I swam in the ocean daily during the summer. Growing up, I often felt like a “fish out of water,” one who, under the guise of assimilation, donned a persona, which would allow me to exist in the “real world.” I always felt at home swimming in the ocean.

Have you noticed a rise in the popularity of mermaids/mermaid art in the past year?
Mermaids have risen in popularity recently. I attribute this shift to the increase in mermaid subject matter in movies and associated merchandise for young and old alike, e.g. Pirates of the Caribbean 4: On Stranger Tides, Barbie in a Mermaid Tail, etc.

Can you tell me about your own mermaid art?
I have created mermaid art in various forms, namely paintings, drawings, sculpture, but have most recently been most interested in mermaid photography. I have photographed mermaids in Norfolk, Virginia, Beaufort, South Carolina and at the annual Mermaid Parade in Coney Island, New York.

So you were at the recent MerCon in Las Vegas. What did you think about it?
I attended the First World Mermaid Awards in Las Vegas, Nevada, August 12-13, 2011. I like the idea of mermaid enthusiasts gathering together and sharing their passion for and knowledge about mermaids with each other. I thought Mercon 2011 was a great first attempt. I thought the venue, the Silverton Lodge and Casino, was a natural fit for the convention, with its mermaid-themed lounge, art gallery and aquarium. Las Vegas was a convenient and affordable location. I appreciated the fact that the convention fees could be broken into the portions that one intended on attending rather than having to pay a single conference fee. I expected the vendor portion of the convention to be larger but was able to meet and find out about most, if not all of the vendors who attended. I would have liked to have seen more vendors who sold realistic-looking tails. The International Mermaid Pageant was a fantastic addition to the conference. My only suggestion would be to find a consistent method of transporting and presenting the contestants. I cannot comment on the VIP portion of the convention; I was unable to attend it because I had to fly out on Saturday.

Do you yourself have a tail, or aspire to?
I have a “land tail,” which is basically a costume I wear to the annual Mermaid Parade in Coney Island, New York. Mercon has inspired me to aquire a tail that I can swim in. As I can sew quite well, I will probably make my own. In the future, though, I will most likely purchase a realistic-looking mer-tail!

Do you have any advice for aspiring mermaids?
I advise all aspiring mermaids to follow their dream!

Michelle McCrary and ZOMBIE MERMAIDS

9 Sep

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ve likely noticed the lamentable absence of a specific mermaid type we all know and secretly love: the ZOMBIE MERMAID. So I have selflessly asked one Ms Michelle McCrary to discuss the matter, as I knew she’d written a zombie mermaid story for an upcoming anthology from Library of the Living Dead Press. Michelle is a zombie expert, in fact; not only did she found the Shreveport Zombie Walk, but she has short stories published in the anthologies Zombology and Zombology 2 and co-edited with author Joe McKinney (and has a short story in) the book Dead Set: A Zombie Anthology. Which I think is all equally impressive and suspicious. How does she know so much about zombies, anyway?

Our Q and A follows.

So Michelle, I understand you have written a zombie mermaid story. Can you tell me about that?

Michelle's son Sammy

I wrote a story called “The True Story of the Little Mermaid (as written by Hans Christian Anderson)” that will be published in Feary Tales, an upcoming anthology from Library of the Living Dead Press. In it will be classic fairy tales… with an undead twist! I decided to take on The Little Mermaid for several reasons. Growing up, I was fascinated by mermaids, in part because of the movie Splash. That movie was on HBO forty times a day! At the same time, I stayed up late with my dad on Friday nights watching horror movies. It was how we spent time together—between mermaids and zombies, I should have known I was going to grow up to be weird. I also have a wonderful mom who has always encouraged my creativity, no matter what strange twists and turns it takes. When I was about fourteen, my sister Melissa, who is ten years younger than me, was obsessed with the Disney version of The Little Mermaid. She watched that movie so much I can still to this day quote it to you line for line. No joke. So when I heard that the publisher was looking for zombified fairy tales, I immediately thought of The Little Mermaid. The original story, written by Hans Christian Anderson, is not as happy and light-hearted as the Disney version. I wanted to play that up and add in a little gore. In my version, the mermaid rescues the prince, but when he kisses her… well, let’s just say that she gets a little more than she bargained for. She ends up not being the heroine of the story, but the horror of it. One of her sisters narrates, telling what really happened. I had fun taking a few jabs at the Disney movie, hoping a few readers would catch the jokes.

And you organize the Shreveport Zombie Walk. What is the zombie walk? How did this whole thing start?
The zombie walk happens on World Zombie Day in October. It began in Pittsburgh, PA which is the zombie capitol of the world. That is where George A. Romero filmed his classic movies Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead. The mall where the latter was filmed is a mecca for zombie fans like myself, and I even visited it a few years ago. In 2008, I wanted to attend a zombie walk on World Zombie Day, but the closest one was in Dallas, and my family had a lot going on that weekend and couldn’t go out of town. I decided one day that I would just organize one in Shreveport myself! On that day in October, people in our community show up at our walk event dressed as zombies, and we shamble around in a group. It is so much fun! Local businesses & best-selling authors donate door prizes, and I also give out prizes for best zombie costumes. One of the most important things we do is also collect food donations for our local food bank. Most zombie walks do something similar, figuring that if you have that many people together, you might as well do something good for your community. Last year, we had over 200 attendees and raised 872 pounds of food. This year, we have moved from having the walk at a local mall to having it outdoors downtown, with a street being closed off, vendors, sponsors, a musical performance, support from the Downtown Development Authority and the Shreveport-Bossier Tourism and Convention Bureau. With more community support and exposure, I hope we can raise over one thousand pounds of food at this year’s Shreveport Zombie Walk, which is October 8.

What is it about zombies and Shreveport?
It seems like I have opened up this whole new underground cult of zombie-lovers in Shreveport that no one knew about. Since I started the walk four years ago, Shreveport has had zombie proms, zombie crawls and a stage play of Night of the Living Dead that I starred in two years in a row. Lots of people have taken to calling me the Shreveport Zombie Queen. I can’t say I don’t like being called that…because I love it! Of course, there are some people that think it is strange, but once you tell them the walk is for a good cause, it usually smooths things over.

Why zombies?

The zombie walk's mascot, Bub, drawn by Michelle's 13-year-old son Michael

Why not? Zombies are the new vampires! You can’t go anywhere these days without seeing zombies. They have taken over popular culture. Books, movies, comics, music… heck, my husband even got me a zombie cupcake cookbook for Christmas. I think the thing that makes the zombie so popular is that it is so scary—it can be your husband, your wife, your child. And in most cases, they are unstoppable except for that quintessential headshot. They have no other motivation than to eat your flesh—they can’t be reasoned with. They can also be a social commentary. You can take almost any zombie-themed movie and take out the zombie, replace it with a relevant issue of our time, and it will most likely make sense. The zombies are just the antagonists. We really want to see how people survive; how the survivors relate to each other. Do I really think zombies could exist? Probably not. Dead people cannot rise and eat the living. But, hey, it’s fun to imagine that something so weird could happen. So why not…zombie mermaids!

And why mermaids?
Mermaids are mysterious, fascinating and most likely, impossible, just like zombies. But, in my heart, I would like to believe they are real. I don’t think the same about zombies in my heart.

Is there anything better than a zombie mermaid?

A zombie mermaid from Sean Adams, Michelle's friend's 16-year=old son

A zombie mermaid would probably be the coolest thing ever. Could you imagine if evil fisherman were pulling in their nets, eager to eye their spoils at sea, hoping for dolphins, only to be surprised by a beautiful yet deadly zombified mermaid? They would be so shocked that their slow reaction time would give her enough time to escape the net and eat them up. Yep, I can totally see it now!

Have you ever dressed as a zombie mermaid? Are you tempted to now?
I have never dressed as a zombie mermaid, but thank you for the idea! If I don’t dress up as one this year, I will certainly do it for a future walk because it is such a cool concept.

Do you have any special affection for mermaids?
I do have a special place in my heart for mermaids. You see, honestly, fish freak me out. Anything that breathes water, actually. I think it’s when they hit air and start flopping around is when I get all spazzy. But a mermaid… they don’t do that. Sometimes, like in Splash, they get legs! They aren’t “all the way” a fish, so they are okay with me. When I was little, I used to take a king-sized pillow case from my parent’s bed, one that was turquoise and covered in huge white flowers, and stick my legs inside of it. I would put a belt around the top part to keep it around my waist, and then tie a string around my ankles to make a fin. I would imagine I was Madison from Splash and flop all around the living room floor. It was probably quite a sight to see.

Do you have any advice for aspiring (zombie) mermaids?
To be the best zombie mermaid you can be, always be beautiful inside and out! Because when you start to decay, well… it’s only what’s on the inside that counts after that! And if you are a proper zombie mermaid, you will want to get lots of prince flesh on the inside of your stomach!

Dive Bar’s Head Mermaid Rachel Smith

8 Sep

So Dive Bar opened up last January in Sacramento (check out their Facebook page here) and features a 7,500-gallon tank hanging over the bar, with mermaids swimming, smiling, and elegantly blowing bubbles and kisses inside. There are now three shifts of mermaids swimming seven nights a week in front of lushly patrons, and a total of five performers, including one merman. The head mermaid is one Ms Rachel Smith, who is an illustrator as well as mermaid and mermaid (and merman) wrangler. Below, I talk to Rachel about her singular position and general mermaidliness.

So how did you become a mermaid—and the head mermaid—at Dive Bar?
I was chatting with a friend, who asked me if I had heard about ‘that mermaid bar’ in Sacramento yet. She knew of my interest in mermaids and had seen my amateur mermaid videos and photos before. I was so excited that I rushed online and found the job postings for Dive Bar immediately. I applied to all of them with my mermaid resume (it’s sort of astounding that I had one). Dive Bar is an incredible place to work, and the folks there are all really close-knit—especially us mers. Dive Bar is the brainchild of George Karpaty, who is the owner of the successful nightclub Ruby Skye in San Fransisco. It is one of three new businesses he opened on K St in Sacramento last winter. Because of my experience and rabid enthusiasm, Lynda Karpaty—our mermom—promoted me to head mermaid. I’m in charge of scheduling, costume building and repair (our tails are by the Mertailor), props, hiring/training new mers etc. You know, regular manager duties, but with a mermaid tail!

Can you tell me what a typical night there is like?
Every night is a different experience at Dive; you never know what the crowd’s energy is going to be, if the fish are feeling frisky, what live music is going to be playing. It’s seriously a blast! Typically, a mermaid arrives an hour before she has to swim to put on her makeup and costume and get settled. Our makeup is waterproof, safe for our fish friends, and very, very sparkly! There’s an interview of me floating around the web where I have insane Cher-esque glitter all over my face, but we don’t go that far for our makeup anymore. After a mermaid is ready, she dives into our enormous fish tank and starts the show! We flirt with bar patrons, blow kisses, search for sunken treasure, comb our hair and primp in a mirror, write messages, ‘drink’ beer, do barrel rolls and generally have a lot of fun.

What was it like working with Linden Wolbert?
Linden is an incredible woman, in and out of water. She’s sweet, caring, energetic and SO incredibly knowledgeable about all things mermaid. I honestly can’t say enough good things about her; she’s really taken the Dive Bar mers under her wing and been so supportive of us as we emerge as her little ‘sea stars.’ Linden helped us become more comfortable under the water, taught us how to take care of our tails, how to move and interact with our audience and most importantly, how to be safe!

Were you a mermaid before working at Dive Bar?
As I mentioned before, I had done a lot of amateur mermaid videos and photos before I was hired at Dive Bar, and I’m so glad I did. One of my first Halloween costumes was a pink mermaid fin, and I remember being sad that I couldn’t swim in it. I made my first swimmable tail my freshman year of high school out of swimsuit material, double flippers and a lot of glitter. I remember being physically unable to stop grinning when I took the tail for it’s test swim; it was so much fun. Now, I get to swim and entertain people doing something I had only done for fun before. It’s so cliche to say, but it really is a dream come true.

Have you always been interested in mermaids?
I’ve been interested in mermaids forever; but my story isn’t unique. Like most mers today, I loved Splash, The Little Mermaid (Anderson and Disney) and the brief mermaid part in Hook. When my mom was pregnant with me, she would swim up and down the shoreline at Ala Moana Beach Park on Oahu and I suppose that might have something to do with my love of water. I love the beach, rivers, lakes, pools, tubs, barrels, anything! Because of our connection to Hawaii, I have also been doing professional Polynesian dance since I was 12. I feel like being a mermaid is an extension of dance sometimes; the motions I have learned in yoga, ballet and hula all blend together to help me move through the water. I’m also an illustrator and mermaids have forever been a source of inspiration for me. There is so much to draw (literally) from life underwater, mermaids are open to imagination and interpretation. Recently, I did a few ink and watercolor drawings of the mermaids at Dive Bar, and we exhibited them right under the tank. It was so much fun to swim that night, knowing that my illustrations were showcased underneath me.

What do you think the allure of mermaids is? And why do you think they’re so popular right now?
There’s something in the collective consciousness that is returning us to the sea. I think for a long time, the ocean was so much more of an integral part of human life than it is today and humans are really missing it. We used to depend on our water sources a lot more than we do now; communities were build up and around water as sources of life, trade, and spirituality. Now, we just go to Safeway and buy water—the connection to water as our life-blood is quickly disappearing.

I also think that the mermaid represents something that many women wants to embody; the mermaid is aloof yet enchanting, dangerous and sweet, sexy and vulnerable. There is a certain amount of delicate awkwardness to mermaids; they can’t function as they should above land. Because they are unable to ‘fit in’ I think they appeal to everyone who has ever felt alone (so, everyone). I saw the SF Ballet do a production of The Little Mermaid this spring that was a perfect example of this side of mer-life. The mermaid was gangly, pained and tortured, but still captivating and lovely. To be utterly corny, the mermaid is a reflection of ourselves, on the surface of a wave.

How do people tend to react to you while you’re at work?
I never knew there could be so much screaming! Every time we appear in the tank, it sounds like a frenzy below. I feel a little bit like I’m being followed by the paparazzi, I can see camera flashes all over the bar when I am under the water. People absolutely gape, and if they catch me as I’m heading out of work, even though I have wet hair and usually look terrible, they beg for photos and love asking questions. It’s even more fun when we swim with our merman; everyone is always really excited for him. A few nights ago, I heard a grown man yelling, “She’s real! She’s a real mermaid!”.

What about when you tell people, outside of work, what you do?
When I am asked about what I do, I always say that I’m an illustrator first. If they seem of like mind, I mention the mermaid job as well. They are always incredulous as first, but come around when I explain about Dive Bar. I think having an establishment that we are based out of helps people to understand what we are doing, and except it a little more readily. I usually explain that Dive is sort of a re-write of the aquatic bars from the 1960′s, something that prompted a friend’s mother to ask, ‘What?! You mean you’re all topless?!?!”. I made sure to set the record straight.

As head mermaid, how do you keep all those other mermaids (and mermen?) in check?
Lots of love and bubbles! As I mentioned before, all of us mers are very close; we keep each other in check! I know that working at Dive wouldn’t be as much fun without my mersisters and brother, and we have an awesome manager too!

What’s a requirement for being a mermaid at Dive Bar, anyway?
The very first requirement is to be able to swim, and swim well! It’s so, so important to be safe whenever you are swimming, I cannot stress that enough. I also look at if you have had any acting, dance or modeling experience and if you can fit into our tails. You have to be able to entertain our patrons and be charming and playful. Stamina is a must! We currently have three full-time mermaids (myself, office manager Aimee Alejandre, and model Ellen Hancock), a merman (vegan chef Antwan Lashay) and two reserve mermaids (model Annie Alvarez and actress Teressa Freas) to fill in for any mers that can’t make it in that night. They are a great team!

And finally, do you have any advice for aspiring mermaids?
Swim, swim, swim—and be safe doing it! Remember that even the silly things you do today could become your dream come true tomorrow. And please, make sure that sea shell bra is on tight ;).

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