Album Walkthrough: The Merindas break down their debut, We Sing Until Sunrise

Album Walkthrough: The Merindas break down their debut, We Sing Until Sunrise

On their debut album, The Merinas welcome a collection of bright-eyed tracks that'll whisk you away from the heaviness of the world.

With everything going on in the world right now, it's important to have a source of escapism. In the musical sense, we've been bombared with singles and even full-length records that centre themselves around learnings and lessons from the world, whether it's in regards to COVID-19's domination of the year's headlines – take Charli XCX's isolation-born how I'm feeling now record, for example – or the ongoing political situation in the US, which has given us some incredible – and powerful – protest music in the time since Trump's inauguration four years back.

For now-Melbourne-base duo The Merindas, the release of their debut album We Sing Until Sunrise – or Ngaangk Nookertiny Ngala Warangka – couldn't come at a more complex time, with Jawoyn and Thursday Island woman Candice Lorrae and Ballardong Whadjuk and Nyoongar woman Kristel Kickett releasing their album amongst one of the quietest music release weeks for as long as I can remember, with many artists pushing back release dates due to the ongoing protests in the US, which has now fallen down to Australia too, where cities are protesting for both police brutality – like in the US – but also the treatment of Indigenous Australians, who remain one of the most disadvantaged populations in the world due to their treatment by the government and its forces.

However, I get the feeling We Sing Until Sunrise / Ngaangk Nookertiny Ngala Warangka couldn't come at a more better time, too. In many ways, this album welcomes an informed and inspired relief from everything going on in the world right now, that'll educate you and take you into the duo's world while also whisking you away from everything going on, something that arises through their expert balance of potent lyricism and the sense of euphoria that underlays it musically.

From the second We Sing Until Sunrise / Ngaangk Nookertiny Ngala Warangka commences, Candice Lorrae and Kristel Kickett showcase this charm that's become synonymous to The Merindas since we met them last year. Its opening title-track is a bursting explosion of colour and rhythms that celebrates culture, while I Feel It blasts hands-in-the-air choruses about connecting yourself to the land from which you grew. On the previously-teased Before Daylight, one of last year's most joyful songs brings a traditional Noongar Dreaming story to musical life, while Do You See Me – one of the album's more mellow, yet still upbeat moments – emphasises the stolen generation, and the power of reconnection all this time later.

However, where The Merindas and their album soar their highest, is with Drumfire. It's a pacing song that opens with a phrase – "Ngang Karla Noonook Karla," or ‘my fire your fire' – that soon defines its every movement, with rushing production and soaring vocals painting one of the album's most potent pictures. "We started writing this track three years back on Mabo Day inspired by the movements and protests within our community," they say on the song. "We thought of the need for more protest tracks, so we wrote one. The main focus and inspiration stems from Eddie Mabo’s Land Rights movement in the Torres Strait which was one of many at the time."

There's a lot of power in We Sing Until Sunrise / Ngaangk Nookertiny Ngala Warangka, and in a time like now, it stems from something that feels more important than ever. On the record, The Merindas dive head-first into generational pain – and triumph – as well as their own pain and triumph, emerging the other side with songs that make you want to dance until you forget them, and leave everything laid out underneath the disco ball. There's a real power in that, and The Merindas capture it perfectly.

Take a dive into the album below with a track-by-track walkthrough, which features The Merindas walk through the album's themes and creation one song at a time.

We Sing Until Sunrise 

We wrote this track in 2016 to open the Aussie BBQ (Music Matters) showcase in Singapore. This is the first song that we wrote together that set the tone for The Merindas. We were thinking about our late nights singing around the campfire. We love that part of our life, it’s part of our culture to share songs and stories with each other, so we wrote We Sing Until Sunrise. This track strongly reflects that we are forever singing, dancing and celebrating our culture. 

The beat was produced by Dazastah (from Downsyde) with influence from SIA’s hit track Cheap Thrills. We recorded our own vocals in our first home studio in the garage at Carlisle (Perth). From there, we took it to Soundbaker Studio for mixing. The track wasn’t successful at the start, but is only getting momentum now since moving to Melbourne in 2018. 

I Feel It 

I Feel It talks about the good spirit of the land and about allowing ourselves to feel joy. We feel this spirit when we connect ourselves with the earth, this spirit stirs inside all of us if we let it be free. Noongar words Kwabba Wirran Boodjah waa translates to 'Good Spirit of the Land'.

This track was written in our new home studio in Melbourne after our experience at Rainbow Serpent Festival. We lived in an apartment together and would attend as many Melbourne music festivals as we could. In doing so, we were inspired at the time by all the big opportunities coming our way. We just knew we had to write a feel good track and celebrate our big move and transition to the next stage of our music careers. 

Splinter 

As artists we felt like we entered into a new phase in our lives. We were transforming ourselves to become the women we want to be. This meant that we had to break away from the bubble we were in. This song is about breaking free from a standstill position where we have constantly been fighting with ourselves about standards. This is about building the courage to lift our roots and discover the world and our potential: the visual being; a lone tree in the middle of the desert that has been standing unrecognised. The message in the song is to remind us that 'life is about changes’ … no matter how far you are in life there is always room to grow and discover new things about yourself. It’s a song about moving forward. 

This track initially started with Candice building the music and lyrics with Kristel creating the hook in 2016. We then sat down with Dazastah to form the track. After a couple of years we took part in APRA’s First Nations Songhubs in Melbourne, meeting producer Frank Keys (Auckland, NZ) whom we clicked with and invited to remix the final version along with the rest of the tracks on the album. 

Drumfire 

Drumfire is a reminder for people to stand up for what they believe in. We all have a fire burning inside when we feel empowered by each other. Our most powerful leaders carried unbelievable courage and never gave up the fight against injustices. This song is a tribute to our ancestors, elders and first nations people that bring communities together and continue the fight for land rights, justice and continue practices of our rich culture. Noongar words Ngang Karla Noonook Karla translates to ‘my fire your fire’. 

We started writing this track three years back on Mabo Day inspired by the movements and protests within our community. We thought of the need for more protest tracks, so we wrote one. This track is extremely rhythmic with a lot of drums inspired by the Traditional Drums played within Torres Strait Islander music. The main focus and inspiration stems from Eddie Mabo’s Land Rights movement in the Torres Strait which was one of many at the time. 

During the rehearsal stage in production for this track we noticed a label on the side of our producers bag with a Drumfire logo. This gave the idea for the song title. Not knowing what it actually meant we Google searched the name and we found, Drumfire - heavy continuous rapid artillery fire. It was like fate, even on the release of this track, all riots and protests have accelerated around the world. We hope that it becomes one of the many anthems for the Black Lives Matter movement. 

Wait For Me 

At this stage in the production process, and digging deep, we wanted to lighten the mood and create something more upbeat. Going back to Rainbow Serpent Festival, we were inspired by the EDM sound. We began writing this track together in a hotel room on tour using one of the many beats that Candice has made. It was a very easy process, we wrote the lyrics and melody within an hour. 

We were reminiscing about our fun times going out and seeing someone in a club. Those times you see someone you’re attracted to and keep an eye on them all night without having the courage to make a move before it’s too late and they have already left the room. Make a move quickly. Don’t wait for love. 

Before Daylight 

This track started in our second home studio in Vic Park (Perth). It came from one of the many beats that we created using Reason. At this point in the album we wanted to create a track inspired by a traditional Dreaming story. We were told this story growing up on Nyoongar country. You will find this story online under the ‘Bimban Born-Kissing Trees’. 

It's about a man and woman who were forbidden to be together. The lyrics 'Before Daylight, give me one last kiss goodbye' describes the couples last moments embraced in each others arms. Their love was so strong it grew in harmony with the land through two trees. These trees grew side by side with their branches touching, symbolising their last kiss. 

Do You See Me 

This track is about our stolen generations reconnecting with family. It describes that significant moment when people reconnect and recognise similar features in another person that they see in themselves: Same eyes, same hands, same smile. It’s also open to interpretation about the strong connections people have with one another. 

We started this track on guitar because we wanted the songwriting process to be more organic. With just a few chords, we were able to reflect on our grandparents' history as stolen children, and as many stolen children growing up that have connected back with family. We imagine what that must feel like when they see themselves in someone else. 

We didn’t expect the song to sound how it does now, but the way Frank Keys produced it, we feel so much depth in the music that it complements the story. It’s also very current sounding to appeal to our young people. 

Young Love Was To Blame 

Many of our young people are the victims of toxic relationships that lead to abuse, trauma and early pregnancy. As women, we have personally experienced or know someone who has been through domestic violence and it's something that we need to address more often. Our young people are so important and we wanted to do something special on the album that is relatable. It’s important for them to know that they’re not alone. 

This track is a lot different to the rest of the album, opposed to the electronic sound we have throughout. Kristel has always felt that the last track on any album is special and for us, it doesn't sound like anything else and it’s close to our hearts.

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