Mercury is the final album of original material from alternative band The Prayer Chain, released in 1995.
Originally the band wanted to do a worship-based album. Bassist Eric Campuzano says "When we were were discussing this record, a lot of people said Shawl was a negative album, so we all kinda wanted to do this real drony 'get lost in the music' type record -- only with praise songs. But we really started just disliking each other, so that didn't allow us to fully praise God, because there's just too much disconnection in the band." Singer Tim Taber says "before Mercury, I wanted to record a more worshipful album. Eric Campuzano did too, but when we came together, the dynamic in the band produced something different."
On recording Mercury, drummer Wayne Everett says "we wanted to challenge ourselves and hopefully make something sonically unique. We were influenced by indigenous music, particularly African and Middle Eastern music, and we hoped to fuse that with Western rock & roll. When we sat down to write the music, we did it semi-acoustically, and I brought a number of basic rhythms to try as a foundation for the music. Some songs started from the percussion or drum patterns, and some began from a bass or guitar line or chord progression. But it was very fluid and almost conversational, in the sense that as one person contributed something, it drove someone else to do something related to it. Ultimately it was very difficult to compete, but the original writing sessions were exciting and scary. For us, we were going somewhere we'd never been. Maybe it was a one-way ticket..."
On how the album was written, Campuzano says "they were jams. But after we jammed, we made a very meticulous map. Mostly, The Prayer Chain got together and hung out at Tim's house and wrote the music and melody on djembe, guitar, bass. The premise was to make a record that came from the earth. All of our beats & rhythms were derived from Aboriginal music, with the exception of Waterdogs & Grylliade. The rest was pure. The only song we copied was Waterdogs - a Curve rip-off that most thought was a crappy U2 rip-off. The rest of the record was saved via Steve Hindalong and Chris Colbert who encouraged us at any cost to make this record. None of us participated much in the recording of anyone else's parts. We were left to sink or swim on our own. There was no support of anyone with the exception of Steve Hindalong & Chris Colbert. It was not the most spiritual record ever made. It was sort of a do or die. I do not think I talked to Andy until his girlfriend and my wife flew in to go to Cornerstone and we had to go pick them up and head out to Cornerstone. He stayed away from everyone and really talked to no one. He made sure everything was soldiered, but never talked too much. Tim did not come out until the record was pretty much done musically. The miracle of Mercury was that musically it was recorded in about 5 to 6 days. It was done before Tim ever showed up."
On the departure from the Shawl sound, guitarist Andy Prickett says "It got to a point where we would be playing and the audience would be jumping on the stage and hurting each other because the energy was so high... So I purposely tried to write parts (for Mercury) that didn't let anyone feel that kinda energy.
Everett says "we wanted to do something that was a lot more emotional and moving - something that stirs the Spirit and the heart rather than the head".
Sky High did not appear on the first draft of Mercury, but was written alongside Friend or Foe, Lose Yourself & The Other Side of Heaven when the band were instructed to go write a few more Christian songs by the record company. While the band was angered by the label's request, they conceded at the 20th anniversary of Mercury that Reunion's request was in hindsight a happy accident as it produced Sky High.
Campuzano says "The whole record basically itself is a manifestation of God telling us exactly what to do. All the lyrics, regardless of who they're written by, seem to be really together. It wasn't like we set out to do a thematic record, but I think the record itself did turn out to be thematic, in that it is a man's walk with God, from the beginning of Humb to the end of Sun Stoned. And that is something that we did not set out to do, or outline."
Everett says "The record definitely does have that element of disconnection to it, certainly with God and even beyond talking of spiritual things -- it really explores feeling disconnected with other other people around you. With a lover, even within the band -- there's songs on this record about all of us being totally disconnected with each other, and having to make a record at the same time. It also has songs with a lot of hope in them such as Humb and Sky High and Sun Stoned, which really invite a relinquishing to God in order to achieve peace and to become more connected with all these things that you've been separated from."
The lyric writing responsibilities for Mercury were more diverse than Shawl, which was solely written by Campuzano. Campuzano was still the main lyricist, but was often assisted by Everett who gave encouragement & criticism. Everett came up with the lyric idea for Sky High and all the lyrics for Chalk. Taber wrote the lyrics for Shiver & Loverboy. Prickett only has a co-writing credit on Manta Rae, but Campuzano credits him with being the inspiration for a lot of the lyrics on the album. Prickett instructed Campuzano that he wanted numbness & death to be two prominent themes on the albums, and his apathy at times was Campuzano's direct inspiration for the track Mercury. The opening track Humb used selected lines from Psalm 136. And Hindalong contributed the lyric for Bendy Line.
Prickett says "On Whirlpool, I think people picked up on the innocence that was involved. Mercury has a little more experience, maturity and sometimes cynicism, bitterness, pain - life! I think people interpret that loss of innocence as a loss of Christian-ness, but I disagree. I don't think the Bible would be considered an innocent book in any way".
Campuzano says "We always thought God put us in this position so we could break down some walls or notions about Christian music...I think we did that with touring, and with the eventual release of Mercury." He also called it "the record that defines us".
Hindalong says "I was no longer so naive as to imagine a group like The Prayer Chain could be sold to the Bible belt; but I truy felt lucky to be there."
Campuzano says "There are a lot of contemporary Christian artists feeding the kids vanilla music... yeah it's positive but I can't even identify with it. I hope my music will help these kids to be better Christians, to question their faith and search for God. I want these kids to know that it's OK not to always understand God. It's OK to be confused." Everett adds "To us, faith is very deep thing and it doesn't always make sense. I think a lot of Christians are afraid to confront that."
Years later, the band released the original version of Mercury that their record label rejected. It was titled Humb and distributed through bandcamp.