Posing Questions with Tom Reno of The Mercury Program

The Mercury Program, out of Stuart, Fl., creates beautiful resonance using guitars, Rhodes pianos, vibraphones and electronic gadgetry. Their latest album, a data learn the language, on Tiger Style Records, is a triumph of instrumentals, leading listeners through moody soundscapes, both low-key and upbeat. It’s unique among their albums in that there are no vocals. If you think it would feel like something’s missing, you’d be dead wrong. The album is full of deep, pensive music, bringing you to the realization that lyrics are overrated anyway.

Mercury Program performs at New World Brewery in Ybor City Saturday night. Music Editor Andrew Pina had a chat with guitarist Tom Reno and talked about sanity, fire and USF.

1. Andrew Pina: Why did you decide not to have vocals on a data learn the language?

Tom Reno: It wasn’t really a decision. We just ended up with a bunch of songs without vocals.

When Whit (Traviasano) joined the band, we had less room for vocals. We didn’t have to worry about where the vocals fit in. As a result, we’ve written better songs. There weren’t that many vocals anyway. They were kind of an afterthought anyway, but when we started, we didn’t think we’d make it without them.

2. A.P.: How have the reviews been?

T.R.: The reaction has been the best, so far. The four of us really achieved what we intended.

3. A.P.: how did you com up with the title?

T.R.: It was just a play on words that I’d been tossing around for a while … seemed fitting for the title. Not much else to it. Pretty boring story, eh? I should really make something up that’s more exciting.

4. A.P.: What makes you guys different? What makes you go?

T.R.: This band is something that we all have to do in order to stay sane. It’s like a sickness, really. We’re lucky that we all get along, and we tend to progress in the same direction. What makes us different? I really don’t have an answer to that.

5. A.P.: When did your current tour start?

T.R.: We aren’t actually on tour right now. We’re just playing a few dates around Florida because we skipped it on the last U.S. tour in October. We’ll be touring again in April. We’re also planning a tour of Europe and Japan with Maserati (another instrumental outfit, out of Athens, Ga.). We’ve also been working together on a DVD with those guys, to be released around September.

6. A.P.: Come here often?

T.R.: Yeah, being from Florida, we play there often; we like New World, too. I actually went to USF for while, back when there wasn’t anything there.

6a. A.P.: Before the new dorms?

T.R.: Yeah, hardly anyone lived on campus back then.

7. A.P.: What is the ideology behind your song titles, considering your songs are instrumental?

T.R.: Usually, they are just words or phrases that communicate the atmosphere of the song. It’s hard sometimes because instrumental music is very open to interpretation. Most of the song titles are just meant to be a reference point.

8. A.P.: What is your song writing process? Who writes the songs?

T.R.: It’s 100% collaborative. We’ve all written all the songs from the very beginning … it’s sort of a rule that no one writes anything in advance.

9. A.P.: Who did production on the album? What was that like?

T.R.: It was a combination of the band and the engineer, Andy Baker. We have a lot more switches, at least one per song. More percussion, as well. It was the first time we used Pro Tools for mixing … it was really amazing. I think now that we’ve mixed a record in the digital realm, we won’t be going back to the five of us standing at the board riding faders and muting. But at shows, we use a laptop for the electronic elements.

10. A.P.: What else should we expect to see at a Mercury Program show?

T.R.: Four people playing music. Maybe some fire.

Contact Andrew Pina atoracletunes@yahoo.com