In the world of music, few acts dare to try and reinvent themselves especially if what they’ve already accomplished is working to their benefit. Yet the Filipino musical ensemble, Of Mercury, decided to do just that in the years following the height of the pandemic.

Despite six years of sticking together as a band, the group rebranded themselves from “Nathan and Mercury” to their current moniker “of Mercury (stylized with lowercase)” just last 2021 –– a move which signaled a transformation not only in what they call themselves but in the group’s very own essence. While the names are still quite similar, others would say that it’s a risky move that challenges their already established brand recognition. But ultimately, that wasn’t even the least bit of worry to members Nathan Huang, Angelo Sison, and Daniel Monong.

Such a form of metamorphosis not only opened a whole new chapter for the group, but it saw them delving deeper into their own artistic side and areas of uncharted sonic territory. Their new name gave them enough room to grow and simultaneously challenge the traditional norms of the Filipino music scene –– but what exactly led them to this turning point in their career?

A Creative Eruption

According to the band, the year 2020 marked a significant shift in their priorities and creativity in their work. When asked about the spark that ignited the band’s creative spurt, Huang chuckles “In one word, the pandemic.”

Despite the challenges of the global crisis, it afforded of Mercury the precious gift of time to really sit back, look around, reflect, and create. While Huang mentions that there was already creative juice built up prior to the pandemic, their busy schedule of constantly performing around various gig venues never really allowed them to write and produce the music they wanted. He elaborates on this saying “We eventually found an opportunity to write and produce new music together, so we decided to quarantine together [as a band].”

This enforced pause in their usual routine as performers eventually became the crucible of creativity, an incubator for their aspirations. “It was one whole month of creative milking juice,” Nathan recalls. Though it was stressful in some ways, the eventual culmination of their lockdown experience resulted in a first full-length album, CHANGIN‘, –– a project that was as creatively taxing as it was satisfying.

Rebranding as a Form of Self Discovery

While the name change from “Nathan and Mercury” to “of Mercury” is conspicuous, it goes beyond semantics.

For Huang, this shift represents the profound act of self-discovery. “I do believe in the rebrand, but the rebirth? I think it’s a different angle for us,” he states. “Rather than a rebirth, I think it was more of just discovering ourselves and who we are. Because in the past, with all the stuff that we went through, it seemed like everything we were doing was coming out of a different motivation and a different set of values,” he reflects. “Now, I think we’ve gotten in touch with who we are and embraced our true selves.”

The new name came an abundance of other changes for the group –– such as a refreshed approach to their music. As evident from their record CHANGIN‘, shedding away the confines of their older identity allowed them to play around with a lot more sounds, which is a trait that they’ve continued to embrace further with their mindset moving forward. Nowadays, their influences are drawn from a wide spectrum of genres and artists, so broad that Huang jokes, “We’re pretty messed up.”

While all the members agree that it’s a little bit of everything, Huang shares “We have different phases [over time]. We had our folk phase, our R&B phase, and our hip-hop phase, but currently, we’re in our classic old-school phase. We’re talking about Earth Wind & Fire, then Filipino versions like VST & Company, Apo Hiking Society, and even Chaka Khan.”

But to Sison, though influences matter a lot, it’s a whole new ballpark once the band starts making and creating their music. “Ultimately, what we make is what feels, seems, looks, and hears good to us.” 

The Making of CHANGIN

In the process of writing and recording their first album, of Mercury was well aware that what they were doing wasn’t fit to what most Filipino audiences were expecting. The group’s splicing of genres marked an unconventional approach to the traditional sounds of OPM that people often refer to, yet ultimately, it was a fruitful endeavor for everyone involved.

“I guess it’s a risk that we ended up taking because we wanted to show that we have these sounds here [as well] in the Philippines,” says Sison. He elaborates further saying, “Yung mga alam natin kasi sa traditional OPM na sound is a vague statement [What we’re expected to know about the OPM sound is still a vague statement]. There’s so much more to the meaning of OPM, pero kaya rin namin yung mga [but we can do] sounds that can come from all over, like even as far as Wales, the UK, and other places. So why box yourself into one form when there are so many sounds and genres that we can tap into?”

Huang adds, saying “I think it’s a matter of expanding what else we can do as Filipino artists. There are so many of us who are also changing the notions of OPM, so we can really see how we’re making our own marks on what people expect of the Filipino sound. So even if there was a certain current of waves, trends, and the like, we’re the type of people who aren’t inclined to be there.”

Yet despite this open mindset the group equipped all throughout the creative process, making their debut full-length wasn’t as easy as anyone would think. To summarize how Huang himself put it, it was marked by “a lot of trial and error.”

It took the band two to three years to craft the album, with the most intense creative phase taking place during a thirty-two day quarantine in a rented Airbnb. The pressure was palpable as they set self-imposed deadlines and tackled household chores. The result? An album that is the fruit of sheer determination, wherein creativity blossomed under pressure.

Brotherly Bonds & The Road Ahead

Just like the butterfly on CHANGIN”s album cover, of Mercury has been undergoing a metamorphosis of sorts –– evolving in sound, artistry, and also in their personal lives.

Instead of seeing one another merely as bandmates, this trio credits the brotherly bonds they share as a driving force for what’s worked for them over their six years in the scene. “Love ko talaga ‘tong dalawang to [I really love these two]. It’s really great to make music with them,” Sison shares.

Huang mentions “I think with the band, what feels good about it is that all three of us could be ourselves with one another. There’s a certain safe space shared between us three, so if people need to rant or open up –– or even if we’re going through crap, we can really get to talk to one another often.”

Looking ahead, the band is already poised for a new phase of their musical evolution. “For sure, you can expect a lot coming soon,” Huang hints. With a renewed creative fervor and a resolute spirit for pushing boundaries, they tease a potential EP on the horizon. Sison also adds, “There’s a lot more [in store for us], it’s actually exciting. ‘That’s Why,’ our latest single, is just the start of our initiative to see what we can do moving forward.”

Ultimately, more than just sound and musical achievements, the essence of the group lies in their profound bond. It’s what allows the three of them to be fully in tune with one another and establishes a unique connection that transcends their music, providing a safe space for open communication and a nurturing environment for their shared creativity to flourish. In an industry where evolution is the lifeblood of artists, of Mercury’s embrace of change is a testament to their dedication and resilience.

With their captivating blend of influences, fearless spirit, and unwavering camaraderie with one another, it’s safe to say that of Mercury stands out as one of the more promising young acts of today –– especially as it’s as if their journey has only just begun.