INTERVIEW: Meryl Streek | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image by Sinead Ferguson

Not to be confused with the Hollywood star of a similar name, Meryl Streek’s poetic lyricism, social commentary and electrifying post-punk sound have earned the Irish artist a reputation as one to watch on the grassroots music scene.

He explains the process of how he acquired his moniker. “I just looked at the music industry and said, ‘I need something catchy, something recognisable’.” He adds: “I Googled A-List celebrities, and she was the first one that came up. And that was it.”

Having performed in bands throughout his career, with his latest project Meryl Streek wanted to be in control of his own destiny. “I’ve been doing it for so long. And I just thought that I’m going to do a solo project. I’m going to buy a laptop, so I just won’t have to deal with any dickheads anymore. And that’s what I did,” he says candidly.

The artist’s brand of politically charged avant-garde punk flows throughout his debut album 796, which largely came together during lockdown. “I knew I needed a song about my dad. I knew I needed a song about alcohol, and I knew I needed a song about the church and most definitely landlords, because at the moment in Ireland, I think we’re up to 14,000 people homeless right now. And four or five thousand of those are kids sleeping in tents.” The latter subject is grappled with in the potent recent single Death To The Landlord.

when I get into the crowd, I’m centimetres away from people’s faces, and I want them to know that I’m fearless

If you saw the recent Public Image Ltd tour, perhaps you caught Meryl Streek opening the proceedings. “It still hasn’t hit me that I did a tour with PIL because I kind of numbed myself out to ever get starstruck,” he says. “I think the only person I ever got starstruck around was Mark E Smith because I’m just obsessed with him.” Being around PIL frontman John Lydon was surreal at times, and he recalls a backstage encounter with the Sex Pistol. “He just started telling me about Sid Vicious, naming him just as Sid, and it was that moment where I went ‘Holy fuck, this is actually real’.”

Visually, the artist’s onstage aesthetic is very dark, illuminating his live performances with just a handheld torch. Performing alone, aided by a backing track, he frequently ventures into the crowd. “I like to challenge people. So, when I get into the crowd, I’m centimetres away from people’s faces, and I want them to know that I’m fearless,” he explains.

He compares his live shows to one of his pastimes. “I love the feeling of after watching a horror movie where you’re just like ‘what the fuck happened to me?’ And so, for 10 pounds, you’re getting something different. You’re getting screamed at by a really angry Irishman,” says Streek. “I always find that the people who come up to me afterwards, the ones that are most in shock and happy about it, are the ones that went in with no idea who I am.”

Meryl Streek will perform at Zerox, Newcastle on Sunday 18th February.


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