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Spotlight: Mermaid Skeletons

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Everyone cries at "Bambi," even if they won't admit it. Come on: a beautiful fantasy in the woods darkened by the death of a lovable fawn's mother. Such is the music of Mermaid Skeletons: gorgeous melodies cut by some dark thing. The music reflects this dichotomy. Delicate and symphonic compositions are marked by dark and brooding lyrics. The eight-piece is dominated by acoustic guitars and an old-timey organ, creating the prettiest chamber-pop in Richmond. Appropriately enough, Mermaid Skeletons release their first EP, "Darlings," at the Poe Museum. Here are some things to keep in mind.

Beats "Unicorn Teeth": "I have always been fascinated by fantasy and mythical creatures," says Joshua Hryciak, founder and frontman, regarding the origin of the band's name. "To have something beautiful and fantastic while at the same time dark and ominous is really interesting to me."

I need more diaphragm: Despite his mastery of performing, Hryciak, who taught himself the guitar, has had no formal music training. "I listened to my voice and just worked the tone out on my own," he says. "I tried to make my voice less nasal." Bandmate Sarah Dyson also helped Hryciak's vocals. "Sarah is an opera singer, so she would give me feedback, like singing more from my diaphragm. But she also wanted me to keep some of my natural voice. So now my voice is trained somewhat while still having my own folk sound."

And no long-distance charges: When it came to recording the EP, Hryciak wanted to stick close to home. He chose the Viking Recording Company in Ashland to record the band's first release. Music engineer Allen Bergendahl has worked with other Richmond musicians such as David Shultz and Anousheh Khalili. "He actually asked to record me," Hryciak says. Mermaid Skeletons are also on Richmond label Triple Stamp Records, home of the former Homemade Knives and Jonathan Vassar. "The greatest thing about the Richmond music scene is that it's small enough so that anyone who wants to get involved can get involved," he says. "But it's also big enough that musicians can actually get somewhere and make a name for themselves."

Bambi appreciates the menu: Some of their favorite places to play are small, close rooms. Ipanema Café (the vegetarian cafe and nightspot) is one of the band's fondest venues. "Everyone got quiet, even though it's a bar at night," Hryciak says of a recent performance there. "So it felt especially magical."

Remembering the little people: Immediately after New York singer-pianist Regina Spektor's March show at Toad's Place, Mermaid Skeletons played a set in the venue's Highwater Restaurant. Hryciak was kind enough to thank Regina for opening for them.

Made more sense than the Motorhead Museum: Hryciak chose the Edgar Allan Poe Museum's garden as host to the Skeletons' EP release. "We wanted to have something different and special for our fans and friends, and we also wanted something intimate," he says. It's not to say that Mermaid Skeletons are strangers to intimacy. Even with up to eight members, the band plays with a quiet edge. That magic will reappear at the EP release in the Poe garden. In Poe's words, "Beauty of whatever kind, in its supreme development, invariably excites the sensitive soul to tears."

The Mermaid Skeletons' EP release show is May 31 at 7 p.m. in the Edgar Allan Poe Enchanted Garden. Admission is $5. Opening acts will be Zac Hryciak and the Jungle Beat, the Young Sinclairs and David Shultz and the Skyline. 648-5523.



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