At first, the video seems familiar: beloved magical nanny Mary Poppins, jack-of-all-trades Bert and a band of animated townspeople are shown about to break into song. Then the music begins and Sera Hatchett, lead singer of local metal quartet Mercy Brown, growls through "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" like she's cursing an enemy, not singing about a made-up word.
The "Mary Poppins Sings Death Metal" project is the brainchild of L.A.-based overdub video creator Andy Rehfeldt. Mercy Brown guitarist Chris Tanaka Canwell and bassist Josh Schultz saw Rehfeldt was looking for a female metal vocalist and suggested that Hatchett message him. She sent in a tape and Rehfeldt took it from there.
"I looked on YouTube and there's 3,000 hits... " Schultz says. "Then later that day, there's two million hits. I was like, 'What the hell?'"
Since its February upload, "Mary Poppins Sings Death Metal" has racked up more than 3.6 million views.
Sitting in Tanaka Canwell's Birdhouse Squirrel studio, Schultz and Tanaka Canwell say there hasn't been much local response to the video, though it has jump-started the band's international career.
"We've been getting people buying albums from South America and Europe, all these places we've never been," Tanaka Canwell says. "A lot of people are connecting with us that wouldn't have heard about us."
Mercy Brown, rounded out by drummer Lunden Herndon, released its self-titled full-length in March.
The majority of Mercy Brown is in-your-face, weight-on-your-chest metal, but the band also brings punk rock and ambient instrumentals into the mix.
"We wanted to focus on the album as a whole, so the whole thing flows from song to song perfectly, and the dynamic of each song complements the next one and the one before it," Schultz says.
This well-rounded album fits with what the group sees as an equally diverse local scene.
"One of the cool things about metal is you can sound so many different ways that, especially a place this size, you're not competing with someone that sounds like you and just trying to be better than them," Tanaka Canwell says. "Everybody's OK with being a little different."
Having seen countless bands and venues come and go, Mercy Brown is practically a veteran band after five years together in an unpredictable scene. And though the two-year Mercy Brown recording process was at times agonizing, the band can't see itself doing anything else.
"We try to have fun doing what we're doing, and then let it go where it goes," Schultz says. "If it gets popular, cool. If not, it's OK. We'll still keep playing." ♦
Mercy Brown with Cold Blooded, Rasputin and Serpentspire • Fri, June 19, at 8 pm • $5/under 21, Free/21+ • All-ages • Knitting Factory • 919 W. Sprague • sp.knittingfactory.com • 244-3279