Mercury Act II, out today (July 1st), is a continuation of the band’s previous project Mercury Act I. Together, the sister albums serve as an inspiring, heartbreaking ode to the relationships frontman Dan Reynolds has lost; while Mercury Act I (released in September 2021) details the initial shock that comes with death, Act II is an even more intimate gesture that further explores themes of loss and recovery.
Best showcased on the vulnerable track “They Don’t Know You Like I Do,” Reynolds sinks into a deep regret for all that he wished he could’ve done for his close friend before it was too late. In the same vein, “I Wish” details the soul-crushing remorse that comes with indescribable loss.
But the record is not without glimmering moments of hope, too. “It’s really about life and celebrating every day and remembering that it is finite and it can all be gone,” Reynolds tells Consequence, “And being present. I just hope it brings joy, above all, to people’s lives.”
The Rick Rubin-produced project was three years in the making, and Reynolds is more than ready to release these songs into the universe. “It’s been a long time coming… it’s one of those moments where you feel anxious, excited, nervous, and happy,” he says. “I think hopefully we’ll feel relief when it comes out, because we’ve been working on it for three years, and it’s one of those things that we have to let go of and let it in the world.”
On album release eve, between international tour stops — the band had just played the Open Air festival in Poland and was preparing to play Sweden’s Lollapalooza festival later in the day — Reynolds took some time to dig into Mercury Act II, his work with the LOVELOUD Foundation, dream collaborations and much more.
Give Mercury Act II a spin, and check out the full Q&A with Reynolds below.
What was the writing process like creating these two albums?
We worked with Rick Rubin on these records, and we knew really early on that it was going to be two records. As we went through the songs on the first record, Rick sat me down and we really talked about the theme of it. We realized early on that Act I was focused on death and kind of those shell-shocked feelings that accompany that, whereas Act II is really post-grief and waking up the next day after you’ve lost someone that you loved.
What does that feel like, and what does it look like? Some days are better than others. Anyone who has ever lost someone that they’re really close to, family or a dear friend, especially when you maybe are with them when they pass, it makes you see everything differently. The presence of every day almost feels like, without sounding too cliche, really feels like a gift after someone that you love passes. So Mercury Act II is focused on post-death and dealing with that grief.
What was it like working with Rick Rubin?
It was really helpful to have some fresh perspectives, especially on our fifth record. There were so many songs. I write every day — I always have since I was 12 — so every record, we have like 200-plus songs to go through because it’s like a journal entry for me. So Rick sat down and was like “send me everything!” and we were like “okay, we’re not going to send you everything, we’ll send you like 70 songs.” So we sent him 70 songs, and he listened to all of them and wrote back this long detailed email, even before we met with tons of notes on every song. That’s when we knew he was the right fit for us. He really cared and put in the time.
I always imagined Rick Rubin as this quiet, reserved, laying-on-the couch — you know, you always see the picture of him laying down — and man of few words. That wasn’t the case. The Rick Rubin that we worked with was first to be there, last to leave, super hands-on, super engaged, but also really cool in all the right ways. He made me sit down and go over every lyric of every song, which is super arduous for me and that was something that I typically wouldn’t do, but it’s Rick Rubin and so I’m not going to say no.
But it was a wonderful experience, and Rick’s more than just a producer now. We’ve become dear friends and I have so much love and respect for him. Lyrics are such a vulnerable thing, and when you’re sitting down with someone and they’re like, “Well, what exactly are you saying in that line, what exactly do you mean?” It’s not always a question you want to answer and especially when it’s someone like Rick Rubin, you feel even more vulnerable about it. But I’m grateful for it, it pushed me.
You’ve mentioned that this new album sounds different from your previous releases. Can you talk a little bit more about that?
Yeah, I think it’s a product of a lot of things. One, obviously working with Rick Rubin really brought a whole different palette to the table. There was a fresh perspective, there was more critical listening, more questioning, more rewriting, and rethinking. Also, we recorded it at his studio, which typically we self-produce out of Las Vegas, at our own studio. Rick’s studio really brings an added sense of organicness, I think, to everything. It’s on the beach, so you feel really connected to nature and the water and catching Rick’s vibe is very vulnerable and spiritual.
Some producers are there to not ruffle feathers. They’re there to help the band get along and they’ll have an opinion but it’s like someone with a brush, painting alongside. Rick really almost felt like sometimes he would grab your hand and help you paint. He never wants to change what you’re doing but he really has strong opinions and thoughts and voices them. I think that brought a very new shade and approach that we needed, so I’m glad that you hear that.