Merce Lemon has been immersed in Pittsburgh’s DIY music scene for as long as she can remember. As a child, she attended concerts and house shows with big, noise-canceling headphones; her father was in a band called The Working Poor and her mother was in Bad Daughters, among others.
Lemon played in bands herself from a very young age, including a punk band called Two Dragons Black and Red between the ages of 10 and 12. She had everything stacked in her favor to excel in the local DIY music scene, but in her teens, Lemon stopped dabbling in music. At age 17, she moved in with her uncle in Seattle, where she finished high school through community college.
“I was depressed in high school and needed a change and didn’t want to finish school here,” explains Lemon, who legally changed her name in high school. “So my mom said to go live with my uncle.”
Lemon stayed in Seattle for three years after graduating high school, and it was there she was able to grow into her own, away from her parents and the city she was born in. She says it was the first time she started to feel independent.
“I kind of got to rediscover [music] on my own, which was really special,” says Lemon. “I taught myself guitar in my uncle’s house with all the guitars he had laying around. … There was a cool music scene in Seattle that was really inviting. It was a great way to ease back into playing music since I hadn’t played since I was 13.”
And it was in Seattle that Lemon met Dylan Hanwright of grunge-pop band Great Grandpa, who helped her record and perform her first two EPs.
Now, Lemon is back in Pittsburgh, with Ride Every Day, a reissue of her first two EPs Ideal For a Light Flow With Your Body and Girls Who Jump In, plus bonus material, via Pittsburgh-based tape label Crafted Sounds, out March 14.
“Having grown up [in Pittsburgh] but having found my independence somewhere else has been really strange,” says Lemon. “I’m trying to find my independence in Pittsburgh, and be an adult here where most people have known me since I was a child.”
It seems the return has been the right call for Lemon. She and her band — Greg Pierce (guitar, and Lemon’s father), Alec Ebeling (drums), Jim Lingo (bass), Noa Lipsky (vox), and the occasional guest appearance of Noa’s father, Eric Lipsky (cello) — recently finished recording Lemon’s first full-length album, tentatively titled Moonth, at Mr. Smalls Studio with Nate Campisi. Unlike the indie rock, bedroom pop sounds found on Ride Every Day, Lemon says Moonth is a mix of genres, clocking in around 40 minutes and 17 songs, with something for everyone.
“I’m growing and changing as an artist,” says Lemon, who has been working on the LP since her return to Pittsburgh and feels a little disconnected from the music found on Ride Every Day. “It’s always weird to listen to stuff you made a long time ago.”
The decision to release the compilation tape Ride Every Day, instead of pushing Moonth, slated to drop in the fall, came from Crafted Sounds owner Connor Murray.
“I never released Girls Who Jump In on tape, so [Murray] was like, ‘Why don’t we make the physical release of this, to get people excited for the album that's coming?’”
Murray says Lemon is “super talented, and quite frankly ready for the next level.” He’s been shopping around to get Lemon signed to a larger indie label so that he “can help her reach new heights.”
But while Lemon says Murray makes her want to push harder, she feels comfortable where she is currently.
“I don’t really want to play the game of the music industry,” she says. “I would love if something happened where someone would want to put out my record, but I’m totally cool going the DIY way and doing everything myself. My roots are in DIY.”
Merce Lemon Tape Release. 7 p.m. Fri., March 13. Babyland, 460 Melwood Ave., Oakland. $7-10. facebook.com/mercelemonmusic