Many have tried and ultimately failed to transform their creative passions into a sustainable career in the music industry. Even fewer manage to build a national reputation for themselves. It’s the nature of the business that only the strong and dedicated survive. Local DJ and producer, Mersiv has no shortage of a passion that he credits for bringing him a long way in this industry, and there are no signs of slowing down any time soon. Sure, he’s headlining his own festival at Mishawaka and selling out shows across the country now, but it hasn’t always been that way. His road to success has been littered with speed bumps, potholes and barricades, but there’s beauty in the struggle. His voyage to stardom has been pretty, dark, and definitely loud – just like the music he creates.
Anderson Benoit Gallegos, known as Mersiv, was first introduced to music through his mother’s expansive CD collection. After discovering Lenny Kravitz’s 1998 album, 5, his passion for music was ignited. It didn’t take long for Gallegos to expand his musical horizons and discover his love for hip-hop.
“When I was in fourth or fifth grade, I was listening to the radio, and ‘What You Know’ by T.I. came on. It was a weird thing that song — the chords, the melodies and the chorus that caught my attention. I was so intrigued by it.”
As Mersiv got older, hard rock and heavy metal bands like Chevelle and Tool became the focal point of his musical exploration. There’s a certain energy that bleeds through this particular genre of music, an energy that’s often reflected in the harder, darker side of EDM that shares a similar sentiment and rebellious nature with its rock counterparts. Much like heavy metal, EDM is more about the feeling than the lyrics. Ironically, Mersiv wasn’t introduced to electronic music by a friend or musical inspiration. Instead, he stumbled upon it, tripping over the Youtube algorithm as he fell down the rabbit hole of an online world saturated in rave culture and psychedelic drugs.
“There was an interview with this kid and he was talking a thousand miles an hour. There’s this crazy music happening in the background too. There are all these people at a concert but you couldn’t even see the DJ. I didn’t know what was going on. I heard this music, saw these lights going crazy and everyone’s dancing and everyone’s really, really happy. Everyone has a smile on their face. I was like, what the hell is this thing? So I dove deeper into that and realized it was a rave, and this is techno music and all that kind of stuff. I found a whole culture behind this thing.”
Soon enough, his curiosity became an obsession that materialized into creativity. He started messing around with a turntable, inspired by the intricate atmosphere of Deadmau5, Skrillex and Zeds Dead. Just like he discovered electronic music on Youtube, that’s also where he learned how to navigate his new instrument.
“I started making music in 2013, but it took me years before I could even release anything or find a sound because I was just twisting knobs. I had no idea what I was doing. I used to play guitar and piano as a kid, but I had never written music before. That was something I had to figure out on my own, watching Youtube videos and learning from friends.”
Shreveport, Louisiana, where Mersiv grew up, isn’t exactly an exciting musical destination. In fact, aside from a few decent venues and Hank Williams Jr., there’s not much to write home about, and the electronic music scene is practically nonexistent. Thankfully, Mersiv managed to form his own community of bass heads by throwing his own parties in barns where he would experiment with his growing arsenal of techniques and songs, always taking notes of his friends’ reactions.
He grew more and more obsessed with producing, and it wasn’t long before his passion transformed into deep devotion. School ceased to be interesting, college seemed pointless and just a hindrance on his path to becoming a professional musician.
“There was a moment in time where I was like, I don’t know why I’m going to school. I’m not enjoying it. I’m not fueled by it. I would skip class, go home and make beats. I figured that was an indicator. My body was telling me ‘hey, you enjoy this.’ Why not just put all my time into music and see what I could do with it? So I made a goal in 2015. I was like, I want to move to Colorado and really try to do this. A year later, I finally made the trip.”
Excited about his future and equally intimidated by the unknown, Mersiv was anxious to begin his new life. With less than $500 dollars in his pocket, he packed up his car and took off to Colorado, bass blasting through the speakers and a hopeful smile beaming across the dashboard.
Somewhere in the middle of Texas, however, his car broke down. Even if he had the money to repair it – which he definitely didn’t – it wouldn’t have been worth it. After selling his car for $300 dollars, he still didn’t have enough to cover the $400 dollar towing fee. He called his dad for help but received a hard lesson on independence instead.
“I called my dad and asked for help, and his answer was ‘you just gotta do what you gotta do.’ I was like, well shit, that’s all you’re going to give me? Cool. But I was already so excited to move to Colorado so the day that it happened, it wasn’t that hard. It was like, all right, I’m going to pivot. I’m going to figure out what I can do, because I know I’m going out there.”
He rented a U-Haul and finished the trip, but things didn’t get any easier when he finally settled into his new apartment. Without a car, navigating this new environment quickly became difficult, so Mersiv bought a used bike and made his way around town that way for a while. Unfortunately, it seemed that someone else needed a bike as well, or at least a new tire.
“I was biking to work and then someone stole my bike tire within my first few weeks in Colorado. That actually upset me more than losing the car because I was like, dude, I’m trying my best out here. It sucked so bad. But it taught me a lot of discipline because I didn’t have money or a means of transportation. I wasn’t able to go out, or go to the mountains or go visit some friends real quick because I was bored at home. It was too much to Uber and taking a train or a bus was a couple hours out of the day just for transportation. So, I spent that time trying to make music. That’s why I came here.”
Looking back, Mersiv recognizes these misfortunes as blessings in disguise. He spent two years without a car, two years with nothing to do except make music, two years grinding day and night, learning the ins and outs of producing, and two years crafting the signature Mersiv experience that’s earned him headlining spots at national festivals, collaborations with Manic Focus, a performance at the iconic Red Rocks Amphitheatre and sold-out shows across the country.
There were two main events that really propelled Mersiv’s musical career. The first happened just a few months after he moved to Denver when he met his manager Tank Reed. At the time, Reed was looking to get into artist management, and he understood Mersiv’s incredible potential.
“I met [Reed] a couple of months into my move and I called him on the phone one day. We had never met before. We were just talking on the phone and he was like, ‘I want you to be the first artist that I manage.’ Ever since then, everything’s changed for me. We just work so well together. We hear each other’s visions and we constantly push each other to be better in the best ways possible.”
Not long after, Mersiv secured a spot on the Electric Forest lineup in 2018. That was the second event that would propel him to national recognition. Originally, he was only booked for one set. One chance to impress the biggest crowd he’d ever performed for — Mersiv seized the opportunity. One set turned into two. Two into three. Five sets later, he left the festival with new fans scattered across the country, eager to introduce their peers to their new favorite artist.
After Electric Forest, things started heating up fast. He’d spend the better part of 2019 celebrating the success of his most popular single to date, “Beautiful & Filthy,” with a national tour, gaining a wider audience with every new city he performed in. It was during this time that Mersiv came up with the concept for his first solo studio album, Pretty Dark Loud, which is set to finally release this October. Although the concept started taking form in 2019, the “Beautiful & Filthy Tour” left him with limited time to work on new music. In March of 2020, however, just three months following the conclusion of his national tour, a global pandemic granted him all the time in the world.
“I had so much time to really dive in and experiment with producing. I didn’t have a due date for anything, so I was just freely and openly creating and channeling my emotions through that. So, it was a blessing in disguise in a weird way. Like for me personally, not for a lot of people because a lot of bad stuff happened. People passed away. A lot of people got sick. But I just tried to keep learning about producing and keep trying to find my sound and redefine it over and over and over again. I really don’t think I would have the album that I currently have if it wasn’t for COVID.”
Although Mersiv appreciated the unique opportunity to devote all his energy to creating new music, the isolation wasn’t easy for him. After four months of touring, performing in front of hundreds or even thousands of people every night, the silence was deafening.
“Being completely cut off, there was a lot of stuff that came out of that, like being angry at the world because we couldn’t do anything. We couldn’t see our friends and depression came with that because you’re just so isolated and totally confused. No one knew when everything would come back.”
Everyone had different ways of coping with the isolation. Some people spent their days outside, taking advantage of open air and keeping their distance. Other people read books, bought a dog or started gardening. For Mersiv, music is what saved him.
“Anytime I’m going through darkness or a period of time when things just suck, I channel that through music. Whenever I create something, it really helps me get through that. It’s like therapy. I’m able to flip a negative and turn it into a positive in some way. With COVID, there wasn’t a light at the end of the tunnel, you know? Cause each month we thought oh, it’s going to be fine. It’s going to be fine. And then at one point, it’s like, it’s probably never going to come back. And that’s what it felt like sometimes.”
His recent single “Forest Creature” with Killa Nova reflects that dark state of mind. On this second single from Pretty Dark Loud, Mersiv guides the listener through a dark jungle filled with strange nocturnal animals, deep bass, mysterious psychedelia and expertly crafted sound design. It’s the sound of your ego slowly dissolving as you accept darkness as a necessary prerequisite for happiness.
It’s been a year and a half since the pandemic began, and Pretty Dark Loud is finally complete. It’s an intimate album that reflects the highs and lows of self-discovery and isolation, an album that represents the collective struggle of surviving an unprecedented global event, but there’s also hope.
“My end goal is that, with my sets and the music that you listen to, I don’t want you to worry about the past or the future. I want you to be really sucked into this moment. I feel like that’s something you do through meditation as you try and experience what the now is, you know? Cause that’s all that exists. That’s what I try to do with my music.”
Recently, Mersiv premiered his album at The Black Box during a listening party where phones were strictly prohibited. He didn’t want to risk any of his unreleased songs leaking out to the public before Pretty Dark Loud’s official release in October. Originally, he was a little worried about complaints from fans who are accustomed to recording their favorite concert experiences. In today’s digital age, asking someone to neglect their mobile device for a few hours seems like a pretty big favor. Thankfully, the crowd didn’t seem to mind. Every person was fully engaged with the experience, just like Mersiv wanted.
With a solid team behind him, a fully realized debut album and a dozen shows booked before the new year, his vision is finally coming to life. With the support of WAKAAN – one of the most exciting electronic music labels in recent memory – and MorFlo Records – an impressive artist collective and digital art platform committed to embracing the present moment – it won’t be long before Mersiv undoubtedly becomes one of the biggest electronic artists in America.