Mercury Rev unofficial FAQ
last revised: December 2009

Section I. Band Members
Section II. Meanings
Section III. the rest


SECTION I. Band Members

Who was in the band when they played live... (during ______ tour)?
YERSELF IS STEAM era Jonathan Donahue - vocals, guitar
David Baker - vocals
Grasshopper - guitar
Dave Fridmann (some shows) - bass
John DeVries (other shows) - bass
Suzanne Thorpe - flute
Jimy Chambers - drums
BOCES era Jonathan Donahue - vocals, guitar
David Baker - vocals
Grasshopper - guitar
Gerald Menke - bass
Suzanne Thorpe - flute
Jimy Chambers - drums
SEE YOU ON THE OTHER SIDE era Jonathan Donahue - vocals, guitar
Grasshopper - guitar, vocals
Jason Russo - bass
Justin Russo - keyboards
Adam Snyder - keyboards [organ]
Suzanne Thorpe - flute
Jimy Chambers - drums
DESERTER'S SONGS era Jonathan Donahue - vocals, guitar
Grasshopper - guitar, vocals, harmonica
Jason Russo - bass
Justin Russo - keyboards
Adam Snyder - keyboards [organ]
Jeff Mercel - drums
ALL IS DREAM era Jonathan Donahue - vocals, guitar, saw
Grasshopper - guitar, vocals
Paul Dillon - bass
Anthony Molina - keyboards
Michael Schirmer - keyboards
Jeff Mercel - drums
THE SECRET MIGRATION era Jonathan Donahue - vocals, guitar
Grasshopper - guitar, vocals
Jeff Mercel - keyboard
Anthony Molina - bass
Jason Miranda - drums


What happened to... (this former band member)?
David Baker David Baker was asked to leave Mercury Rev after touring for Boces was completed.
"Dave had very definite ideas of what he wanted to do musically that weren't very compatible to what we wanted to do. We were moving toward a more melodic direction," explained Suzanne in an interview.
Though Jonathan basically said the opposite in a different interview: "It was personality. That’s what it boils down to. He didn’t write any music or anything, so it didn’t have anything to do musically. There was a lot of personality clashes between him and some of us, and it seemed like it wasn’t becoming productive to make music any more. It was too difficult."
After leaving Mercury Rev, David released an album under the name Shady in 1994, featuring the talents of many of his musical acquaintances.
Apparently, he's on friendly terms with the band and meets with them when they play in his home city, Chicago.
Not much else is known of Baker's current activities. In the mid 90s, he produced several tracks for a band from Denton, TX called Comet. And in 1998, he produced an EP for a Chicago band called Marvelkind. A few years ago, rumors claimed he was teaching himself to play guitar, and had a loose band assembled with a drummer and saxophonist, though I'm not sure if anything ever came of that.
Suzanne Thorpe Suzanne left the band after the recording of Deserter's Songs. She did return to contribute to the recording of All Is Dream, however.
Word is, after leaving the band, she went back to school in New York, studying Forensic Sciences.
Suzanne has also spent time in recent years playing music with Jimi Shields (ex-Rollerskate Skinny, also worked on David Baker's Shady project, and brother of Kevin Shields of My Bloody Valentine). The duo has played several shows in New York and London under the name The Wounded Knees, though no recordings have yet been released.
A nice article on Suzanne can be found here at Metroland Online.
Jimy Chambers Jimy also left around the time Deserter's Songs was completed, wanting to focus on his own music. His current band is called Odiorne. Again, there don't seem to be any hard feelings between him and Mercury Rev, as his band opened for them at a show in NY in April '99. An EP was released June '02, and a full-length came out mid-2005.
Adam Snyder Adam, too, left the band to concentrate on his own music. After parting ways with the band in 2000, Adam has toured the world and released a solo CD. Currently, he spends his time writing a new magazine that is published once a month and recording in the Kingston area.
Jason Russo Also leaving in 2000, Jason wanted to devote his time to the other band he's had for years, Hopewell. Jason has since returned a few times to lend his talents in the studio during Mercury Rev recording sessions, and in fact a Rev/Hopewell collaboration called "Beatuiful Targets" was also recorded.
Justin Russo Like the above two, Justin left in 2000, choosing to work on his own music. He also left Hopewell, his brother's band, to focus on his own band, The Silent League. They put out an album in 2004, and another in 2010.
Dave Fridmann Trick question! Dave Fridmann never really left the band. He's still the bassist for Mercury Rev, though he doesn't tour with the band these days. Instead, Dave keeps busy running his studio and being with his family. In August of 2001, Dave joined the band again on stage for a pair of shows in Japan, marking what was likely his first live appearance with them since 1993.


I'm nosey.. Can you give me some personal info on the band members?

Well, maybe just a little...

Jonathan Daniel Donahue - born May 6, 1966
Sean Thomas "Grasshopper" Mackowiak - born 1967
David Lawrence Fridmann - married.
Jeffrey S. Mercel
James Joseph Chambers
David Brian Baker
Adam J. Snyder
Jason S. Russo

Do they have an official website?
Mercury Rev's official site or
Dave Fridmann's official site
Anthony Molina's official site
Adam Snyder's official site
Hopewell's official site
The Silent League's official site
Michael Schirmer's bio site
James Shaw (Rev's tour manager / sound engineer)
Jen Hathaway (All Is Dream cover artist)
Odiorne official site
The Wounded Knees official site



SECTION II. meanings

What is the meaning being behind the name... ______?
"Mercury Rev" There's not really a definitive answer for the relevance of the band's name, though several theories have been offered.
Grasshopper says, "Mercury Rev is a name that does not really mean anything. We just liked the juxtapostion of the two words. Mercury as in the planet or alchemy or also a US-made automobile...and rev as in 'reving' or steping on the accelerator of a car. Also, in french rev means dreams, or rev as short for revolution (spinning in circles). So it has many different meanings on many levels, as do many of our lyrics."
The name came along during the band's early days when they'd record at their college's studio. "Every time Jon would come into the studio, whatever band name was on the track sheet the last time was scratched out and some other name would be there instead," Fridmann recalls. "Eventually 'Mercury Rev' appeared - I'm not even sure that name came from us - and it kept staying."
"Yerself Is Steam" A play on the phrase "your self-esteem."
"Lego My Ego" A play on the phrase "Leggo my Eggo," an old slogan for Eggo brand frozen waffles.
"Boces" (BO-seez) BOCES stands for Board of Cooperative Education Services. It's a sort of alternative high school in western New York. You go to BOCES if you can't make it through regular high school. They teach cosmetology, engine repair, etc.
David Baker: "It's a vocational school in New York State, when your guidance counsellor sells you short. You might want to go to college, but they say, 'no, take a look at this school' where you can learn a vocation like bricklaying, book accounts or flipping hamburgers. It's also a place for retarded people and a lot of losers. We didn't even need any training. When we started, we were doing a lot of jobs that you'd probably aspire to if you went to the school, like flipping hambergers. Kids in the playground can call you a Botard, especially if you do something stupid. So we figured it's where we're from, so we should give a tribute in the title."
"Deserter's Songs" Jonathan has said "Deserter's Songs" deals with the several loved ones who passed away during the writing/recording of the album.
In an article/interview with Grasshopper, however, there's a different origin: Catskill friends Levon Helm and Garth Hudson of The Band sat in on two tracks. Their presence weighed so heavily that Mercury Rev adopted the term ‘deserter’s songs’, from a phrase used to ascribe The Band’s deserting of the music industry both musically and literally back in the sixties. When Hudson nails down a wandering sax line on the song about that other famous Hudson, the river,(The Hudson Line) the circle remains unbroken. The baton not so much passed as shared.
Rev fan, Andy, adds: If you've never read Greil Marcus's book Invisible Republic, I'd recommend it for fans of Dylan or the Band. It's about Bob Dylan and the Band and the Basement Tapes they recorded in 1967 (or there abouts). He rambles on about the search for America through song, the songwriter as outsider, writing songs that stand outside of time, the dark history of American folk/pop blah blah blah... but check out this quote from the foreward of Invisible Republic: "...'deserter's songs', a skeptic called the basement tapes in 1994, catching an echo of a few people holed up to wait out the end of the world".
Apparently, the Jonathan has acknowledged this reference in interviews.
"Grasshopper" Grasshopper's real name is Sean Mackiowiak, whose surname means "poppy" in Polish, and was mutated into "Hoppy" and finally "Grasshopper" by childhood friends. (At least, that's one of the theories behind the nickname.)
In an online chat once, he said, "It was just a nickname I got as a child, because I was hyperactive and jumped around. My grandfather's nickname was Flip - we all kind of got nicknames, and I'm stuck with it. Haha."
"Opus 40" It's a "monumental environmental sculpture" in Saugerties, New York. For a picture of it and some background info, visit


SECTION III. the rest

Are there any plans for a Mercury Rev live album?

There seems to be a good chance of it.
In an August '99 chat, Grasshopper said, "We may release some live recordings at some point. We tape every show."
And in 2002, James Shaw, the band's sound engineer said, "I wouldn't hold your breath, but somewhere over the rainbow... Every show is not necessarily "professionally recorded", though all the shows are recorded with some rare exceptions due to technical reasons. I record all the shows from the sound desk with some microphones on the audience mixed in, but these recordings are rarely good enough for a "pro" live album. Though some of these recordings have showed up on the web site and on the B-Sides of the Dark Is Rising UK and EU singles/DVD. Once in a blue moon the show is multi-tracked, and a collection of these is slowly building, to see the light of day."

How about another rarities album?

Yeah, maybe. Here's an except from an interview with Grasshopper..
"This record (Deserters) is also a lot different in that we've learned a lot of production and miking and stuff. That got to be pretty easy with guitars and that, but when we started using saws and all the violins, it gets a lot tougher to get it on tape and have everything in its space. That took a while - it was a lot of trial and error, and sometimes it didn't work. We had to throw out a bunch of stuff, some instrumentals we tried." Some of the material may see release as future b-sides, and Grasshopper hopes to see a Lego My Ego Vol. 2 including some of this material as well as other unreleased projects recorded since the release of the first volume.

Update: A 2-disc collection called The Essential Mercury Rev : Stillness Breathes 1991-2006 includes a second disc containing various rare tracks, most of which previously available as b-sides or on compilations.

Does the band allow taping of their live shows?

Scott Judd says, "rev's concert soundman told me in person several months ago that they encourage taping of shows, and he has since proven that by getting me past security at least once to do so, though he has also qualified that by allowing microphone-only recording, NO soundboard feeds."

What's the Tettix Wave Accumulator?

The band uses this piece of equipment from time to time, such as in the hidden track at the end of Deserter's Songs and on the track "A Kiss From An Old Flame" on SYOTOS.
Grasshopper says, "A tettix wave is a musical machine that jonathan and I invented with U.S. patent pending..."
Someone on the rev mailing list adds,"The Tettix wave accumulator takes up most of the room in Grasshoppers basement. A smaller version has been used on the road. I believe both Jonathan and he built it. I do not know whose idea it was originally."
I found another article, in which Grasshopper says, "The Tettrix was an idea I had to get a bunch of oscillators and, instead of controlling them through a synthesizer, I worked it so that you could plug anything into it and also store it on disc."

What's up with that red, white, and blue curved star that Mercury Rev seem to sometimes use as their logo?

It's actually the American Revolution Bicentennial symbol. The Rev have used it as far back as their first single (Car Wash Hair).

What's up with the line in "Frittering" about a glacier making its way down to the _____?

The thinking was, it was probably rind. Rind is a an ice that forms on top of mountains that are in the cloud deck. The moisture from the clouds forms a thick ice that will gradually accumulate and if it stays cold enough, long enough a glacier will form. If you chip away the glacier you will only have dirty old rind ice.
Chemmie sets it straight, "the glacier makes it's way down to the Rhine. This is official - from the typing fingers of Dave Fridmann, no less. It's 'slow as a glacier' and 'bottom of yer room' (which sort of rhymes with soon)."
The Rhine is a big river in Germany.
But Jonathan was likely referring to the Rhinecliff hotel, a place in upstate New York where the Rev and Harmony Rockets used to play often. Adam Snyder has recently played some solo shows there, by the way.

Why don't they ever play songs from Boces live anymore?

Since touring for the album in 1993 and asking David Baker to leave the band, they've rarely performed Boces songs live, with the possible exception of "Boys Peel Out", which didn't completely fall off setlists till the All Is Dream tour. Also, "Downs Are Feminine Balloons" was performed at least once since, in Los Angeles in April 1999.
In a 1996 interview, Jonathan explained his apparent aversion towards the album: "Boces was really painful to make. There was a lot of drug abuse and alcoholism, just a lot of tough times making it. I love it a lot, but it’s kind of like seeing an ex-girlfriend where you had a really painful breakup, and it’s just not easy going up to her every night and saying, ‘Hey, how’s it going, how’s your new boyfriend.’ It’s one of those situations, so every once in a while we’ll choose something off there, but we really gotta work up to it."

Who is Paul Sharits? (regarding the obscure Rev b-side "The Left-handed Raygun of Paul Sharits")

I don't really know much about him, but I believe he was an avant-garde New York film-maker in the 70's. Vega Rd adds: "One of Paul Sharits' films is called Ray Gun Virus. and he used to teach at the University of Buffalo where Grasshopper and David Baker studied something to do with films (didn't they?). but i dunno if they were students of his, i think he worked there before their time. sharits died in 1993."

Who is Robert Creeley? (regarding the Rev b-sides "So There" and "I Drempt")

Robert Creeley was a prolific, influential poet who went on to become a professor of poetry at SUNY Buffalo. Says Jonathan: "I took a lot of English classes with him, he’s a great poet and a big influence. I can’t remember if I ever even graduated…I don’t think I did, because I went out on tour and stuff like that. Creeley grew to become our—what’s the word?—mentor or something. We studied and we talked with him a lot just about different things, we were really in love with what he was doing and still are."
Creeley died in March 2005 at the age of 78.
For more info:


How many Peel Sessions have the Rev done?


first one (recorded 27/8/91; broadcast 5/10/91):
chasing a bee (chasing a girl [inside a car])
syringe mouth
coney island cyclone

second one (broadcast 14/8/93; rptd 17/12/93)
trickle down
boys peel out
downs are feminine balloons

third one (broadcast 29/7/95)
everlasting arm
i only have eyes for you
racing the tide
close encounters of the third grade

fourth one (rec. May 5, 99; b'cast May 25, 99)
i don't wanna be a soldier
the funny bird
tonite it shows
observatory crest

fifth one (rec. Oct 11, 01; b'cast. Nov 15 01)
Tides Of The Moon
Little Rhymes
Spiders & Flies
Planet Caravan
Gymnopedie 3

These were all compiled and released on cd in 2009 on Mercury Rev - The Complete Peel Sessions.

What songs have Mercury Rev covered over the years?

Here is an almost/kinda complete list:

If You Want Me To Stay (Sly & The Family Stone)
Flowers (Psychedelic Furs)
Rockaway Beach (Ramones)
Ghost Town (Specials)
When You Wish Upon A Star [popularized by Jiminy Cricket]
Freebird (Lynyrd Skynyrd)
Cortez The Killer (Neil Young)
Young Man's Blues (Mose Allison) [popularized by The Who]
Mystery Achievement (The Pretenders)
Tears of Rage (The Band)
Ocean (Lou Reed/Velvet Underground)
The Sun Machine [Memory of a Free Festival] (David Bowie)
Vampire Blues (Neil Young)
Philadelphia (Neil Young)
Isolation (John Lennon)
Tugboat (Galaxie 500)
Into My Arms (Nick Cave)
I Only Have Eyes For You [popularized by Art Garfunkel, among others]
2000 Light Years From Home (Rolling Stones)
I Don't Wanna Be A Soldier (John Lennon)
Silver Street (The Jacobites)
Motion Pictures (Neil Young)
He Was A Friend of Mine (Bob Dylan) [popularized by The Byrds]
Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head (Burt Bacharach)
Caroline Says II (Lou Reed)
Observatory Crest (Captain Beefheart)
Moolight Mile (Rolling Stones)
Not Dark Yet (Bob Dylan)
Planet Caravan (Black Sabbath)
Blue Skies (Irving Berlin)
I Keep A Close Watch (John Cale)
Streets Of Laredo (Marty Robbins)
The Jean Genie (David Bowie)
Afraid (Nico)
Tennessee Blues (Bobby Charles)
Gotta Serve Somebody (Bob Dylan)
God (John Lennon)

How about songs they just covered a little bit of (but not close to the entire song)?

Shh/Peaceful (Miles Davis)
The Tide Is High (Blondie)
There You Are (Flaming Lips)
Steppin' Out (Joe Jackson)... sometimes done at the end of "Boys Peel Out"
Once In A Lifetime (Talking Heads).. sometimes done at the end of "Opus 40"
I've Got A Golden Ticket (from the film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory){not counting Harmony Rockets}
Pure Imagination (from the film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory)
The Wondrous Boat Ride (from the film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory)
The Way We Were (Barbra Streisand).. sometimes done in the middle of "Frittering"

Who have Mercury Rev opened for over the years?

here are a few..(in somewhat chronological order)

Bob Dylan (one show: Yale University, 1991)
Flaming Lips
Porno For Pyros
Dinosaur Jr
My Bloody Valentine
Jesus and Mary Chain
Bob Mould
Buffalo Tom

that's all the Q's I got for now.
go ahead and send me any questions, corrections, comments.

for more info, be sure to check out the 'discography' and 'articles' sections of this site.