Event Dates

Thursday, 14 Nov

Jazz Cafe, London


For producer Barney Lister and vocalist Kojo Degraft-Johnson, music is a place to belong. Hailing from different ends of England and disparate cultures, they have come together as MRCY, creating a shared space of soulful self-expression that combines the timeless musical warmth of Marvin Gaye with the modern sensibility of Khruangbin, Anderson .Paak and Sault.

Arriving with a fully-formed vision, MRCY have nonetheless hustled hard to make work in their own voice. Over the past five years, Barney has established himself as one of the UK’s most in-demand, genre-fluid young producers, striking up a long term collaboration with Obongjayar and producing the Ivor Novello Award-winning ‘God’s Own Children’ in 2020, as well as his critically-acclaimed 2022 debut album Some Nights I Dream Of Doors. He has also worked with some of Britain’s most exciting pop talent: Rina Sawayama, Mercury Prize-nominees Joy Crookes, Olivia Dean and Celeste plus Glaswegian singer Joesef. Kojo, meanwhile, earned his stripes at London’s prestigious jam nights before going on to provide vocals for an equally-illustrious roster of homegrown artists, such as Cleo Sol, Little Simz and Ego Ella May.

MRCY first met online in 2021, when Barney messaged Kojo after discovering him singing live on Instagram – they connected in Barney’s Brixton studio between restrictive lockdowns, where the chemistry was immediate. “It is full of love and positivity, and means a lot to us.” The guys’ unusual connection places MRCY in the lineage of other unorthodox vocalist-producer duos like Gnarls Barkley, as well as the lineage of Soul greats who have always used songwriting to speak to the current moment of its making. “The world can feel pretty fucked up, and we’re just trying to find peace in the madness,” Barney adds. “MRCY is Kojo and myself doing our own thing for the first time, putting our own emotions front and centre.”

Though social and political chaos inevitably informs their songs, MRCY is also about the need for common-ground. Both in sound and ethos, MRCY pay tribute to those communities that help shape your world-view. Growing up in 90s Huddersfield, Barney started out playing the drums and found his artistic calling thanks to the Yorkshire town’s melting-pot soundsystem culture. In South London, meanwhile, Kojo was raised on legends like Aretha Franklin and Sam Cooke, absorbing the choral music of his father’s Catholic church alongside the raucous gospel of his mother’s Ghanaian ministry. “I’d alternate between the churches every Sunday, and that really informed me – especially the power of a voice to move you,” he says. MRCY’s work reverberates with individual perspectives, but also reminds how those shared experiences of graft, grit and abandon have always been able to bring crowds – or a new band – together.

MRCY not only gives Barney and Kojo a place to belong, but their listeners a space to feel, heal and be themselves. Having strived separately for years behind the scenes, for Barney and Kojo the band is as much about putting yourself first as it is the spirit of compassion, empathy and m(e)rcy that has never felt more needed.

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