Roll of the ’dise 

Noise-pop act Merchandise is something of a ghost on the Internet — a rarity in this digital age. It takes some deep Googling to find it.

And yet the group is finding its way, only recently accepting the help of a publicist and booking agent … and only because lead singer Carson Cox met them through hosting shows across his hometown of Tampa and touring nationally with defunct punk and hardcore bands.

“People are starting to hear about us now, but we’ve been a part of DIY touring networks since 2007,” Cox said. “We were nurtured by the underground and punk kids who didn’t care what the press said or what albums were coming out on major indie labels. You want a show, and they got you a show.”

That same network brought Merchandise to a house show in Oklahoma City last spring — a fact that escapes most everyone except those there and the friends they gushed to afterward. However, as hushed as Merchandise had kept its goings-on, its acclaimed second album, Children of Desire, started to leak out beyond that narrow scope.

Rather than shy away from the spotlight, Cox and company have embraced the opportunities.

“It’s not always the most righteous thing, that scene. You can’t say it’s all good, because it’s not,” Cox said. “There’s a lot of elitism. There’s a lot of favoritism. I have friends who play in bands that deserve more opportunities than they are given because they aren’t cool enough. I don’t believe in that dogma. We can’t be a DIY-only band, because we aren’t cool enough to play all those places.”

Those who have heard Desire might beg to differ. The sweeping work is a triumphant one, if inspired by less grand circumstances.

“My city is miserable,” Cox said. “A lot of the people around me there were just destroying themselves. No one knows where they are going, and take that out on each other.”

Musically, the six-song effort is inspired by things as varied as Bob Dylan, Miles Davis, Suicide and the duo of Rodgers and Hammerstein.

“I didn’t want to put out a classic-rock record,” Cox said, “but at the same time, I think that we did.”

Even as more people sing along at shows (like Monday's free concert in Norman alongside Ringo Deathstarr, Chud and Depth & Current), Merchandise is more than comfortable with coming out of the underground if it gives them the chance to affect just one more person.

“Last night, a girl emailed us with a poem she wrote, inspired by the record, saying how touched she was by it,” Cox said. “People have been personally touched by it, which is what I’ve always wanted to happen. I couldn’t care less if critics like it. People who are trying to connect with new music, that’s who I am playing for.”

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