Merkin Sisters count to 3 and press the save button – Winnipeg Free Press

At first glance, the song sounds like the kind of slow-burning, atmospheric jam pop you might hear in a trailer for a gritty teen drama. That is, until you get to the breathy voice. “I like turning you off.”

Wait what?

Maybe we should mention that the song is called Raw. And also that the act that performs it is called The Merkin Sisters. Yes, as in this kind of merkin.

Winnipeg comedian Stéphanie Morin-Robert and BC physical comedy artist/puppeteer Ingrid Hansen have been long-time favorites on the Fringe Festival circuit for their absurd show as The Merkin Sisters – a mix of puppetry, physical comedy, and dance that features a ton of cheek, butt, and the like. (And who could forget their full-body Cousin It-style merkins in a resplendent, curly ginger?)

“When we come together, we’re this weird, physical comedy duo that is, to some, inexplicable and to others, empowering and feminist and really separates how we represent the female body on stage,” Morin said. -Robert. .

But as the couple got busier (careers, life) and when the pandemic shut down live shows of all kinds, it became harder to connect to do this kind of crazy magic. So the Merkin Sisters—along with their third sister, Juno-nominated comedian Shirley Gnome—decided to decamp to a loft in the Exchange District in the middle of a Winnipeg January and try something new. : making music together. Their resulting self-titled debut dark-pop comedy EP will be available on Spotify, Apple Music, iTunes and wherever you stream music on November 13th.

The project grew out of a Canada Council for the Arts initiative called Digital Now, which helps artists who traditionally perform in live spaces to adapt their work into something virtual. “We thought recording an album would be great and it would benefit our live shows, we could use it in our productions later,” says Morin-Robert.

But they had never done anything like this before, and that’s where Gnome came in. Morin-Robert and Hansen are longtime fans and friends of the Vancouver musician, whom they met on the Fringe circuit.


“We thought recording an album would be great and it would benefit our live shows,” says Stephanie Morin-Robert (right) with (left to right) Ingrid Hansen and Shirley Gnome, but later added: ” Maybe that’s what the Merkin Sisters are.” now.’

“We didn’t know if it was going to be a total train wreck,” Morin-Robert says, “but we kind of found a rhythm really quickly, and it clicked and it worked.” She credits Gnome and their producer, Fake Shark frontman and Juno Award winner Kevvy (aka Kevin Maher), with helping them find their groove.

“We are so lucky,” Morin-Roberts said. “(Working with them) helped us gain the momentum, the courage and the confidence to say, ‘We have a strong team. And together we created this. I’m excited to continue writing. feels like it’s a change, like maybe that’s what the Merkin Sisters are now.

The five songs that make up the EP are an extension of the comedy they do on stage, tongue-in-cheek as opposed to campy. That’s why, at first glance, each track is the kind of catchy earworm guaranteed to pack a dance floor and find life on TikTok – but then you get a closer look at the lyrics, which aren’t just hilarious. , but offer a “social commentary”. without necessarily spoon-feeding it,” explains Morin-Robert. Canadian electroclash pioneer Peaches was an influence. The same goes for Gnome, which received a 2021 Juno nomination for Best Comedy Album for its latest, decoxification.

Diva concerns the menstrual cup. Musk is a country-influenced brouhaha – with the refrain in all-caps “never apologize for your body!” – while After is an indebted Kylie Minogue send off from boss culture. Some tracks are darker; Chocolate is a French song about serving a fondue of the flesh of an abuser.

“In our collaboration, I’m a bit like the black child,” says Morin-Robert, laughing. “Ingrid is more pop and positive, and we balance each other out pretty well that way.”


The Merkin Sisters Ingrid Hansen (left) and Stephanie Morin-Robert have teamed up with singer Shirley Gnome to release their self-titled debut album.

For these veteran performers, immortalizing the Merkin Sisters on an EP was also a new experience.

“There’s a term called ‘demo-itis’ that I know now and didn’t know before,” laughs Morin-Robert. “Deciding that this is how it’s going to be and – whoosh – that’s it, it’s really difficult.

“My show blind side which I just premiered in French at Théâtre Cercle Molière, this show has had so many different versions and continues to morph into whatever I need, or whatever the presenter needs it to be. And having that flexibility is liberating. Because it’s never done. It’s never complete. I can continue to work on it.

“It’s a whole other exercise in letting go.”

But Morin-Robert knows that making anything – a play, an hour of stand-up comedy, an EP – requires not being too precious about it, because excessive tinkering almost never makes things better. .


As seasoned performers, Merkin Sisters Ingrid Hansen (left) and Stephanie Morin-Robert are used to polishing up from show to show. But recording was “a whole different exercise in letting go,” Morin-Robert said.

“It’s like plucking your eyebrows,” she says. “If you spend too much time doing it, it goes downhill.”

[email protected]

If you enjoy coverage of the Manitoba arts scene, help us do more.
Your contribution of $10, $25 or more will allow Free Press to deepen our theatre, dance, music and gallery reporting while ensuring that the widest possible audience can access our arts journalism.


Click here to learn more about the project.

Jen Zoratti

Jen Zoratti

Jen Zoratti is a columnist for the Winnipeg Free Press and co-host of the newspaper’s local culture podcast, Bury the Lede.