Under the moniker Tender Mercy, singer-songwriter Mark Kramer crafts works of minimalism that make the negative space between notes as important as what’s being played. With his latest album, War Within — which was released on Oct. 17 — Kramer delves deep into his dark side, creating a bleak, yet beautiful, ambient landscape plumbed from the depths of his soul.
LEO: Who are the themes on War Within directed toward?
Mark Kramer: I think I’m just speaking to everybody. Anybody listening. Especially the second to last line [in the title track], ‘You’re not going to win the war within.’ It’s my favorite line, but I don’t know if that’s true or not. The war within being the inner struggle — emotional or mental. I don’t know why, but [I wrote] ‘You’re not going to win,’ I guess just to be darker than dark. But I liked how it sounds, so I left it. And some people do win and some people don’t.
Why is defeat the outcome?
Because I think that’s where my brain always goes. I don’t have, like, a super great sense of self-worth or ‘Oh, I can do this.’ I’m not super confident. That’s totally why my brain went there. Like, ‘Oh man, nothing else has worked out, and this isn’t going to work out either.’
Talk about ‘I’m Being Followed,’ which features a bleak ending?
I think ‘I’m Being Followed’ is more about subtlety, and I didn’t come out and say it, because it’s boring to come right out and say things. But it’s more about a person, a female, being followed. The second part is about a car parked down the block, and the car is moving towards you. There is a car parked down the block. The headlights aren’t on, but they are moving towards you. This person is stalking you. That’s just overall a males-preying-on-females-type theme. I didn’t really know how to come right out and say it. I don’t like to just come out and say it. I like for things to be subtle.
Tender Mercy’s latest album, War Within, is available on Bandcamp, Spotify and iTunes.