Singer Mereki Beach on Grief + What They Don't Tell You About Love



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Mereki Beach (yes, that’s really her name) is a songwriter and a performer who’s collaborated with the likes of Kylie Minogue and contributed her sunny vocals as the singer of Goldroom. We caught up with her about finding the courage to scrap an EP that wasn’t feeling right, living authentically (read: not being afraid to cry in public), and how she pulled through a barrage of heartbreaks that happened all at once. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram @mereki and @bekind.

HER FIRST HEARTBREAK
“I lost my dad about a year and a half ago. I suppose it was a slow burn heartbreak because he had cancer for 5 years. He was given 3 months to live initially, but then fought it for a long time through holistic means. In November of 2013, I went back to Australia for his birthday. His health had really deteriorated, so I ended up staying there in the months leading up to his passing, which was at the end of February 2014. I was in a long term relationship at that point, but I’d never had a serious breakup and the heartbreak of losing my dad was unprecedented. I felt like I’d almost been living in a bubble up until that point. When I experienced the pain of his passing, it was like, oh, now I get it, now I see what everyone’s going on about. This fucking sucks. My dad and I, we were like the same person. We were so close. And he was young, only 62. My mum and I were looking after him at home. My two sisters, my mum and I were all actually fortunate enough to be with him as he took his final breath. We were all holding him and watched him take three small breaths and then go. It was a very profound experience. Life changing, for sure. But it hurt like nothing words can express.

NEVER PREPARED
There’s a lot of shock in the aftermath of death. It was interesting to watch my sisters and my mum all going through it differently. My mum had been taking such beautiful care of my dad for such a long time at that point, so I think she was really relieved that he was able to go so peacefully. For me, I think that no matter how much preparation I had for his death, I was still totally shocked when it happened. Even though it was really beautiful on so many levels. It was a full moon outside with the moonlight shining into the room and onto him, the iPod was on shuffle and Van Morrison’s ‘Moon Dance’ had come on as he went. My boyfriend at the time and I went outside and lit a fire later. It was very beautiful, but extremely confronting. I think it’s so strange -- death is almost a taboo topic. Every person that you ever see or meet is going to die, and yet we don’t really talk about it. It’s so bizarre to me. Losing my dad really made me question my beliefs spiritually, and my thoughts on what happens when you die. I grew up in a very spiritual household, not religious necessarily, but I was sort of fine with the idea of it all and then when I actually experienced it first hand, it was quite another thing. I was very angry about losing my dad for quite a long time.”

AFTER THE BUBBLE BURST
“It totally changed me as a person. Up until the point of his death, it was like I had lived in this really safe bubble created by his unconditional love. I had this person, this male figure, who loved me so wholly, almost to a fault - we had a really special bond. I always felt very safe and protected in a world that isn’t always kind. So, when he passed away, I felt extremely vulnerable. Since then, I’ve had to work through becoming my own protector and looking after myself a lot more, which has been really difficult but very rewarding. There’ve been hugely positive leaps and bounds in my personal growth because of this loss, which I think can be true of all heartbreak.”

A STRONG FATHER FIGURE
“I always had this really strong male figure in my life, and so it was weird but it was like I didn’t need a partner for that ‘security’ that I think a lot of people crave; I already had it. I was always very happy on my own. I had small relationships here and there, but in high school I was never the girl who had the serious boyfriend. It sounds weird, but my dad and I were almost soul mates; we were honestly just the same in so many ways. We had very similar personalities and understood each other with such ease. When you’re looking for a romantic partner, you’re looking for that sort of connection with someone. I got into a relationship with my now-ex-boyfriend around the time my dad’s health was starting to deteriorate. I think that my dad’s sickness played into that relationship and I was subconsciously trying to fill that void, and of course I needed support, too. Not that I didn’t love my ex boyfriend, I did, very much. But I think it is interesting how humans operate.”

TRIPLE ARIES
“I started to write really angry punk music for about a year afterwards. I have a pretty fiery personality - I’m like a triple Aries. So I got furious. I was so, so sad, but I was really fucking angry. I was like, screw you, why do I have to lose one of the most important people in my life? This isn’t fair and this isn’t how it’s meant to be! Fuck you, world! My dad was the best and some people don’t even like their parents! I was never a rebellious teenager, but when my dad died, I feel like I went through that phase. I wrote so, so many songs. Content-wise they weren’t necessarily about my dad, but energetically, I just wanted to kick and scream and shout. Thank god I had music to direct that energy! It makes sense to me that people who don’t have a creative outlet might go down darker paths to manage this sort of heartache and grief. I was lucky because I got to perform a bunch of those songs live in LA and New York, which was super cathartic. Being able to get all of that raw emotion out was so helpful, I don’t know what I would have done without that, honestly.”

Mereki Tongue

A REBIRTH IN ICELAND
“I was lucky enough to be invited on a songwriting camp in Iceland a few months ago. I was there for a week, but I felt like I was there for a lifetime, it was really strange. Iceland is an incredible place. The people at SEASAC and Downtown Publishing who ran the camp created this beautiful, honest environment for us to write in. We were creating in some of the studios that Bjork had recorded songs in. It was just an amazing experience, and it was freeing, artistically. I started the week on the same poppy, punky sort of things I’d been doing, but by the end of the week I was writing from a much deeper place and much softer. I came back to LA and had a full existential crisis, like, oh my god, what have I been doing in LA in this pop world? I hate all of my songs. Who am I? I had made this EP that was produced by great producers, it was mixed by an amazing engineer, it was mastered, it was ready to be released. And then I got back from Iceland and I was like, I don’t think I can release this. It’s not right, it’s not pure. It was true to form to how I was feeling at the time, but as my first official release, it wasn’t honest to my core; I had gone off course a little, understandably perhaps. So it took me a month or two to work through that. I was freaking. I was so confused. When you’re working toward something for so long, and then all of a sudden, you’re like ‘wait, what? This isn’t right.’ But after that rebirthing experience in Iceland-- amazing, so powerful, everyone needs to go to the Blue Lagoon-- I just came back, and I wasn’t angry anymore. It calmed something in me and took me to the next step in the grieving process, which I think is maybe acceptance.”

HOW SHE MENDED
“I leaned a lot on my best friend who is here in LA, Ashleigh. I don’t know what I would have done without her. I’m really fortunate in that I have a lot of really special, really strong women around me who have been my savior many times. That, coupled with a lot of work on myself. I meditate every day now, I have to. When you get pushed to that sort of breaking point, you either go down into a dark well of self pity and bitterness, or you pick yourself up and figure out the things, any things, that are going to help. I think it’s a lot of trial and error. But for me, meditating daily is something that I have to do now. I really notice if I don’t do that. Exercise: necessary. I really like running. I’ve recently gotten into Pop Physique, and I’ve started doing yoga. My parents have a property back in Australia, and they would have weekly yoga classes. I always wanted to get into yoga, but found it so boring. But I just recently found this guy who teaches at Yogala on Echo Park Avenue, and he’s fucking hilarious-- he’s like, ‘just breathe in, now just let that shit go, just fuckin’ let it go.’ He’s really funny. So I’ve finally gotten into yoga recently.”

THE LAKE
What else did I do? Nature. I came to the lake [Echo Park Lake] a lot. There’s a dam on my parents’ property with lotus flowers and there are always dragonflies. One day in particular I remember that dad and I saw a dragonfly so illuminescent it was like it was made entirely of glitter. Every morning when I was home my dad and I would walk down to the dam to check to see if a new lotus flower had opened up. That’s probably why I like the lake so much. When I arrived home in November there was only the bud of one little lotus that we saw bloom and by the time Dad passed away the dam was covered in lotus. Just before I came back to LA it rained so much that the dam flooded and the water covered over all the flowers.”

SOMEONE TO TALK TO
“When my dad passed, after I got back to LA, I actually had phone counseling for a little while. It was a cancer support line kind of thing, because I couldn’t afford a counselor. It was wonderful. I think everyone would benefit from counseling and speaking to someone unbiased who has experience with whatever you’re going through and who just listens. I found it so helpful to have my own private outlet because a lot of people didn’t-- and couldn’t-- understand what I was going through. I was mad about that for a bit too. I met a woman who had lost her dad 6 months prior to me and there were a lot of parallels in our stories - we would meet up for coffee and talk. Having someone who truly understood what I was going through was an incredible gift.”

Mereki Lake

HEARTBREAK UPON HEARTBREAK
“My dad passed in February, and then I came back to LA in May, and then my boyfriend of three years and I broke up in August. We were living together, and he was there when my dad passed away. And then two weeks after that, my grandmother passed away. If there was ever a point that I was going to break, that was it. I remember the day I found out my grandma died, and, you know, it was my dad’s mom, and I was just shaking uncontrollably and still deeply heartbroken about my ex, and also still heavily grieving my dad. It was just all too much and I was having trouble breathing. I called my best friend in hysterics and she brought over some food and love. To be honest, I’m still dealing with the repercussions of all that. I loved my ex a lot. We loved each other a lot, but it was just one of those things that didn’t work.”

BREAKUP VICES
“Any sort of contact. I don’t think you should judge yourself, because everyone does it. I haven’t seen my ex now for 5 months. But it’s too hard to - when you’re in love with someone and you make that decision to stop seeing each other. That love will never go away. And if you’re making a decision that’s for the better, then you should try to stick to it as much as possible. Communication just confuses the process. As hard as it is - and oh, it’s so fucking hard! I still want to talk to him all the time - he was my best friend! It’s so brutal. But if you ever want to have a chance at being friends again, then you need to have that break in communication for a while, I think.”

SOCIAL MEDIA
“I blocked him on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, everything pretty much immediately. Looking at an ex’s social media is only ever hurtful and counterproductive to mending. It wasn’t until I cut him off completely that I really felt like I had the space to start moving forward. It takes a long time. Heartbreak is hard, really, really hard.”

WHAT THEY DON’T TELL YOU ABOUT LOVE
“He was such a huge part of my life for a long time, and such an important part. He knows my family, he came to Australia with me, and we used to make a lot of music together. We’re on the same publishing company, so we share close friends. We’re very intertwined, which also makes it more difficult. I love him. I always will. That’s something I feel like they don’t tell you: once you love someone, you will love them forever. It doesn’t go away. I think that even when you’re 40 and married to someone else with children, I still think that you love that person. Which is so bittersweet. On one hand, you’re so lucky to have had that beautiful connection with another person, but on the other hand, it’s just so so so sad to no longer have once you once shared. We used to laugh together so much and it was so intimate and we’ll never have that again and that sucks. I do think that exes can be friends, but I do think it takes willpower on both parts, space, and time. I’m still going through it but I miss my ex and hope that we can work towards a friendship in the future.”

EMBRACING THE DARKNESS
“In our society, we’re so prone to only showing the lighter, happier emotions. We’re allowed to be excited or joyful but oh, you’re feeling depressed? You feel like crying? Don’t share that! That’s for behind closed doors. It’s like, no, fuck that. Everyone feels those things. And if they were more widely and publicly accepted, then they would be a lot easier for everyone to manage.”

Mereki Standing 1

THE NEXT TIME YOU CRY
“I have this whole video concept where I reached out to all of my beautiful, strong, independent girlfriends and asked if they could film themselves the next time they cried. I collected all the footage and cut it together with a friend of mine into a music video. You know, real people cry, everyone fucking cries, but for some reason, you’re not supposed to do it publicly. I’m a pretty do-what-I-want-when-I-want sort of person and after my dad passed away I cried every day for nearly a year, which I think is fine. But I ended up feeling guilty for crying in front of people because it would make them feel bad. I was like, no no no no, you didn’t just lose your best friend/compass/biggest fan. I did! I’m supposed to be sad. I’m allowed to cry! Why should I feel bad that you feel bad about seeing me crying? They’re just tears! I know you have them too! I got really angry about it, as you can see. I was like, what the fuck? I didn’t realize that the world was set up this way. That’s silly. I liked the idea of maybe young kids seeing this music video of a variety of people crying, like, oh, wow, these people are human, like everyone else. Everyone’s the same. We all have emotions, and that’s okay! Emotional transparency and honesty in society is definitely something I would fight for.”

HONESTY IN HER MUSIC
“The whole time I was writing angry songs for me, I was also writing pop songs geared toward pitching for other artists. There were a bunch of songs that I disregarded as my own at the time, and now, with this change of direction, I’ve gone back to. There’s this one song which I’m going to release, and it’s very directly about losing my dad. And every time I listen to this particular song, it’s so real and it makes me cry, so I have no idea how I’m going to perform that live. Every time I think about it, I’m like, oh, so not going to be able to sing that. But I think that’s good! I want that honesty, I want it for everyone. If everyone could be more honest and vulnerable with their emotions, I believe that the world would be a better place.”

ADVICE FROM A FRIEND
“When I got back from Iceland, I was back in bed. I couldn’t do anything. One of my friends actually said something really profound when I was telling him about it when I first got back from Iceland. I was like, head in hands, like, I don’t know what’s going on! He said something like, ‘I think you’re confusing negativity with confusion.’ Because I got back from Iceland, and I just didn’t know what was happening. Before I’d gone, I was writing a lot, and I was in this flow of doing things, and then I got back and I was just questioning everything. But I think that it was really important to identify that my confusion wasn’t necessarily negativity. I was just confused about the next step-- I feel like this happens so much in life-- and about what had taken place in Iceland, and what the next steps for me were going to be. So that was really cool. And I was really patient with myself, and I gave myself the time to work through it. And so in the last couple of months or so, I’ve gotten back into writing, and I’m writing from a more honest place than ever. And everything I’m writing feels so much more like me at the core, which feels so good. But that was so daunting because I’d done all this work, and it was sort of like starting from scratch again. But I’m not starting from scratch. Its all a process. I think being patient with yourself is really important. And I’m really lucky, I’m really in tune with my body and really trust my intuition. I think people go against their intuition all the time, and it’s a waste because you always know. You might not want to admit that you know, but you know. I’m not playing live shows at the moment, and I’m hoping to debut a bunch of new stuff in maybe October, so that’s the idea at the moment. I’m dying to get some of this stuff out, it’s just the practicalities of getting it all together. I’m really excited.”

NOT DATING IN LA
“I don’t know if I’m open to new people yet. My ex and I got together when I was still living in New York, so when I moved here, I was with him. I only just realized that I’ve never dated in LA, and I realized, like, fuck, it’s been almost a year. And then I realized no one ever asks me out and I was like, what the hell? But it’s all about the vibe you’re putting out, I guess. I think putting yourself out there takes time, and it depends on how sensitive you are, and on your needs. I’ve taken this heartbreak and tried to turn inwards. I want to grow, I want to become a better person, and I know that to do that you need to focus on and work on yourself. I want to be the best me that I can be and that takes time. I’m such a firm believer that when things are meant to happen, they do and they will. We all think we’re in control but we’re not really and surrendering to that can be so freeing.”

FINDING BALANCE
“I would love a great, wonderful, healthy, laughter-filled relationship, of course! But only if it was right. Relationships are so... they’re a lot. I think to be in a good relationship you have to really know yourself, and you have to have worked through some of your personal demons. I don’t want to put any of my shit on someone else. I feel like I did that a lot in my last relationship. I was going through such a rough time and became sort of codependent. I don’t want that again, you know. I want a balanced, uplifting relationship that I don’t lose myself in. I’m very happy on my own, I’m very independent, and I have great friends. So I’m not really interested in ‘dating’ in LA, per se. It just doesn’t sound that appealing. I mean, never say never, but it just doesn’t sound that interesting. Unless they’re really funny.”

LOOK AT YOURSELF FIRST
“I think there’s a weird societal thing that tells you that a relationship should be two people, like, intertwined and holding each other up or whatever. I disagree! I think a good relationship is two people looking after themselves, and they’re going along side by side giving each other high fives and hugs accordingly. I think that’s a good relationship. So for me, my lesson is always looking at yourself first. In relationships it’s so easy to put your issues onto someone else, and that’s not fair or nice or healthy.”

Mereki Grass

HER ESCAPE
“It’s really funny, I realized this the other day, but emotionally, I don’t actually turn to music when I’m heartbroken. I mean I definitely do when it comes to my own - I write out every inch of my heartbreak but weirdly, when I know that there’s some emotion in me that’s laying dormant, television and movies are usually the things that bring out my emotion. And there’s no one movie or show I go to. But maybe because music is so close to me and it’s so personal, you know, I write all the time, so I have a different relationship to it. I’m trying to go to the movies more often. I think actually going to the movies is such a great way of having a break from reality. So for me, it’s like, give me a break from real emotions and let me indulge in Gilmore Girls or a rom-com and cry about something lame so that my real emotions have some space to breathe.

HER HEARTBREAK SONGS:
"Don’t Forget Me" by Harry Nilsson. "I Can’t Believe We Were Married" by Paul Kelly. "You Saved My Life" by Cass McCombs. "Maybe I’m Amazed" by Paul McCartney and Wings.

A LASTING MESSAGE
“My dad sent me the most beautiful thing. He would get these spiritual quotes sent to him, bless, and I found this one in my emails after he passed away.”

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THE BIGGEST LESSON
“I feel like the biggest lesson I learned from heartbreak happened in the seconds after my dad passed away. It was an overwhelming, oh my god, that’s it, he’s gone. Wow, life is so precious and fleeting, we HAVE to make the most of every single second that we have. This was obviously coupled with crippling sadness and fear of the unknown at the time. So for me it’s about accepting what is, and not fighting against that. Just making the most. You know, shit is always going to happen. There’s no denying that. So it’s not about the shit stuff happening, it’s about how you deal with it. It’s also just about finding that little bit of good, or humor, or a lesson in the shitty thing. Life is way too short to not be making the most of as many moments as possible. Life is way too short to not be doing all the things that you want to be doing. I was like, woah, we’re all going to die, none of this bullshit matters, there is no time to waste being afraid or insecure. I need to be doing what I want right now and always."

Photographed by Ellen Huerta in Los Angeles.