There’s a metallic synth sound, almost like a squeaking hinge, in Merk’s latest single ‘H.N.Y.B’. You wouldn’t think a door hinge in need of lubrication is a great sound to add to a music producer’s arsenal, but it works.

The acronym ‘H.N.Y.B’ stands for “Happy New Year, baby,” the words of the addictive chorus (I’ve been singing it for the past three days). It’s a pretty melody that lulls you into false comfort for a moment, but then you register again the squeaky hinges and Merk’s sullen gaze in the music video.

“It’s saying Happy New Year, baby… but is it?” Merk (AKA Mark Perkins) tells Re:. “On the surface it seems to be happy, but I think the whole point of the song is what’s left unsaid.” And the song’s spare production leaves space for us to infer; it’s something off-kilter, something uncomfortable. Or, in Merk’s words: “I wanted it to feel kinda spooky!”

Perhaps the uneasy undercurrent pulsing beneath the sweet words “Happy New Year, baby” is to do with the passage of time.

“New Year’s just happens to be a time when people are musing over this,” says Merk. The older you get, the more melancholy is attached to milestones like New Year’s and birthdays. They are ostensibly celebrations, but there’s a nagging anxiety that maybe you should be doing something more with your life.

In the music video, the moons and suns that frame Merk’s head, and the coffee cups and clocks are all intended as circular imagery to further this point: “It’s the circularness of life, how we just go in these cycles and another year ends and another one begins, and we’re one more lap around the sun.” In fact, the whole video is built around the hero’s journey, a classic, circular narrative structure where our protagonist ventures out, fights their battles, then returns to their starting place unchanged.

No, Merk is not an English major, but he does “just like that sort of thing,” he says. “Not that anyone else cares. No one else will read that deeply, but it’s fun for me for it to mean something.”

Merk will be playing at SXSW in March.

To help fundraise for his trip, catch him at Whammy Bar, Auckland on 11 March.