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The Mint Chicks

The Mint Chicks

Monday 9th August, 2010 3:42PM

The Mint Chicks are back from Portland, their home for the past year and a half, for a wee while to release their third album Screens.

We were lucky enough to get Ruban on the phone a couple of weeks ago and quizzed him about Portland and the new album. Here's what he had to say:


What's life like in Portland?
We live in south east Portland. There are a lot of venues and a lot of bands in Portland but virtually no industry. It makes for a very non-competitive but stimulating scene I reckon. People are focussed on their musical ambitions rather than their financial ambitions or dreams of fame. We feel really welcome there and people seem to find it really amusing and interesting that we've had some success in New Zealand and choose to bury our heads in the Portland scene in relative obscurity.

Have they taken well to The Mint Chicks?
Seems like they’re starting to, yeah. It’s good. There’s been some press. The press is quite hard to win over but I think it’s perfect for us because the press is quite snobby and kind of cynical and the overall vibe there is kind of like really hard to impress but I think because of the kind of band we are it’s not that hard for us to get over with those kind of people. When we first started sending stuff to people we just wrote CDs of stuff of what we’d done and made covers and stuff like that. They seem to like what we’re about like doing heaps of stuff ourselves and all that and kind of just doing everything from scratch. We discovered that over here it was like people just sort of tolerated it [laughs] but over there it’s an advantage I think. So yeah it’s good the press people are kinda behind us now and people are starting to show up but we have played about maybe 60 or 70 shows in Portland and it’s only just starting to pick up. We’ve definitely put our time in already.

Do you play much old stuff over there?
Nah, we didn’t play that much old stuff really through any of those shows because we had quite a big job to try and get it together as a three piece with no bass player and stuff and we worked really hard on trying to get the new stuff together and we’d only play old stuff occasionally when we felt like it really just because…I don’t know we felt that we’d already done that and wanted to have a fresh start.

So tell us about Screens...
It was recorded over the year. Most of it was done in about 4 days or something in the middle of the year, and we built the album up around the initial live tracks because we wanted to keep the energy that was in the demos. We didn't use too much protools, even though it's our most processed and robotic record, the tracking is all single takes and when the vocals aren't heavily processed, there was no tuning done to the vocals, so there was a contrast between really robotic voices and real singing. These days pop records are tuned and edited to the point where you can't hear anything.

I think it’s our most like cohesive and most original thing. I don’t think it’s going to be one of those albums that’s going to be easy to do the “what band meets what band” thing. People ask what it sounds like and I find myself just totally unable to really describe what it is. I think they’ll just have to listen to it and other people might be able to come up with a good way of describing it but I can’t really figure out really what it is because it wasn’t like we were thinking about anything. We’ve always had some things that we wanted to sound like so we could always say that we were trying to channel something and say ‘oh it’s like this band’ and whatever and this time it didn’t have any of that we just sort of made an album that sounded good to us. To me I don’t think it sounds like anything. It’s almost like the first Mint Chicks album, the first original album that isn’t indebted to At The Drive In or Buzz Cocks or Fugazi or whatever we’ve been influenced by. So that’s good, we’re happy with it like that.

How have you adapted musically to no longer having a bass player?
I play an octave peddle now so the guitar is real grunty and low and so that’s kind of bassy and Kody plays certain bass stuff on keyboards. We only used an actual bass guitar in one or two songs, but apart from that we tried to do as much as possible without having any bass guitar in it at all. Some things we just thought to double up the octave double I was doing on the guitar to make the octave sound cleaner and stronger. So all the parts are based around what’s happening live.

What’s been the reaction in NZ to your live show without a bass player?
When it started looking like Michael was going to go to London and we were going to Portland, it was kinda depressing, we were like ‘oh no we don’t want to have to find a new person, it’s not going to be the same’ and then it just felt better, it felt really good when we realised we didn’t have to replace him, we thought well we don’t have to replace him we can just continue and we’ll still be The Mint Chicks not like one of those bands that changes the line-up all the time. It felt a lot better in terms of, not even about the music, just in terms of our unit and stuff. We would add a bass player if we thought we needed to or we thought that people were getting a raw deal or something but I think that people just have to deal with the fact that there’s just other stuff going on now and there’s stuff that makes up for it [laughs].

We love the new video for I Can’t Help Being Foolish, tell us about it...
The video was directed by Sam Peacocke, who directed the Crazy?Yes! Dumb? No! video and also the Walking Off a Cliff Again video as well. We love his stuff. He's super creative and hard working and committed and he sends us these crazy ideas and you can count on him to pull them off. He has a lot of different skills. We just let him do whatever he wants to! We don't even need to be in the videos.

What bands have you discovered in Portland?
Soft Tags is the one I’m mostly into at the moment, they’ve just got a new album and I gave a track to Troy and Troy played them and he liked them. And now they’ve got a relationship with Troy at Bfm and they sent him the new album which I haven’t even heard yet which Troy says is really good. I’m like out of the loop now [laughs]. As a fan, I’m desperate to hear it. We were supposed to play their CD release party but we were here. They’re really good and I think people in NZ will really like them because they’re so influenced by Flying Nun stuff.

Fist Fite are cool – like The Gossip meets black metal. They’re like the only band I’ve ever heard that sounds like they are influenced by Goblin. They were really stoked when I said that too because I guess nobody ever says that to them.

Having just opened a vinyl only record store on the site we asked Reuben to tell us why people should buy vinyl…
Oh because nothing actually sounds as good as vinyl and nothing else is as cool to own. That’s the thing about vinyl, you don’t even have to have a record player, it just feels good to just have it. I know loads of people that collect vinyl and they’re just keeping it there for when they get older and they settle in and get a hifi system or something. I think that vinyl is going to comeback in a big way because MP3 is really convenient but vinyl is so much better. I don’t know its just better. I prefer to put record on than push play on an ipod.

I should tell you what Kody was telling me about vinyl: he said the thing about vinyl is that it’s always sound waves affecting another acoustic situation. Like it never converts into some other kind of information, do you know what I mean? Like the sound goes from the sound to the plate, then from the plate to the record and it’s always just like your getting the sound directly communicated to you in a way that it doesn’t turn from sound in physical to something else like 0’s and 1’s.


Screens out Monday 16th March.

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