Interview: The Mint Chicks

image courtesy of the artist

2010 looks to be a pretty good year for troublegum-art rockers The Mint Chicks – they’ve partnered with new social networking media label Music Hy.pe, released their new Bad Buzz EP on a groovy looking USB stick, and have a string of shows around New Zealand. I recently got to chat with guitarist Ruban Nielson about what they’ve been up to lately.

BBS: You guys did well in a lot of ‘end of the decade’ polls, particularly the one put out by Real Groove magazine. When you were touring/promoting albums, etc., did it feel as if you were doing something really groundbreaking, or just having fun doing your job? It must have been a hell of a ride.


R: To be honest I can’t really remember right now whether I thought about the future or not. I guess when you’re in a band you kind of have to think you’re the shit to get stuff done but at the same time it’s not like you’re searching for a cure for cancer or anything.


BBS: You’ve had some pretty crazy gigs, and I recall seeing you with Shihad at AUT (now AUT University in Auckland, NZ) swinging off the rafters and really putting on a show. Have you guys always managed to walk away unscathed? Do you get worried phonecalls from your parents/partners?


R: Our friends and family are pretty concerned. Especially about Kody. Everybody has kind of gotten used to it now. We’ve been pretty lucky so far. I know a lot of guys who jump off drum risers and amps and break their foot or something and yet we’ve done some pretty crazy stuff and walked away with a couple of scratches or bruises.


BBS: Your work with Music Hy.pe seems like a great way to open up dialogue with your fans and establish a real sense of community. What attracted you to the venture?

R: We have some mutual friends. It was pretty casual really. I don’t know what a fan is anymore. Anybody who likes my band can e-mail me at 3 o’clock in the morning and have a chat or whatever. A lot of my closest friends have everything we’ve ever released. It must have been hard back in the day when you were forced to be a rock star. More money I guess but you wouldn’t be able to go to the supermarket.

BBS: How has the response been to your remix/cover competitions? It’s a great idea, but I see the deadline has been extended a couple of times too.

R: Yeah people need time. On the internet a week is a lifetime but in real life when you have to go to work and school who has time to do a remix? Having said that a lot of people took the time and there’s some amazing stuff that came in. A lot of people piled their remixes in at the last minute so it was worth extending the deadline. I’d never done it before so I had absolutely no idea how many was a lot. 500? 10? I think in the end there were about 50. It seems like a lot to me.


N: Your music videos are already really creative and experimental. Is there something you are looking for in opening up the director’s chair to the fans? Has it been hard to surrender the creative reigns?


R: I just hope somebody will come up with something totally new. I want to discover a new great director. In my ideal world there is the world’s next Stanley Kubrick and they’re going through highschool right now and their first breakthrough thing is a video for us! I guess that’s the point. Getting people to come out of the woodwork and apply their genius to our music!


BBS: Bad Buzz was released with Music Hy.pe after your split with Warner last year – do you think there’ll be more Mint Chicks releases under the MH umbrella? I read you’ve had talks with the Flying Nun, too…


R: It’s possible. We’re still pretty busy doing our current stuff with musichype to really talk about the future yet. We’ve been talking pretty seriously with Roger Shepherd about Flying Nun. We didn’t really split with Warner, our contract just ran out and we didn’t feel the need to renew it. Also we never really signed to Warner, they just bought the record company we were on! But now that Flying Nun is it’s own thing again that’s pretty exciting.


BBS: I’ve pre-ordered the Bad Buzz EP and it will probably take a while to get to me. What can I tell readers to expect in the new songs?


R: I’m so bad at describing our music. I can only describe little sections at a time. One part sounds like the Turtles if they had invented a vocal harmoniser in the sixties. At one point we reharmonise the ABC song. Another part sounds a bit like a rubber ball bouncing and it keeps changing states from rubber into liquid. The rest is just pop songs really.


BBS: How does it feel to have Michael back in the mix? I know that your sound evolved radically when you were a three-piece; how will this affect the cohesion of the band as a unit? Was there an awkward breakup/hookup/get-together phase?

R: It was pretty straight forward. Adding bass back into the mix was a pretty easy process. We recently added another bass player so now we can have two bass players for a while. It’s working out well. After reducing it feels like it would be cool to build it up again. Maybe add a couple more people. Another keyboard player etc.


BBS: Any plans to relocate to Oregon soon? You’d be welcome in Seattle, too.


R: Yeah we’ll get back to Portland in March.

The Mint Chicks’ Bad Buzz EP is out now on Music Hy.pe.  Their upcoming shows are all based in New Zealand, but fingers crossed they’ll stop off here on their way to Portland.

By Nicky Andrews
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