Mint Trip Is Eager To Drop Their “Animator” Later This Year! Blurred Culture Talks To Mint Trip Following Their Performance At Madame Siam
HOLLYWOOD, CA- Having grown up studying music, I’m particularly fond of music that’s intellectually stimulating. Sure, I love plenty of three or four chord pop songs, but good songs with unexpected key changes, asymmetric rhythms, or some other musical surprise that makes me go, “What did they just do right there,” always gets brownie points in my book.
Mint Trip is a Los Angeles based band consisting of guitarist Max Molander, bassist Brian Gross and vocalist Amy Gionfriddo and I dig their music, not only because they sound good, but because their music always seems to make me go, “How’d they do that?” … then I sit there and listen to the song another five times trying to figure out how they arrange their music. LOL.
On April 13th, 2019, Blurred Culture and no season was able to host this extremely talented band for a performance at Madame Siam in Hollywood. Since that performance, they’ve release their new single, “Glow”, and we got the chance to catch with them and chat about their music and what we can look forward to.
I’m so grateful that you guys were willing play Madame Siam for us. You know how much I love your guy’s music, and I think I’ve already expressed to you how much I love the complexity of your songwriting. Your single, “Jump Rope” is such a lovely ballad. The lyrical rhythms, and the way the song ebbs and flows … there are lyrics in the song that say, “it’s not so simple”, and I feel like this song, like your other ones, are just that. So complex. How do you guys come up with arrangement? How many versions are there of a song before you guys are all satisfied?
First things first, thank YOU for having us! That night was an absolute blast! Madame Siam is such a cool spot. So many hidden rooms… with hidden secrets…. (raises eyebrows).
We usually have an idea of what we want to say before we start writing any notes. On this album, some of those messages involved playing with the listener’s perception of time as well as moments of feeling confused or uncomfortable. Those moments heavily influenced the arrangements for the album.
Arranging and producing have snuck their way in to our writing process, with the sounds and sonic spaces playing in to the songs’ content and meaning. That means lyrics, melody, bass, guitar, percussion, synth, production…. Pretty much all at the same time. There is not a single pitch or rhythm that wasn’t put there painstakingly or purposefully. It makes for a density in texture that has turned into a signature part of the album’s sound. We have challenged ourselves by trying to write parts that are not confined by musical norms while remaining meaningful and fun to play. What has worked for us has been to push the line and see how far is tooooo far, and then scale our ideas back to something reasonably playable as well as listenable.
It must really be a “process” to come up with something that everyone’s satisfied with, huh?
Some songs from our first self-produced EP had many different lives. We finished producing five versions of ‘Just New York’ starting essentially from scratch each time. By the end of that we were so deep in the weeds it was impossible to hear the song with a fresh perspective. Working with our amazing co-producer Phil English on this upcoming album kept us from falling into that trap, but it still took us three years to finish the album. We made plenty of minor changes while recording but most songs had a demo version and a final version without too many identity crises in between.
The birth of “Jump Rope” is different from the rest of this album because it was only two of us with only two instruments and no “funny business”. This one was just a “how are we feeling today – let’s jam it out and see what happens” type of thing. The lyrics and chords came first, then the arrangement, then the production so it had a little more time to develop in a more typical linear way.
Brian sat me down on the couch in our apartment one night with a bass and a notepad as a writing exercise and we didn’t get up again until we’d banged out a song. Because we wrote it with only bass and vocals, there was a lot of space for bass to take up harmonically – hence the distinctive bass chords throughout the entire track. I think I was actually cleaning my room that day which clearly influenced the lyrics “Jump Rope” never underwent massive changes because we fleshed out its identity so much while writing. By the time we were adding synth and guitar parts, it felt like putting the icing and sprinkles on a cake.
The most challenging part that I remember while arranging “Jump Rope” was deciding how to transition smoothly between sections. A lot of our music fluctuates rapidly from section to section so tying the pieces together can take some real hammering out. Of course, every song is its own beast. Our other ballad, “Virga” was one of those special songs that feel like they just write themselves.
How is the creative dynamic in the band? I know, if my memory serves me correctly, that you, Brian and Max all went to college for music, so there has to be some tension when all that musical knowledge is sitting in a room creating something. Getting to hang with you guys, it’s seems like you are all good friend who like to goof around with each other, but I just can’t imagine when it comes to music, and creating music, it’s that easy going.
I am so grateful for what the creative dynamic has grown into since we first started making music together. Personally, writing is my favorite part of this project. I’d stay in the studio forever and never see the light of day again if I could. Even though we did go to the same school, our exposure to the stylistic, technical, and technological applications of music vary drastically… which means more tools in the toolbox betwixt the three of us, so to speak. Writing with these two is the most fun I’ve ever had. It’s also some of the most challenging work I’ve ever put myself through, but thanks to each of us pushing ourselves and each other in a constructive space we have all grown enormously over the past few years.
That being said, tears have been shed over how we should voice a single chord or how many extra beats should be added to a single measure… HOWEVER we survived, we thrived, and are still best friends and roommates! Even when someone feels strongly about an idea or a detail, and things get sticky in the studio, we are good about remaining respectful and not letting it affect our friendship or home life outside of the band.
We get lost in the fine details of arranging and producing, but that just means there’s passion and artistry in every nook and cranny of this album. We’ve fought for every piece of the puzzle to be or not be there. Every possible chord progression and voicing and synth layer and metric shift… Now that we’ve been writing together for a few years, we’ve gotten to the point where we will entertain any suggestion and give it a fair chance. We’ll try anything in service of the music. Individual ego used to get in the way more often, but we’ve learned to say “Let’s try it and see if it works” and created a safe, supportive creative space where truly anything is worth exploring. Now the tense moments come fewer and farther between. We have more of a well-oiled machine in the studio, and I can’t wait to start writing more once we can carve out some time.
Another creative challenge that plagued us was “demo-itis”. After the writing, arranging, and 90% of production work is done, you can get attached to how a demo sounds because it becomes so familiar after a certain point that it’s hard to hear the song any other way. As cruel fate would have it, holding onto something you’re emotionally attached to can keep the song from growing and developing an identity of its own. It sucks because you fall in love with certain parts of a song that it just outgrows… All three of us had to overcome that for different parts of different tracks to allow the album to reveal itself to us. It’s just the way it is.
Around the time we were finishing the album, I came across a quote while reading “Your Inner Critic is a Big Jerk” by Danielle Krysa from artist Lola Donahue: “I often paint over the parts I love the most. That releases me from the ties I had with that particular part of the painting, and, in doing so, renews the creativity.” This nugget of wisdom helped me learn to reconcile the difference between what was familiar for a song at one stage and what was right for the song moving forward.
It’s been a while since you guys released a collection of songs. By my count, you’ve released 4 singles since your last EP in 2016, “Books”, are there songs in the can that you’re just waiting to record? Will the last four singles be included in whatever album you put out next? ***(“Glow” is now in the mix as well!)
Our first full length album, “Animator”, is coming out this September! All of the singles we’ve released since “Books” are included on it. There are a few tracks that didn’t make the final cut, but may end up in our live set or eventual recordings. They were songs we really loved and invested a lot in and visualized as a part of the whole album, but eventually a project starts to take on a life of its own and it was a big moment of growth to accept that certain pieces just didn’t work with the whole the way we wished they would.
Are you looking to play more gigs “out of the region”?
Definitely! We’re hoping to go on our first tour this year. We have friends in Arizona, Colorado, NorCal, Washington… On top of that, Max and I are both originally from the East Coast so we want to bring the Mint Trip experience out east eventually.
What are your immediate goals for the year. New music. Collabs? Spill the beans.
Album release, covers with friends, music video, connecting with our audience, slurping (NEVER spilling) the beans. We have nothing but respect for the beans, and would never ever spill them. There are only two acceptable things to do to the beans: 1) Slurp them 2) Cherish them.
We can’t wait to GET THIS ALBUM OUT! Priority numero uno. Now that we’re done recording, we also want to spend more time working with the many talented local musicians we’ve met since moving here. The scenes in LA and the Valley are both bursting with amazing people and music – we’re just happy to be a part of the community. Sometimes we can get a little too bogged down by the business aspect of being a band and have to force ourselves to make time for having fun and connecting.
We’ve found a beautiful way to remedy that through putting together cover vids with some buddies. Art inspires more art. We want to share songs that we love. Our first one so far is a Title Fight song with our friend, Alex Andre, and you can watch it on YouTube! Fun fact: Max and I are playing instruments we don’t usually play for this cover! On top of that, we just wrapped filming our next music video for “Glow” which will be out soon!
With this album, it feels like we’re carving out a niche for ourselves. We want to make a safe space for music that’s kinda all over the place, just like us. That’s what my brain feels like right now. That’s what life feels like right now. That’s what’s resonating. Now it’s time to find the people that are picking up what we’re putting down. So I guess we’re at that part of the plan for now. (shrugs) Stay tuned! Stay Minty! WE LOVE DERRICK!! Thank you for asking such thoughtful questions. Thanks for listening, and caring, and coming out to shows, and making us feel welcome and comfortable in a crowded, crazy city. For developing artists like us, it means a lot. <3