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Photo by María Fernanda Mollins
As beautiful and desolate as the Baja California coast, Amor Amezcua (drums/synthesizers) & Estrella Sanchez (vocals/guitar & ex-professional bowler!) weave layers and textures so sublime they will leave listeners harking back to the empirical days of early Lush. ‘Pasar De Las Luces’ (Innovative Leisure) is the duo’s first full-length LP (after their homemade 2015 EP debut ‘Primeras Salidas’), and is a record that immerses listeners into other worlds. Touchstones from dreampop (“Ojos En el Carro”) to spooky shoegaze (“Ciudad Satélite”) with nods to post-punk (“El Parque Parecía No Tener Fin”) and krautrock (“Quiero Otoño De Nuevo”), Mint Field’s debut showcases an LP rich in melodic scope while Sanchez’s vocals weave the tracks together as though it were just another instrument. Her breathy vocals sung in her native Spanish tongue intertwine with haunting yet vibrant soundscapes; it is easy to get lost in wandering through its 65 minute running time.
The pair were able to correct the path taken on their EP by having more time and resources at their disposal. Sanchez and Amezcua made the trip from Tijuana to High Bias Recordings in Detroit over the summer of 2017 to collaborate with producer Christopher Koltay (Akron/Family, The Sundresses, Ancourage). Teaming with sentiments ranging from anguish and sentimentality to staggering beauty, ‘Pasar De Las Luces’ harnesses what the girls envisioned when they started on their journey almost two years ago. An extremely rewarding listen, Mint Field is a creative force to watch. The following interview took place before the new LP’s release (out now) with thanks owed to Maddie Corbin at Grandstand Media for the coordination.
JB: Congratulations on the completion of your debut LP, Pasar De Las Luces. With its numerous textures and emotions, it is hard to comprehend it being the band’s first full-length! Can you compare/contrast the songwriting/recording processes between this and your 2015 EP ‘Primeras Salidas’?
Estrella Sanchez: Pasar de las Luces is a record that we love and it was just what we had always wanted in terms of sound, textures and lyrics, since it reflects the evolution of our sound and growth as musicians. When we recorded Primeras Salidas these were literally our first songs, we did not have clarity or experience of the sound we wanted and we recorded it in the most DIY way. They are songs that we like but they’re definitely not “us”. This album is strange, it contains songs that we made 2 years ago, and its other half are songs that we composed 6 months ago. Sometimes we feel that our life is summarized in two years on a record.
We traveled to Detroit to record it in a professional studio, High Bias Recording also home of our producer Christopher Koltay and his wife Julie. We slept there for two weeks and it was just time dedicated a hundred percent to the album. We recorded it together with Christopher; a great person, great spirit and creative soul. We managed to connect ideas in a super collaborative and inspiring way.
JB: There is a band from Tel Aviv, Israel (Vaadat Charigim) that I adore and they also write lyrics and sing in their native Hebrew. I love the fact that they (much like Mint Field); do not cater to the international preference of the English language. Why do you choose to keep your songs in Spanish? It certainly sets Mint Field apart from other bands in a great way!
ES: Well, when we think of a song, what we write always comes to us in Spanish most of the time simply because it is our native language. Sometimes it seems strange to us when bands sing in English and their native language is Spanish, we feel it sounds strange. We won’t lie, even on the album there’s a song where we speak in English and the title is in Spanish (“Cambios del Pasar”). We decided to do it like that because we like how the rhythm of the words go and we feel that it makes sense to us, we don’t discard the use of any language. In conclusion we like Spanish, we like that we can express ourselves in different ways and have a broad language to say it. Sometimes it bothers us that simply by singing in Spanish we reach this stereotype that we do not like; “Latin alternative music”. There is no such thing, it’s just music.
JB: How did you two meet and initially start Mint Field? The band used to be a 3-piece correct?
ES: We met because of our neighborhood, we are from Playas de Tijuana a very small place on the beach where everyone basically knows each other. In 2014 we talked to each other because we knew we had similar tastes, we were both interested in music and wanted to jam. Amor had an electronic song that she had composed, and invited me to play keyboards, it did not work so I told her I wanted to make a band with real instruments. We got together and that’s where everything started. Before we used to be guitar / drums / voice. After three months of playing we decided to put a bass guitar. We played a year and a half with our former bass player. Now it’s just us two and Sebastian our live bass player. The show has always been three.
JB: I was psyched to learn you are both from Tijuana as I love to be surprised by interesting sounds coming from places I least expect. Did Tijuana have a strong, supportive scene for bands or did that prompt your move to Mexico City? Are there any local bands in either city you can recommend?
ES: It is strange in Tijuana because there are many bands, many creative people doing things but there has never been a culture of support. When we started and we were underage we were frustrated because there were no forums for minors, so we decided to make our own shows, our own mini festival. I do not know if there really is a scene that supports but it definitely has changed.
In Mexico City there are more bands that we like like El Shirota and Jóvenes Adultos. There are many more forums, many people, definitely a show here is much bigger but it does not mean that it is better, they are just opposite extremes and everything depends on the band. I think that in Mexico the culture of supporting independent bands is still scarce.
JB: Where do you pull inspiration from for your songwriting? I understand Brian Eno and Cocteau Twins are influences? I think shoegaze makes the strongest connection to the natural world and Pasar De Las Luces is no exception. Whether in the mountains or on the beach, I prefer the genre over all others when outdoors as it is the most complimentary. Do songs like “El Parque Parecía No Tener Fin” and “Quiero Otoño De Nuevo” draw on that connection or is it a matter of coincidence?
ES: We believe that it is just a coincidence, the whole album by itself is connected to us and is a story. It’s funny you mention those songs because they’re our favorites. I think they reflect what we like to play the most. Our inspiration comes from everywhere, our day to day, what we hear, what is filling us. Obviously there are bands and people like the ones you mention that inspire us like Can, Neu!, My Bloody Valentine, Deerhunter, Broadcast, Julia Holter, etc.
JB: How does the band replicate its complex song structures in a live setting? Are there any touring members of the band? Any U.S. dates on the horizon?
ES: The live show is sometimes four or three people. On the album we recorded synthesizers as well as guitar, drums, bass and vocals. In our last shows like NRMAL and Desert Daze we have been four with our synth girl Jackie Mendoza and bass with Sebastian Neyra. The live show is now conformed by four when we can, us both and the bassist play synths live too.
Photo by María Fernanda Mollins
JB: I always like to get perspectives from women in male-dominated industries and am inspired by those journeys as women have more to endure than men. Those journeys are just as important, if not more so. Can you share some of your experiences on the road/in the studio? The U.S. is going through its #metoo movement now that has been inspired perhaps by the ridiculous leadership currently in this country. Is there anything similar going on in Mexico?
ES: Obviously this is a huge problem, which not only exists in Mexico or in the United States but also the whole world. It is easy to see it, even more when we live in a country where most of the musicians and industry is male. Sometimes, of course, we question whether our music is worth it, regardless of whether we are women or men, but we have always tried to think that there is no gender in our way of making music and that is reflected. We have been super lucky and we have never suffered from any abuse due to the fact that we are women making music.
JB: I read an article in Remezcla about Justin Beiber’s involvement with The Luis Fonsi/Daddy Yankee and its impact on segregation and stereotypes Latin artists put up with. Are those impacts you have felt in Mint Field?
ES: We definitely do not want to fall into that stereotype, as we already mentioned. There is this problem that we do not know if it’s only us who see it, but music in Spanish being any genre is always related (to) Latin music. We believe that this is a problem since they categorize you as Latino even though it has nothing to do with the music that is created. We sing in Spanish but it does not mean that it is music of Latin origin. This does not mean that we do not like our native language or origin, we just do not like stereotyping.
JB: How did your relationship with Innovative Leisure come about for this album? It must have been a relief to get the resources a label can provide to record the album because your EP was DIY correct?
ES: The first EP we did it all ourselves. We also printed all of our CD’s, cassettes and merchandise. When we were making the demos of the album, we decided to look for record labels on our own. One day we sent hundreds of emails and only one answered. That mail was from Walter (from Super! Agency), our manager. When we met him he showed a lot of interest and support, he believed in us and our music. He helped us get a label and that’s where Innovative Leisure came from. It was a great relief for us, they now support us with everything and thanks to them we have the support to play and get out our music all over the world.
JB: Was Christopher Koltay at High Bias Recordings your choice to produce the LP? What prompted that decision and how long did recording take?
ES: Walter helped us find the studio where we wanted to record and he mentioned Chris and if we wanted him to be our producer. We were not so sure of being produced by someone else. We think it all happened in the studio, from the first day we started recording or we talked about music we realized that we could produce and make a record together. Basically it was not a decision, it came naturally. We recorded the album in two super intense and very fun weeks. Basically we lived in the studio with our manager, our producer, his wife and their cute kittens for two weeks.
JB: Can you discuss the record’s title and cover art? Not only the meaning of both but also the impetus to the art’s idea and design inception?
ES: The title “Pasar de las Luces” which means the passing of the lights in English, comes from the changes we made during the process of doing it. It was a difficult year full of changes in us and our surroundings, those lights are our events. The art of the album was made by the painter Emilio Villalba, we have been fans of his art for a while and we follow his work. When we were in the process of making the cover we instantly thought of him. The ones we like most about his art is how he captures people’s gaze(s) in a super real way. We wanted the cover to include a part of us. The eye above is of Amor and the one below is of me. On the album and especially in the lyrics, the looks reflect a lot as a form of inspiration for us and we feel that it makes sense both in art and music.
2018 Tour dates:
02/26 – Leeds, UK – Headrow House
02/27 – Glasgow, UK – Broadcast
02/28 – Manchester, UK – The Eagle Inn
03/01 – London, UK – Shacklewell Arms
03/03 – Groningen, NL – Vera
03/04 – Amsterdam, NL – Paradiso
03/06 – Jena, DE – Glashaus
03/07 – Prague, CZ – Underdogs Ballroom
03/08 – Berlin, DE – Loophole
03/09 – Schorndorf, DE – Manufaktur
03/10 – Paris, FR – Espace B
03/13-18 – Austin, TX – SXSW
03/20 – Santa Fe, NM – Rufina Tap Room
03/21 – Denver, CO – Lost Lake Lounge
03/24 – Boise, ID – TBA
03/25 – Seattle, WA – Vera Project
03/26 – Portland, OR – Bunk Bar
03/29 – San Francisco, CA – Cafe du Nord
03/30 – Los Angeles, CA – Resident
04/01 – San Diego, CA – Blonde Bar
04/07 – Toluca, MEX – Ceremonia
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