The return of Mineral: back on stages and back on vinyl

“I think people who really love and are passionate about music often times want the process of listening to it be more physical, like actually having to take a record off the shelf. I know I’m that way…”

Austin emo legends Mineral released two albums, The Power of Failing and EndSerenading, before disbanding in 1997. The four piece were at the beginning of their relationship with Interscope Records when the friends from Texas decided to go their separate ways. In the years since, numerous bands have cited Mineral’s lone pair of records as influences, their songs providing a cornerstone in the emo and punk music scenes.

2014 marks the 20th anniversary for the band and to celebrate they have regrouped to hit the road again. Mineral have not shared the same stage in 16 years and it’s been almost as long since some members have spoken. However, Chris Simpson, Scott McCarver, Jeremy Gomez, and Gabriel Wiley have been practicing and rehearsing since the beginning of the year in preparation for hitting the road which will keep them busy through the beginning of November. Mineral never properly toured behind their second album EndSerenading as they broke up before the opportunity arose, so fans will finally get to hear those songs live for the very first time.

The band kicked off their current tour with four consecutive sold out shows in New York City, and as they make their way down the East coast this week, they will play Union Transfer on Thursday, September 11 with Into It. Over It. I was caught up with singer/ guitarist Chris Simpson to get the scoop behind Mineral’s reunion.

First off, how does it feel to be going out on the road again?

It feels good. I’m restless waiting for it. At this point it can’t come soon enough. There’s only so much you can do before you just get up and play and I’ve been thinking about this for so long it kind of felt like it would never come.

When did you and the rest of the members of Mineral begin practicing?

Back in January actually, but the tour wasn’t booked until closer to May or something. Over the summer we’ve been practicing twice a week. Prior to that maybe once a week…at least once every few weeks.

With a number of shows already sold out—including 4 consecutive nights in New York and many more on the verge of selling out—what kind of pressure and stress does it add to the preparation process?

Yeah, it’s an exciting way to start the tour, but it’s also definitely adds some pressure to it. Like it’s all set up, the shows are sold out, and there will be people there—so, we just have to be good. It’ll be fun to play the songs in front of full rooms of people because of all of the energy generated by crowds of people. We can’t really replicate that in the practice room…

As you’ve been preparing and relearning songs, which ones did you find to be the most difficult both emotionally or physically?

There have been a lot of songs, musically, that have been extremely difficult to sort out. I really feel like within the last two weeks alone we started to get on top of some of those.

Emotionally…it’s been all of them. I really have been surprised at how relevant the songs themselves are to me emotionally and lyrically. I certainly wouldn’t have thought that over the years. But coming back to them now, yeah …I’ve been able to reconnect with most of them in a surprisingly strong way.

You mentioned back in May that there were no plans to start writing new music. After months of practicing and playing together, have those thoughts changed at all?

It really hasn’t. We’ve really just have our work cut out for us in relearning the material and getting it back in shape for the tour. That’s been our focus. But hey, when you’ve got time or the ability to think about anything of that sort, I don’t think any of us would completely rule it out, but it’s not in our plans.

In that regard, it takes some time. You see Braid putting out a new record now but they’ve been reconnected for probably the last three or four years now, you know, doing shows here and there. It takes time together to actually come up with new material. I don’t even know if Mineral will end up deciding to do that or even be interested doing that.

Do you think Mineral’s course of history would have played out the same if you guys started today?

I don’t know… I’m sure it would’ve played out completely differently. I want to say we are, in a lot of ways, a product of what was going on at the time. It was a real DIY network—sort of set up around the country of bands, zines, and record distros. When we sort of fell into that, that was sort of …just the machine for us. It wasn’t really like the music industry.

You’ve mentioned before that despite all of the “connectedness” current bands have with the internet, there is still a similar DIY/underground culture much like Mineral experienced back in the day. With that said, what are some of the biggest differences you see between bands these days and those from Mineral’s time?

Well, I think the internet is the biggest difference. When we put out a website at the end for Mineral, it was really early on when bands were adding websites. That and social media is like—the obvious. The networking potentials of those resources are enormous and something we didn’t have back in the days when Mineral was playing. We had to book tours on phones, like actual phones that plugged into the walls. When we went on tour and wanted to talk to our girlfriends back home, we had to use a pay phone…

Did it feel weird when you guys had to start making social media profiles, like Facebook and Twitter, when you decided to get back together?

No, not really. One of our really good friends has been sort of pounding us for several years now about doing something with Mineral. She’s been taking on managing the reunion affairs. They’ve been really good at all that stuff and telling us “Whoa, you’ve got to have this, and this and this…”

It’s weird, for sure, but it’s just sort of how things work now. It’s how you communicate with people now. It’s just an easy, free resource and way to dive in this enormous pool of information that people can easily access.

Along with the reunion tour, both albums are being reissuing individually on vinyl and together as a 2CD comp. What made you decide to bring these two albums back and repress them?

Well, we only have two albums and I feel like if you’re going to reissue albums I think you should have them on vinyl. It feels a little more just to keep them as their own individual products with their own individual artwork. I mean, we enhanced the packaging and remastered them, but we kept them essentially as intended as a piece of work, as a record.

And I mean, when it comes to CDs, to me they’re like coasters at this point. I mean like, what are they? People still use them? If we’re going to put out CDs, which is easy to do and much cheaper than putting out vinyl, we might as well just put as much on one product as possible.

Are you surprised to see fans still very much interested in owning albums on vinyl in an age where you can get access to millions of songs for a small monthly fee?

Well, I think the two are entirely disconnected. I think it’s like people who really love and are passionate about music often times want the process of listening to it to be more physical, like actually having to take a record off the shelf. I know I’m that way. At home I listen to a lot of records…I like seeing the artwork really big and having something in my hands to turn over.

But at the same time I listen to a lot of music digitally as well. It’s a great way to explore new music. I guess a lot of people are down on the Spotify thing. I do think it’s a shame that Spotify doesn’t pay more royalties per play. But at the same time, if you’re someone like Radiohead, you can hold out and say “We’re not going to do that.” That’s not going to matter, people are going to hear your music. If you’re a smaller band, it’s like—why wouldn’t you put your music on this one humongous resource where anyone can listen to it?

So, you kind of already answered this but you do have your own record collection?

Yeah.

What are some of your most prized pieces in it?

Uhhh, I don’t know. I’m not a collector in the sense of looking for first editions or being super concerned about which label is on it or what pressing it is. I just like to have records that I like to listen to. So, my most prized possessions are just my favorite records, ya’ know? Like Van Morrison …some Gary Nelson records. I have some Thelonious Monk records that are some of my favorite records to put on to listen to. It doesn’t matter if I have a perfect copy of it, or what value the certain copy I have is. I just like having it.

With that said, a quick search online brings up older pressings of your albums for sale for quite a bit more than what they were initially sold for. How does it feel to see these albums being so sought after and going for so much?

Well yeah, it’s like a catch 22 because it’s great to know that people want something so much and that there’s still such an interest in it, but the best thing about doing these reissues is that people will be able to get way better sounding versions of these records without having to pay a ton of money.

I’m sure some super fans or collectors will still pay a lot to own the early editions, but that’s their decision. But for the dude that’s just like “I gotta have this record on vinyl. I guess I have to pay $200 or whatever for it…” he has another option now.

And you know, someone who would sell a record for that much? I don’t know…I’d like to take that out of their hands too!

Check out Mineral Thursday night at Union Transfer with Into It. Over It. Tickets are available here. Visit Mineral’s official website to get a full list of upcoming tour dates.

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