BANDSPEAK, Fresh Stream, Interview

An Interview with Mini Dresses & Dee-Parts

A chat with the indie-visionaries who are taking over Boston's underground

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Soaked and seeped in the ardors of clandestine lies one of Boston’s beloved underground dream pop alum, the evolving visionary collective, Mini Dresses. With Heaven Sent as their new spankin frankenmix of recordings and collaborations, the band renews their notes in an album that gleams in sunshine-doubt.

Heaven Sent saunters around themes relating to consciousness and subconsciousness while the spontaneous nature of the music speaks to the expression of isolated emotion and episodic restraint. Their leader track “Rank and File” is fresh now with the remainder of the record releasing on March 22nd! Interviewing Lira and Caufield was incredibly insightful and I highly encourage you to let this listen cradle you in its graceful wane.

With the addition of Tim Mensel, from All Talk, on bass, Lira and Caufield have also embarked on a musical side hustle, independent of their other projects, called Dee-Parts. Nostalgic at heart, their newest self-titled album hits the heartstrings you’ve been looking for. Similar to Mini Dresses in its bedroom surfer-pop beats, Dee-Parts is an experimental echo whose identity continues to contemplate and self-reflect.

 

Boston Hassle: Can you share more about what you want listeners to feel like when they listen to “Heaven Sent”?

Mini Dresses: We hope the listener feels like they’re in on a secret.

 

BH: Speak to the intimate and spontaneous nature of the recordings of this album versus previous releases. What made you want to move in this direction? How do you see this newfound consciousness nested within the growth of yourselves as musicians (or for Mini Dresses as a band)?

MD: Frankly, it was more a forced decision to go in a more homemade direction with this record! With minimal funds and misaligned work-life schedules, we felt the studio route posed a logistical pipe dream for us in 2017-18. We are semi-competent home recordists, though, having made hundreds of recordings of ourselves and friends over the past decade. We’re comfortable in a subtractive mode of production, anyway, though we have felt in the past a pull to sound more legitimate or expansive as a band who makes music outside of bedrooms.

An advantage for Mini Dresses’ home recording style is speed. Many of the songs are written and recorded from scratch in the span of the afternoon. So there’s a process-oriented vibe to some of the songs. You can feel them coming together in the moment, and there’s an intimacy within that, as well as a thought complex. We don’t mean to overstate the extent of our self-production — three album tracks were indeed recorded in studios, at Ian Doerr’s Love Magnet and Ty Ueda’s Mount Misery. That said, it was gratifying to find delight in DIY yet again throughout this last year of production!

 

BH:Tell me more about the production process of your tracks – in home recordings, studio tracks, other pop-up tunes – How did the eclectic nature of your recordings influence the music itself?

MD: Lira and Caufield write songs together, with coffee, in efficient spurts of joint construction and critique. We’ve been doing it for years and it is rather impersonal at this point (though we consider it a delight, an intimacy, and an honor to work with one another)! 20-30 minutes per song, ideally, lyrics taking a little longer. Sometimes C writes a structure by himself in 10 minutes, on the phone, and L builds it out in isolation.

For recording, we hop between computers and tape machines. We’ll set up a signal chain, with modest analog preamps and compressors, guitar pedals, tape delay, and spring verb, trying to find where there is excitement in the room. We have nice microphones, but we also use toys and weirdo microphones from 40s-60s, which often beat out the nice mics in our estimation. Lots of doubling and generation loss. Lira’s takes go fast, with confidence; Caufield is imperfect. No sound beautification allowed in the computer.

Drums are tricky albeit a pleasure. The drums usually are not cut from live takes with Luke playing with guitar amps in the room. We prefer more artificial or improbable mix scenarios than “band playing in a room”. For the first time on this record, we used drum loops and drum machines on some songs. We hope to have a more plastic regard for drums going forward into the future.

We’ll brutally alter any part of a song — structure, tempo, melody, lyric — to suit the recording process. We subscribe to the chicken becoming before the egg in this regard. The song writes itself to become a recording, so the recording determines everything.

 

BH: What artists/musicians/forces of nature inspire and provoke your creativity the most?

MD: We love film, and often make music in response to film. This album was made while watching experimental landscape films as well as other kinds of “slow” cinema (films where nothing happens on the surface, where there are only a few shots in total, or very few perceptible movements). We appreciate formal rigor in sound and image! Weirdly, some Western and noir fixations may have found their way into the album’s shadowier moments, perhaps in sympathy with Lira and Caufield’s fondness for library and “spy” music in 60s-70s. Early 80s goth music and culture returned for us yet again, not in a nostalgic way, but as a kind of semi-strategic and stylized link back to what is happening in the world, vis-a-vis the general depression of now. A more contemporary reference, we were big fans of the TV show The Leftovers in 2017, and, in retrospect, we notice some lyrics channel emotions we had while watching and discussing that show ceaselessly, as the most important televisual event of that time period. Politics lurk in the periphery of the album, though we don’t see it as our project to articulate everything.

 

BH: What can fans expect from you next?

MD: We’ll be playing shows enthusiastically yet sparingly for the rest of the year! Hopefully some more live video and radio appearances, we like that stuff. More MD recordings, too, is not out of the question in 2019.

 

BH: Could you speak to Dee Parts? How do you see the two identities separate from each other? In what ways are they contingent?

MD: Dee-Parts is a very different project. A shadow project, which happens quickly and somewhat secretly with few announcements, yet still not a side project (it is a very operational group, not a lark). Dee-Parts has fewer resources and commitments in the world, so it can make music in an unencumbered way. One EP per month, until we no longer feel like it. It is the darker project and open to deeper conceptualization.

 

BH: Speak to what you mentioned about the band developing a larger vision (despite lacking social presence)?

MD: We want the band to be as extensive as it can be as a project, whether or not anyone knows about it. We want people to know that 1) Dee-Parts can play shows; 2) Dee-Parts is not wholly anonymous despite being allergic to social media like Facebook; 3) the project will continue to release music, continually, because it views itself like an assembly line!

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