Growing up, Emily drew inspiration from foreign magazines and made dresses with her Singer sewing machine, all the while dreaming of a glamorous, cosmopolitan life away from her home in Connecticut. But it was not meant to be.
“Emily, in her one bedroom house,” sings Somerville resident Lira Mondal, her voice floating like gossamer. “Always going in, never going out.”
“Emily” is the dreamy, ‘60s pop-inspired track one off the 2017 self-titled debut album by local band Mini Dresses, which features the band’s co-founders Mondal (vocals, bass), her partner Caufield Schnug (guitar) and longtime bandmate Luke Reed (drums), who originally played bass for the band starting in 2012.
“We found him via Craigslist and it was just the best Craigslist find of all,” Mondal on the phone.
Their song “Emily,” about a suburban introvert, highlights not only Mondal’s delicate vocals, but also her intuitive storytelling, as she deftly threads together the cautionary tale of an aimless designer-turned-agoraphobe whose dreams and dresses have faded.
“I just wrote these lyrics on a steno pad in like five minutes,” Mondal said. “It was a very spontaneous writing process.”
The writing may have been easy, but it took them a while to capture the right version of the song, and it was recorded three years ago, no fewer than five times.
“They now rest in the garden of delete,” Schnug said of the rejected versions.
Their debut album was released after five years of EPs, and many of the tracks are older songs. The oldest one, “Post Office Girl,” was written six years ago. According to an article in Dig Boston, there were many obstacles to completing the album, including “philosophical struggles, financial bouts, and technical logistics.”
“There were physical logistics, too,” Mondal told Dig Boston, “like the act of carving out time to lay down the tracks, do the vocals, and juggle school or jobs.”
Many of those same challenges still remain, plus a major change of plans for Schnug and Mondal. For a few months, they had planned to relocate to Philadelphia, where housing is less expensive. But then, about a week ago, Mondal got a big promotion from pastry sous chef to head of the department at Bistro du Midi on Boylston Street, and they were able to afford Boston again.
“It was all financial reasons,” Mondal said. “We didn’t want to move. We love Boston, and we love being part of the music scene.”
Now there are new challenges. In anticipation of the big move, much of their music equipment was hauled off to a friend’s house in Philly, and they quickly had to find a new place to live in Boston or “they would be homeless in two weeks,” according to Schnug. They’re currently moving their stuff into an apartment in Back Bay.
“Back Bay is effectively cheaper than Somerville,” said Schnug.
“It’s astounding,” said Mondal.
Amid the tumult of moving and the demands of their day-jobs — Schnug is a Ph.D. student working on his dissertation in the visual and environmental studies department at Harvard University — Mini Dresses still find time to lay down new tracks.
Mondal and Schnug have been recording songs in their apartment in Somerville since their album release in September, and they’ve amassed 12 tracks that are ready to go.
“It’s done,” said Schnug. “The logistics of it need to be figured out.”
One song, which Mondal called a favorite, was written as recently as last week and recorded in their kitchen.
“Caufield finished mixing it I think like a day ago,” said Mondal.
Not wanting to give away too much, Mondal called their new songs “a lot more mysterious” and “sorrowful.”
“They’re full of longing and they’re very sad, but also kind of surreal,” she said. “I guess it’s in keeping with our thematic arc thus far, and who we are.”
Audiences at their upcoming show on Saturday will catch the band “at a time of whiplash,” according to Schnug.
“We’re not sure what’s next, but yeah, we’ll keep playing shows,” said Schnug. “We hope everyone knows that we’re back on the grid.”
Mini Dresses will be performing at O’Brien’s Pub on Saturday, July 28 along with All Talk, Peel Dream Magazine and Strange Passage. Doors open at 8 p.m. Cost is $10. Show is 21-plus. Presented by Clicky Clicky Music Blog. Learn more here.
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