Words: Yasi Salek
I’m a sucker for music that harkens to a time past: a time where things were simpler, a time where there were soda fountains and malt shoppes and there was no Instagram and thus nothing popping up in your Instagram feed that you really didn’t want to see that thus no way for Instagram to make you feel 40% suicidal … but I digress. Mini Death, the San Diego-based quartet made up of Tess Passero, Brandon Jensen, Jordan Clark and Drew Montoya, makes the kind of garage-pop that is sweetly nostalgic and catchy in a way that momentarily helps you forget that everything you have ever done in your entire life is recorded on a database in the Internet somewhere. (It is, you know. And someone is judging you for it).
I recently caught up with Tess to chat about the band, their influences and Miss Courtney Love:
When did you guys start Mini Death?
It was probably a little over a year ago now and it was just kind of something we did for fun. It took a while to realize that I can even do it, because even though I had always been around music, I’d never really DONE music.
So you’d never been in any other bands?
No! When I was younger I was totally that dorky musical theater kid, so does that count for something? I don’t know if that’s something to claim (laughs), but I had always been around music and all my friends are musicians so I was kind of like, “Oh shit, I’m going to try this, and see how it goes.” Jordan and I started it with Brandon and then it kind of evolved from there. We moved to LA for a little bit so we kind of all lost contact. Then moved back and got back together and recorded and started playing shows about six or seven months ago.
How did you three meet?
Jordan and Brandon were actually in another band together called Grand Tarantula and so they already knew each other. Then, Drew, who is the drummer, who is also in the band Beaters, just knew the guys through other bands. So it was like a weird reunion, but it totally worked.
On the drive down I was listening to that Sirius station “Lithium” that plays all the 90s alternative music (with a weirdly disproportionate amount of Pearl Jam), and I was thinking about my personal icons from that era. Who were yours?
I’ve always been obsessed with the Pixies and I was always, always in love with Courtney Love. I guess that’s not a good thing to admit, but maybe it is? I guess grunge in general too. Growing up I had an older brother who had long hair and a flannel and all that, so we always listened to Dinosaur Jr. and Nirvana and stuff like that. Courtney though for sure. She was just so fucking weird and crazy, and that was so appealing. Especially when you’re like, twelve years old.
What’s some of the music you drew inspiration from while you guys were writing the new stuff?
I guess we all have kind of different backgrounds in terms of what we really like. I am kind of obsessed with Roy Orbison. Which is weird because it’s not like our music sounds like Roy Orbison, but I like the simple lyrics of 60s music like that. I listened to a lot of punk when I was younger, and then all the 90s stuff we were talking about. It’s kind of a weird mix and then we put it altogether.
Who are your top two bands you’ve played shows with?
Well, we played with Beach Fossils, which was super rad, at The Irenic, this crazy weird church all ages venue. That was actually our first show, which was awesome because there were a ton of kids there and you’re in this very weird space. Randomly, we also had a really good show with that band Moving Units. I didn’t even know they were together anymore, but they came down and played at the Casbah and we opened for them. It was just a really rad show, and I think everyone was there for more of the dance-y kind of vibe, so everyone was just having so much fun. We played fairly early and it seemed like the whole audience was already shit-housed, so they were all dancing around. Which made me think we really need to make people drink earlier more often. It was a trip for sure.
Okay so imagine you get to plan a national tour with anyone you want. ANYONE. Living, dead, imaginary, whatever. Who would you go on tour with?
I’ve been strangely obsessed with FIDLAR lately. I think that would be rad. And maybe I’m biased because we’re friends with them and they’re from San Diego too, but Mrs. Magician are rad dude, and I just really like their music and I think it would vibe with ours.
What do you like most about being part of the San Diego music scene?
San Diego just has such a rad scene. I mean, there are a lot of towns with rad music scenes. I just feel like here, everyone really embraces each other, even if the other bands aren’t necessarily your cup of tea or whatever. There’s just a strong community and everyone goes to each other’s shows. We also always have random line-ups of bands that don’t necessarily go together, but that’s also what makes it so fun. The scene is small and big at the same, but everyone is supportive and close to each other.
Tell me about the art on your guys’ new 7”
My friend Zeque Pena in Texas did it. I’m originally from El Paso, Texas, and I think that’s also where it got its Southwestern vibe. What we did with this release is we teamed up with an artist and picked a charity, Zeque and I, so we picked Creative Kids, which is an organization in El Paso. But in terms of the art, he just kind of had fun with it. I gave him direction, and he’s just so good at everything he does. It gives off the vibe of where I’m from, the desert-y weirdness.
Do you think the art reflects the sound of the music at all?
Yeah, I do. It’s kind of strange because it’s not like we’re very country or whatever, but it’s rock and a lot of what we sound like is influenced by what I listened to growing up and where I was, so in that way, yes.
What’s in the works for Mini Death?
We’re actually mixing our next EP right now, so that will be out hopefully in about six weeks. We have a couple of shoes around Christmas in San Diego, with some of our buds, Dream Buddies and Sheba Trash. As far as next year, we’re shooting a video, getting our website together, hopefully SXSW, all of that stuff.