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March 9, 2009 | by  | in Music | [ssba]

The Mint Chicks

A week before the release of The Mint Chicks’ third album, Screens, I had a chat with Ruban Neilson. We discussed everything from recording in the Dandy Warhols Odditorium to his favourite zoo animal: the giraffe. Much to my surprise, talking with Ruban was similar to talking with a young child—a little shy at first, very placid, but eager to share. None of the band’s previous success has gone to Neilson’s head, which includes the five Tuis at the 2007 VNZMA and the seven b-Net Awards for their second and most well-known album Crazy? Yes! Dumb? No!. Now back in New Zealand, the boys are currently promoting Screens with a NZ tour which will have finished up by the time this has been published. I hope you managed to check them play at San Fran last Thursday.

Ruban, Kody and Paul shipped off to the US to record Screens away from the public scrutiny they would have received in New Zealand. This has allowed them full creative licence to produce an album “entirely reflective of their current selves”, playing around in studios with top of the line mixing gear to “test how far they could musically go”. Ruban mentioned how nice it was to get away for a while, admitting Screens would have been completely different if they recorded it in New Zealand. Ruban also took a liking to living in an area where The Mint Chicks were just another three musicians, in the big ol’ US of A. Isolated from any expectations or pressures back home, the boys were able to get out of touch with reality and produce a “pure” album that unleashed their inner creepy teenage girls. The only pressure present was what they usually put on themselves to produce something worthwhile. Screens was made for pop loving teens, and would warrant a health warning for any grumpy old men and too-cool-for-school boys. Ruban explained how it is intentionally light, “bubblegum” pop music and how they’re now at a stage where they don’t care if their music is conventionally “cool” or not.

The hit single ‘I Can’t Stop Being Foolish’ is the epitome of this ‘troublegum’ music, proving to be quite the candy party, holding the number one spot on the BFM top 10 for three weeks in a row. Completely feminine and utterly cute, it is sure to be a favourite for the “creepy teenage girls with one glass eye” for whom the album was recorded for. This song reflects how 60’s pop has become more and more influential to The Mint Chicks over time.

Ruban, the artist behind the album cover explained how he just starts to draw and eventually something takes form, “like out of a dream.” Similar to their second, this cover is again a splash of colour with a bizarre futuristic character, tying well to the band’s claim of being from the future. This, as intriguing as it was, pushed me to press for more information—especially about whether the global warming hype was over-exaggerated or if in the future everyone lives under the sea. “It was under-exaggerated, we are from a time when the world is over … there is still good music though.” Well hey, at least the music’s still good.

Do not fret, however, as their song ‘Life Will Get Better Someday’ holds some hope for the listener’s future, and may remind a few of a certain O.C. episode. I asked if life will get better someday for The Mint Chicks. I was delighted to hear that Ruban and his wife are expecting their first child! Congratulations are certainly in order. Ruban also mentioned how his and his brother Kody’s hard work and perseverance is paying off already—proving it’s not what you have, but what you do with what you’ve got. How insightful.

Back to Screens. It was interesting to note how their first recording of the album was considered “far away from everything and anything,” and maybe a tad too out of touch with reality. Jacob Portrait, who helped the Neilson brothers produce, “had a way of mixing the album so it wasn’t totally out of the blue,” enabling fans to reference it to other music of a similar genre. Ruban went on to talk about how Screens is their most original album so far and how Jacob helped bring the boys back down to earth so that the final work was more identifiable to their fans.

After listening through Screens a couple of times I am still more inclined to put on Crazy? Yes! Dumb? No!—a tad heavier and a lot less tween.


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  1. Nice write-up. I’m really intrigued to hear the album. I’m not sure what to make of the songs so far but I adore Life Will Get Better Someday. Definitely need to see them live again one day.

  2. Dear Author,

    Just because something is pop doesn’t make it tween.



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