Interview: Mini Dresses

April 1, 2019

Interview: Gianluigi Marsibilio 

In association with our friends at the Italian publication Kalporz, the Monolith Cocktail will be sharing and exchanging reviews, interviews and articles. The second post in this series features Gianluigi Marsibilio‘s interview with the Boston outfit, the Mini Dresses.

Boston is a city that changes and lives through its colleges, underground scenes and germinal countercultures. The Mini Dresses are “imperfect” children of this city and, after a long road of EPs and a first album full of identity and incisiveness, are ready to return with a second work that tells a different reality, suspended between fantasies and dystopias.

Lira, Caufield and Luke present themselves sincerely, telling us about their living relationship with the recording studio and many other things. In the interview they also give us some tips on some pearls to rediscover.

Their latest album Heaven Sent was released on March 22nd.

GM: Yours is a career that has been dotted with many EPs, before the realization of an effective album.  How did your work on so many different EPS help you to write an album?

It didn’t! It was tough to adjust to a long format work cycle. We started making music around 2010-2011, when blog singles were the main way DIY bands projected themselves. For years it hadn’t occurred to us to make an album since there were no resources to do that and it seemed few people would care to listen to us in a sustained format anyway. We even produced our EPs in a brief way, often writing our songs and then recording them in a single sitting. When we felt pressure to produce our first album in 2016, we felt simultaneously well-established as a band and late to the party of our medium. It felt unnatural to us to do something slowly whereas we had previously done it quickly.

What themes did you try to approach on Heaven Sent?

Communication breakdown, empathy that is lost on the moment, narratives of indecisive people weighing their options.

On the album you feel a particular attitude to use and exploit sound passages in a way similar to a film soundtrack. How did the movie soundtracks inspire you?  Which ones in particular?

We are film fans and think of our music cinematically, like we’re setting a scene. It follows that we love film soundtracks. Lira, in fact, enjoys Italian film scores, like those of Piero Umiliani; Caufield is currently listening to the pastoral folk/Giallo synth genre-mash score of Cannibal Holocaust, which is a classic horror soundtrack.

There are a lot of interesting songs on the record that seem to hide very special stories. How did ‘Lady Running’ come about?

‘Lady Running’ is one of Lira’s more emotional songs on the album, about a hypothetical argument, perhaps, that has no direct correspondence in reality!

Yours is an elegant rock. What were your spiritual fathers from a sound point of view? How was your relationship born, so intimately built with this sound?

Thanks for saying “elegant”! We are open-ended music fans, and enjoy rock and pop music at the polar extremes of luxurious/ornate and rigorous/minimal. While making Heaven Sent, we listened to a mélange of early 80s goth and classic country (genres that secretly have a lot in common), 60s-70s soundtracks and library music, some American and Japanese new age, as well as outsider pop like that of Anna Domino, Kate Bush, and Virna Lindt.

How did your city influence you?

We know Boston as a sleek and technologized city that is hyper-expensive and oriented towards university life. A large ratio of bands come from the colleges, circulating in and out of the city every 4 years, which lends itself to an exciting yet impermanent music scene. Established bands struggle with impossible rents and a general lack of venues to play. It is dispiriting, but many great bands come up and foster connections here, which speaks to the strength of creative people who live in Boston against the visions of the city “developers”. It should be said that Boston has many admirable counter-culture histories, as well, which inspire us to make music even when it can feel like there are dwindling local incentives to do so in the present.

What are the feelings about these slightly scary times that you want to convey with your music?

Our music doesn’t have overt political messaging, nor does our band agitate explicitly against the Fascistic tides rising around us, i.e. with confrontational anti-authoritarian lyrics and etc. It’s not our project here, though we are invested in how our music processes and propagates moods from the left. Obviously our music traffics in mood states that render certain political atmospheres, like when our compositions unify around conveyance of depression, indecision, disappointment, etc. The point is to work through those emotions in the grain of the music, as opposed to just capitalizing on them in a cheap way. We thought about this more seriously when our song ‘Sad Eyes’ from 2016 became an underground hit associated with “sad” web aesthetics – what is this stylizing, as a social situation, aestheticized discontent? Also, we’ve been associated with “warm” or “chill” music movements before, which is bothersome. We do tend to work with musical tonalities that sneak up on you, in the background, but they do not necessarily come from a place of idealized coziness or passive dreaming. We want a “dream pop” that can arise from disturbing scenes in reality, not neutralizing it.

During your recordings it almost seems that you love to communicate even through breaths, the simplest sounds. For this album which tricks did you use?

We self-record, frequently, in a diaristic way. The process can be intimate and imperfect, like making sketches. We try to retain that level of contingency and detail in the moment of making the first mark. And we’re tuned in to the textural elements of production (tape hiss, pops and clicks in the voice, self-noise in the microphone). It is a mixing strategy for us to amplify the ambient sounds of the machine, not for the sake of fashionable obscurity or fetish of small sounds, but just because we think it’s worthwhile to preserve the sound of things working in the moment.

In the near future will we see you in Europe or in Italy?

We occasionally travel in Europe, albeit individually, not coordinated as a band. We would consider an European summer tour if we could set a path where we would not go broke or lose our jobs in the states. We don’t even tour in the US for this reason. We would say this: we are probably more likely to set up a European tour than an American one!

Do you have any particular connection with Italy?

Not specifically. We love Italian film and music. Please have us come play a show some time!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: