Mini Dresses haven’t left our radar since their arrival in the Boston music scene, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. The dream pop outfit kicked off the 2016 round of Converse Rubber Tracks shows with Deerhunter at the Sinclair and have been popping up on the odd bill with your local faves Vundabar, Major Stars, and new label mates Horse Jumper of Love, as well as Montreal based TOPS.
Their self-titled was released on Joy Void last month – it’s a lo-fi, high impact album packed with crunchy harmonies, Garageband recordings, and tape hiss. We were able to hang with the band in anticipation of this release back in December of 2016 and the final product is exactly as foreshadowed.
We are especially excited to premiere the music video for the track we got a peak at during that last interview, “Hands Down!”
Speaking to us about the music video, Lira and Caulfield gave some insight into the artistic vision behind the video and the track’s songwriting. Read on for some additional discussion of the band’s recording process, nightmare tracks on the album, and the importance of artistic agency.
Allston Pudding: The video for ‘Hands Down’ has the very organic feel of an @artwerk666 video mixed with a rom-com outfit changing montage. What made you choose that artist direction for this particular song?
Mini Dresses: Ha, yes, nice referential material there! We were joking about how we wanted a structuralist video, almost, a video with just one type of shot, with minimized focus on just a few technical ideas (a wind machine, a cloth, different outfits…since there is a line in the song about a wrinkled shirt, the images are all about draperies). We used a cheap DV camera, which automatically lent the video a “cam girl” vibe, which works perhaps since the song deals with voyeurism and unrequited love.
AP: “Hands Down” is one of the standout tracks on your new album for me, partially because its simplicity allows for greater resonance. What made you choose to release a video for this track in particular?
MD: The lyrics of the song are already so cinematic — we thought it was funny to have a pared down video accompaniment for the track, which is so contained as a visual idea. Lira at times almost acts out the narrative of the song with her gestures and facial expressions, but it’s almost all on the level of suggestion.
AP: Your use of double tracked vocals and the lyrics to “Hands Down” strike a very fine balance of the personal and the universal experience of women; did you intend that resonance or was that how the story ended up telling itself?
MD: A little bit of both; while there are definite autobiographical markers in the lyrics (namely the geographical features like the persimmon tree and the lake shore), the lyrics sort of wrote themselves, and the song took on a life of its own. With the juxtaposition of the harmonized parts with the lead vocal, we tried to create tension between a single narrator and an echo/memory ripple/third-party observer, suggesting the persistence of memory, even if you don’t quite understand what it is you’re trying to remember…It’s funny, because Lira wrote the lyrics in a romantic state of mind, but after living with the song for a few years, it’s hard not to notice the sinister dimensions of the story.
AP: Was that a thread you found for the rest of the self-titled LP?
MD: An overarching narrative theme is the inner lives of women — their disappointments and attachments, reveries and coming to grips with realities.
AP: Your show on Sunday will be the release show for your self-titled – what do you think is the ideal setting for listening to this album?
MD: With headphones, or on vinyl! We don’t have any marching orders for how to experience these songs! Seasonally speaking, perhaps it strikes best in fall.
AP: You recorded this album all over the place, using a variety of effects and recording processes. Can you describe some of that experience and techniques for us?
MD: Yes, we recorded in a number of different studio locales, at different scales. As always, we did many things at home. Ian Doerr was our trusted recording engineer throughout, and had to suffer our indecisions when it came to production. The album was initially tracked all analog, with reel to reels, spring reverbs, tape echoes, antique mics, and the like, though we mixed digitally by and large. Sometimes we mangled the digital masters on cassette machines in states of ill-repair. We naturally gravitate towards equipment that is broken or half-functioning, charismatically, and we try to retain the resulting sonic imperfections in the final mix. We believe very much in a lo-fi ethos that isn’t about laziness or an aesthetics of unintentionality, and more about letting machines speak for themselves in a way that is essential to the songs.
AP: What was the common thread in production?
MD: It truly was pell mell. Almost every song had a different tracking process, tape machine, and mastering process. So it could be a commonality to say that we wanted to find a process unique to each song.
AP: Where was the strangest place that you recorded?
MD: Our kitchen (one of our favorite places to record to this day).
AP: Were there any tracks that came easily or evaded you a bit?
MD: “Emily” was a nightmare. Four different versions, and at one point that song broke the Tascam 388. It is the album opener, if only for the grief it caused.
AP: Mini Dresses was released on Joy Void – what made that label the right choice for you and this album?
MD: Joy Void approached us with a friendly and straightforward contract. We had been ambivalent about labels (and formalizing music releases, period) for a while, but when Joy Void approached us in person at a show, we thought “this is going to be okay”. They’ve been generous and easy collaborators. Their priority has been to preserve our agency and self-determination as a band, of which we’re so grateful. And it is more than a plus that they are local. Their offices (with Run for Cover) have hosted awesome charity concerts in Allston, and many are excited to see what else is in store.
Listen to Mini Dresses below and be sure to come out to Great Scott for their record release show this Sunday, 10/22!
Mini Dresses, Lina Tullgren, and Bong Wish
Sunday October 22, 2017
1222 Commonwealth Avenue
Allston, MA 02134