Yes In My Backyard is a semiweekly column showcasing MP3s from new and emerging local talent.
Taut New York five-piece MiniBoone are an enchanting mesh of old-school energy and new-school melody. The band mixes the dervish energy of ’78-era post-punk with the super-hooks of modern indie-pop — think Buildings And Food-era Talking Heads if David Byrne could travel back in time and tell himself about Arcade Fire. Their debut EP, Big Changes, was released last week on up-and-coming local indie Drug Front and it doesn’t let up for one second of its 6-song, 20-minute run time: three-part harmonies come fast and flurrious, Wire-style grooves frame hand-scribbled clap-alongs, and feverish rants spin off their axis. “Devil In Your Eyes” has a Devo-meets-Funeral groove that propels it past the churchy opening, between the splattery dots of spindly guitar, and into a glorious chorus that dramatically splits the difference between XTC’s brand of overblown pop and the Darkness’s brand of overblown pop.
MiniBoone on “Devil In Your Eyes”:
What’s a MiniBoone?
Doug Schrashun, vocalist/guitarist: An experiment currently underway at Fermilab in Batavia, IL, the goal of which is to determine whether or not neutrinos, which are particles of light, have mass. It involves a gigantic sphere filled with mineral oil and things moving really fast.
Craig Barnes, vocalist/guitarist: Doug and I first conceptualized the group as a two-piece, and at the time we thought we’d dress up as scientists and sing about love and food and wear labcoats with “Doug Boone” and “Craig Boone” nametags. Then, we actually wrote the songs, and started playing with Sam, Taylor, and James. In the process MiniBoone turned into a real rock band. And we realized the concept didn’t make sense anymore. But we do still sing about love and food.
What is “Devil In Your Eyes” about?
Schrashun: This might come as a surprise even to the rest of the band, since I don’t think we’ve ever talked about it, but to me it’s about going crazy, in the sense of having actual emotional and mental problems. Those sorts of things tend to crop up on people in their early twenties, and you start to see it in friends, and feel it a little bit in yourself, and it’s kinda scary. It’s certainly not a melancholy, “we’ve got problems, life is terrible” sort of song, though. It’s about coming to terms with the reality that sometimes not everyone you know is going to be entirely sane, and sometimes you aren’t either.
Tell me about recording this churchy organ line at the beginning…
Sam Rich, bassist: I wish we could say we’d made a pilgrimage to some historic church and recorded there, but it’s just a chintzy patch on our microKORG.
Barnes: This keyboard is God’s gift to Brooklyn. I’ve seen Shark? use it and Pet Ghost Project. BOAT uses it but I guess they’re from Seattle. Seems like half the bands we play with use it.
Schrashun: Let it be said that we created the chintzy patch ourselves, though.
Barnes: The end of this song always kills my voice live because I can’t help but scream — the part with “You paint a pretty picture, you pray for life to end.” I always want to kick over the keyboard stand and smash stuff at that point of the song, but I have to resist. I wouldn’t want to destroy God’s gift to Brooklyn, the microKORG.
James recently spent some time in Honduras: tell me some things you learned while there.
Barnes: James learned you can get Honduran soldiers to do almost anything, including dance to MiniBoone songs. But you can’t get them to point a gun at your face and take a picture.
James Keary, vocalist/guitarist: Yeah, those guys were cool. The only thing they wouldn’t do was point their guns at me. I found that understandable as I wasn’t a poacher. They would point their guns at other things though, like the ground, the air, and of course poachers. One thing that I learned is that the Honduran people that I met there were the nicest and most trusting people I have ever met in my life. It made me think about how my level of trust here for strangers. Let’s see, I learned that bananas come in different sizes there, and that you cannot exchange Honduran money back to dollars after you are back in the US. Anyone going to Honduras soon?
What’s the most memorable show you’ve played in New York?
Rich: Our early gigs at the Charleston in Brooklyn are still the nights to top. It’s just the bar basement, no stage, and you feel like you could blow a circuit breaker every time you plug something in, but it’s where we learned how to put on a good show. One night in particular, probably a Tuesday or something, we kept getting bumped from timeslot to timeslot and ended up starting our set well after midnight with only a handful of people in the room. We were tired, kind of drunk and kind of pissed off, and we had nothing to lose so we just kind of plowed through a couple songs with as much acrobatics, noise, and screaming as we could. Before long the place was filling up with curious folks who I guess could hear from upstairs or the street. Even a couple of tough customers from the Detroit noise band we’d ceded our earlier slot to — after a semi-heated exchange — ended up singing along in the front row. What should have been a horrible, horrible gig ended up as the best show we’d played. Since then, our live attitude has pretty much been “if we have a good time, you’ll have a good time.”
What’s your favorite place to eat in New York?
Barnes: There’s this Colombian restaurant near my place in Queens where I go every year on my birthday. I believe it’s called “Tierras Colombianas II” and it’s on Broadway. I always get the Mountain Plate, which comes with ground beef, fried pork, egg, plaintains, avocado, some other junk… Ooh, I’m getting excited thinking about it.
Schrashun: El Gran Castillo De Jagua on Flatbush and Park. If you’re trying to live on a budget in Brooklyn, just order some mofongo in the morning and you’ll be set for the rest of the day.
Taylor Gabriels, drums: Bergen Bagel. Jalepeno cream cheese with ham and egg, on a pumpernickel. Toasted. To go.
Keary: I have to agree with Taylor. Although he forgot salt and pepper.
MiniBoone is playing at the Trash Bar on Friday, February 19, with labelmates the Bamboo Kids.