Mineral Learns the Power of Un-Failing
One of Mineral's early champions was a zine writer and Strake Jesuit student at the time.
Note: this article was written by Eric Grubbs of our sister paper, the Dallas Observer.
Come Friday night, this might be your only chance to see Mineral play in Houston.
Winding down a reunion tour that began last August, the Austin four-piece plays here and then Dallas, but after that, all scheduled tourdates are outside of the United States. Having never toured outside of the country during their original incarnation, the band will play Europe, Japan, and Australia next.
What comes after that remains up in the air. They might play some more festivals leading up to the summer, but don't place a large bet they're coming back for a victory lap. "It might end all there or we might pick away at it, do shows here and there," front man/guitarist Chris Simpson says from his home in Austin. "It's tough to say. We didn't want to overstay our welcome, but we want to play for people who are interested and play internationally."
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Mineral's current status fits with a common phrase these days: no band really breaks up for good anymore. With destination festivals offering generous amounts of money to bands and the easy access to music on the Internet, it's not a taboo thing for an independent band to reunite, even if the reunion is short-lived. Heralded bands from the '80s and '90s don't have to tour nine months out of the year to get their name out there. In most cases, their music has been praised and shared for years, so the initiated and the newbies aren't out of the loop.
For people who loved pioneering emo bands in the late '90s or just heard of them last year, these bands had a lot of activity in 2014. American Football, Braid, the Jazz June, and Gameface played shows and either celebrated re-releases or put out new records. With Mineral, their two albums were re-released with bonus material on Arena Rock Recording.
Rounded out with drummer Gabriel Wiley, guitarist Scott-David McCarver, and bassist Jeremy Gomez, Mineral concocted something extremely potent when they came together in the mid-90s. When their debut The Power of Failing was released, the influence of Sunny Day Real Estate was obvious. The charging, quiet/loud dynamics, along with maudlin melodies and high-reaching vocals were all easy to lump together as emo.
Many fans of pop-punk, hardcore, and indie-rock found the '90s version of emo -- a progression from emo-core in the mid-'80s -- an absolute revelation. So did keen major-label scouts looking for something to sell to teenagers after grunge's popularity died down.
Mineral and some of their contemporaries, like Christie Front Drive and Texas Is the Reason, had received heavy courting from major labels, but opted to break up instead of signing with one. (Mineral was about to sign with Interscope Records, believe it or not.) The bands were wise enough to know that their growing internal struggles would only irreparably damage the relations between its bandmates, especially with a major label backing.
Given the acclaim of Mineral's debut along with their posthumously-released second album, EndSerenading, it was not surprising that the members found strong and mostly-favorable reactions in their post-Mineral bands. Simpson and Gomez formed the Gloria Record, Wiley joined Pop Unknown, and Wiley and McCarver formed Imbroco. But none of them eclipsed the impact of Mineral's work, so people asked about a potential reunion for years. The answer was always no.
"That annoyed me for a long time," Simpson says of the reunion question. "Now I'm older and more laid-back and accept that for what it is. That's a beautiful thing to see people feel about something you made."
The influence of Mineral's sound, along with many of the bands they toured with and/or shared vinyl sides with, would be obvious with the wave of what the mainstream saw as emo in the first decade of the 2000s. Bands who took the angst and aimed for fame and platinum-selling records got a lot of attention, but they didn't seem completely sincere. They seemed to have more in common with '80s hair metal in terms of looks, sound, and approach.
"Most of the time, when people told me Mineral influenced this or that band, I would say, 'Oh man, sorry,'" Simpson says with a laugh. "I don't think it could possibly be true, but if I'm responsible for that in any way, I apologize."
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As cyclical trends in music go, it was bound to happen for the mainstream acts to go away and a wave of younger, independent bands come into the spotlight. Acts like Into It. Over It, and Empire! Empire! (I Was a Lonely Estate) took cues from '90s bands like Mineral not just with the sound, but the do-it-yourself (and don't plan on becoming famous) approach. Called the emo revival, it's been a very rewarding time to be a fan, whether you're in your teens or your thirties. This music isn't strictly for the babysitter-money crowd, thankfully.
With a number of bands reuniting in the last few years, like the Promise Ring, Sunny Day Real Estate, and At the Drive-In, one of the few holdouts was Mineral. Simpson was happy doing his folky project, Zookeeper, while his fellow ex-bandmates were happy with their own bands. Yet when Jimmy Eat World's Jim Adkins asked Mineral to play a one-off reunion show, they decided to do more than that. When an official Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Web site all came online at once, it was obvious to fans they had more chances to see the band again or for the first time.
Before and after their first show back together in August, the kind of press coverage was substantially much more than when they were originally together. Outlets like NPR, Stereogum, Pitchfork, and Entertainment Weekly featured stories on the reunion, written by people who were true believers back in the day and are true believers to this day. People like Scott Heisel of Alternative Press, Tom Mullen of the Washed Up Emo podcast, and Entertainment Weekly's Kyle Ryan (who once interviewed Mineral for his zine when he went to Strake Jesuit) got to share the band's story, and give it to the world right from the heart.
Venturing out across the country, there were packed venues, filled with people much more attuned to the band when they were originally together. Aside from a van robbery in St. Louis, where members lost electronics and cash from merch sales, the band's tour has been great.
"It's been a wonderful experience playing for people in a lot of nicer venues than the first time around with a sound system where everyone can hear everything," Simpson says. "The beauty of playing the songs now and reconnecting with them as 40-year-olds instead of 20-year-olds is a special experience I'm sure not a lot of people get to experience in their lives."
Aside from the foggy future about the band's touring plans, the same can be said if any new recordings will surface. "We just want to play what people want to hear," Simpson says. "Nobody wants us up there playing new material right now. I'm sure a lot of people are curious.
"For us, it could be interesting or it could completely tarnish the history of what was," he adds. "We would definitely be open to try and throw a couple of ideas together. Thankfully we have our work cut out for us."
Mineral plays Friday, January 9, at Fitzgerald's with special guests Josh T. Pearson and Dune TX. Doors open at 8 p.m.
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