SEXY, CHEEKY, FAST,It's bands like MINK that remind me of why I do what I do. Their SYLVIA MASSY-produced self-titled debut CD is a gritty rock n roll diamond in the rough in a hot pink package with sugary sweet pop sensibilities and just a dash of piss elegance that will bring to mind IGGY POP AND THE STOOGES, or FRANZ FERDINAND - for those of you who are too young to know any better."We're a pop band with rock sensibilities." States drummer STELLA MOZGAWA. "We're not a straight ahead rock band. We enjoy pop music and we'd like our music to be accessible to different demographics."
STELLA MOZGAWA OF MINK TALKS TO ROCKWIRED
ABOUT THE BANDS SELF-TITLED DEBUT CD
LIVING THE ROCK N ROLL DREAM
AND TOURING WITH KISS AND PERRY FARRELL
INTERVIEWED BY BRIAN LUSH
The band, comprised of three Australian expatriates (drummer STELLA MOZGAWA, bassist GRANT FITZPATRICK, and guitarist NICK MAYBURY) and a New York vocalist NEAL CARLSON, joined forces in 2006, recorded their debut CD in a matter of weeks with producer SYLVIA MASSY (TOOL, JOHNNY CASH) and later found themselves touring with the likes of KISS and PERRY FARRELL. ROCKWIRED has written about young whipper-snappers running off and living that rock n roll dream, in the past, but can't recall an instant where everything seemed to come together as easily as it has for this band of misfits. "We've only been a band for a very short amount of time and we've never really faced criticism, and we feel very fortunate about that." says MOZGAWA. "We've got some wonderful, supportive fans in the States and Australia. We put on a very energetic show and we play with conviction and I hope that translates well, and so far, it has."
ROCKWIRED spoke with drummer STELLA MOZGAWA over the phone moments before her and the band were to be onstage for a show. Here is how it went?
Where are you playing tonight?
Tonight we're in Pittsburgh. I'm standing outside the venue right now. It's very loud. The support band is playing at the moment so I had to step outside.
It's probably very cold there now as well.
Absolutely freezing! We Australians are not accustomed to this wintery weather.
So, the whole band is based in New York City.
You're a long way from Australia. How does that feel?
It feels kind of good. The three Australians in the band have always dreamt of being in America, and making music here and touring the States and it's a fantasy that has just happened to come true for us. It's been really comfortable. We've made really good friends, and we've got to play with some amazing bands like PERRY FARRELL's band and KISS. We've been very fortunate to be greeted with opened arms in the States. So, we've become accustomed to it very quickly.
All of the members of the band are from Australia, except for NEAL the lead singer.
Correct. He's a New York native from Queens.
How did the band begin? How did everyone get on the same page? You guys are from two different parts of the world.
Basically, before I was in the band there was a previous drummer. The Australians in the band knew NEAL through a mutual friend and they got together and had a jam and hooked up through a friend and it was really natural and they played a gig at this place called the MERCURY LOUNGE in Manhattan and they just hit it off. It was just the most perfect combination of people. Then the drummer left and NICK (MAYBURY), the guitarist is an old school friend of mine and he asked me to fill in and the rest is history.
What was your musical experience before MINK?
I played in alot of bands in Sydney. I did session work and I was always in eight or nine bands at the same time, and just kept myself really busy. NICK and I actually met through my first band in High School with his younger brother, TIM. TIM is my best friend and NICK stole me from that band and asked me to play on a couple of projects. Through that we had always remained friends and I was just lucky enough that he recommended me to the guys when they were looking for someone.
Why the name MINK?
Why Mink? Well, we kind of think it's a pretty sexy name. It's a sexy, sensual name. Like mink, the animal, it's a fast and fiery creature.
And rock n roll, when it's done right, is supposed to be done that way?
Sexy, cheeky, fast and fun!
I think I have a title for the interview now!
Tell me about your bandmates. Who are they and what do you think that each of them brings to the table, musically, creatively and personality-wise?
Well NEAL CARLSON is the lead vocalist and he's from New York and he displays some unique and interesting dance moves on stage. He's a bit of a- I wouldn't say a loose cannon, but he gets on stage and he gets a little silly and he's got some very interesting stage banter and he's a killer vocalist. He's just very entertaining. He ocassionally plays the guitar but first and foremost he's the front man and he does it with panache and grace. GRANT FITZPATRICK is the bass player and he's the guy who loves rock music, he loves jazz, and he's very knowledgable with music and he just lay sit down. He's a great person to have in the band and he's open to many things musically. He's not stuck on one style. I think that 's really important. We're a pop band with rock sensibilities. He's very knowledgable. NICK is a phenomonal lead guitar player and that's important when you've only got one guitar player. He actually comes from a jazz and blues background and he just brings ridiculous, filthy solos - crowd pleasing solos. We all write as well. That is a huge thing that each of us brings to the table. Each of us composes music. We've all got our own foot in the door in terms of composition which makes it a lot more natural and exciting when we play together.
How do songs get written in a band like this?
With MINK, one person will have an idea or a concept about a song and they will bring it to the band and everyone adds their own part to it. We all know how to play different instruments so that comes in very handy with this particular project. It's a very natural process. There's not a lot of thought or too much laboring that goes into it, especially with the album that we released. We wrote about forty songs in one month for the album. That was a great excerise in terms of putting something out there that isn't labored over. It's done with a lot of conviction but it's not too complex or - you know what I mean? Like a lot of people are very precious about what they bring to the table but here it was like "hey, I like what you're doing there" and everyone in the band would add their own thing to it. That's pretty much how it went with this album. It involved alot of treading water in terms of learning how everyone else writes and how everyone else goes about composing a song.
You guys recorded this album in four weeks.
That's right! In Weed, California with SYLVIA MASSY. We did a couple of sessions with CHRIS SHAW whose done work with BOB DYLAN and PUBLIC ENEMY. SYLVIA MASSY has worked with really amazing people as well such as TOOL and JOHNNY CASH.
How was the band able to get in touch with SYLVIA?
I think we got in touch with her through our manager. They just sent her some stuff and she seemed to like it and she tends to be pretty supportive of up and coming bands. It's a strong community of people that work within her studio. Basically, you live in Weed, while you are recording in a house just adjacent to the studio. You really live and breath music when you're recording in Weed, California with SYLVIA MASSY.
TALK TO ME is the first single. Why that song?
I guess it really showcases the different elements of the music. We're not a straight ahead rock band, we enjoy pop music and we'd like our music to be accessible to different demographics. I think it's the perfect mixture of our favorite elements of the band.
And a nice video by the way!
Yes, CHRISTIAN LAMB did that video for us. He's done a lot of live music DVD's and we were lucky to get in him on board for that, and it was real cool concept. We're really into that movie LOST IN TRANSLATION and the concept came from that film.
Do you think you'll do anymore?
Yes, definitely. We are in the editing process now for our self-produced video for GET IT RIGHT, which is the first track off of the album.
What is the response to your live sets?
Really good actually! We've only been a band for a very short amount of time and we've never really faced criticism, and we feel very fortunate about that. We've got some wonderful, supportive fans in the States and Australia. We put on a very energetic show and we play with conviction and I hope that translates well, and so far, it has.
What's it like being the only girl in the band?
To be honest, I'm quite used to being the only girl in the band. It's not that wierd. I'm always the youngest, and I'm always the only female. It's not that much of a change for me and I quite enjoy it. You get to know alot about guys and what guys really think. It's very educational and interesting.
What drew you to playing drums?
It was kind of the 'forbidden fruit' for me. My parents started me on the piano when I was really young, then they let me play guitar because I didn't want to play piano. Drums? There was a lot of thought that went into convincing my parents to let me have a drum kit in my house, because it changes the dynamic of a household when it has a loud and irritating instrument like that. It affects the whole community basically. Eventually, when I was thirteen years old, they let me have a drum kit and I was very lucky to have been given that opportunity.
What was it like doing shows with KISS?
It was absolutely insane. We played in front of fifteen to twenty-thousand people at that time and they were really nice and accomadating to us. We really enjoyed playing before such an opened and varied crowd. It was totally living the rock n' roll dream!
How about PERRY FARRELL?
That was incredible! That was the longest tour that we had ever done. It almost three months and it was all across America and southern Canada. It was a real communal vibe because we all spent so much time together and it really became a family.
What do you want someone to come away with after hearing your music?
If they listen to our music, we hope they'll put it on a mix tape or a mix CD so they can share it with their friends. I'd like them to just dig it and share it!