As 2017 came to a close, it looked like four-piece pop punk band Mint Green was at the top of its game. A new single released that year called “Take Care” earned critical praise. The band landed a spot on the coveted local music festival Fuzzstival. The group was even nominated for a Boston Music Award, surrounded by acts like Lilith and Sidney Gish. By all standards of measurement, Mint Green was on a path toward success. But after 2018 began to unfold, things became very clear very quickly: If Mint Green wanted to continue its trajectory forward as an act to keep your eyes on, in Boston and beyond, then the members of the band would have to clear some hurdles—and not everyone would stick it.
Mint Green is different than the band you remember from last year because Mint Green grew up, even if the four-piece didn’t want to. In November of 2017, shortly after recording new music, the band was added as the opening act for Australian indie rock act Alex Lahey’s sold out show at Great Scott. It was there that Mint Green was approached by 6131 Records—the record label responsible for Julien Baker’s breakout record Sprained Ankle and Culture Abuse’s Spray Paint the Dog—with a potential record deal. The offer was as unexpected as it was thrilling, as it meant Mint Green were being watched by people outside of the Boston music scene—and, with only one EP to their name, they were worth signing.
Eager to move ahead with the process, the band’s core members—singer and guitarist Ronnica and drummer Daniel Huang—tried to chase the other members down to agree to the deal. Instead, the complete opposite happened. After months of trading details with the label and drumming up possible options, the band’s old guitarist revealed he didn’t want to take the leap of releasing the new music Mint Green recorded, touring behind it, or signing to a label. In fact, he didn’t want to do anything, or at least not with Mint Green. He no longer felt committed to the band, a result of feeling out of touch with Mint Green’s sound.
Shortly after, Ronnica found out the band’s bassist wanted out as well. The eldest of all four members, Mint Green’s bassist was ready to quit his day job to commit to the band, but after the passing of his mother that spring, he realized he wanted to do a bit of soul searching before buckling down in life. In a matter of months, the future of Mint Green turned to shambles. During the final show with all four members, Ronnica cried during their performance of “Say It Ain’t So,” a Weezer cover the group did during their very first show as Mint Green. There was no pent-up anger or resentment. Instead, she was hit with the shock and sadness of realizing the band she wanted to invest herself fully in wasn’t much of a band anymore. Before they parted ways, the members decided to hit the studio one last time to record two more songs with their original lineup—capitalizing on their time together while penning an unsaid farewell to Mint Green’s previous identity.
“I didn’t go to college. So around this time in April, as everyone was getting ready to graduate, the timing of everything felt amazing, as if I was graduating too by getting this record deal. My mom would have been so proud,” says Ronnica, a lingering sadness still present in her voice. “But when everything fell apart, we lost members, and this long string of time kept stretching on where we just didn’t know what would happen. Eventually, I realized I couldn’t keep making music if it was with people who didn’t want to move forward as a band.”
As young veterans of the Boston music scene, Mint Green didn’t need much time to find new members. Nick Tyler Kelley, whom Ronnica played together with in a previous band, now joins the group on guitar. Local artist and Berklee student Muñeca Diaz joins them on bass. Both musicians have been noted by onlookers as bringing a new energy to the group, not to mention a variety of technical skills that helps redefine and sharpen Mint Green’s sound.
“I had seen Mint Green live a handful of times before joining the band and really liked the music,” says Tyler Kelley. “The main thing that has changed, as far as my feelings toward the band since joining, is I now have a way better understanding of who the two remaining original members, Ronnica and Daniel, are as people: hardworking, dedicated musicians who are really fun to play music with.”
That persistence and energy can be heard in full volume on Headspace, the new record Mint Green will release this Friday, Aug 3. A six-track release, Headspace is a record that shows what Mint Green was working towards all along, from the meticulous attention to detail to leaps of faith when exploring new subgenres. The collaborative experience was recorded over a prolonged stretch of months, one song at a time, in various studios—Converse Rubber Tracks in Boston, Mad Oak Studios in Allston, and 37ft Productions in Rockland—to make sure every idea could be fleshed out. Adjusting the placement of cymbal crashes down to the millisecond? Done. Trying harsher sounds, like blast beats? Check. Singing in falsetto for an entire chorus? Got it. Mint Green saw Headspace as a way to extend beyond the band’s comfort limits while pushing one another as individual musicians.
You can hear that in everyone’s parts, especially when comparing the record to the band’s first release, Growth. “When I create drum parts, I always think about the music as a whole and if it complements the music,” says Huang. “I experimented with the different type of sounds you can make with a drum set, played with faster phrases, and tried hitting the accents more than I did before.” On the record, it gives the songs a tighter and more evolved feel.
At first, Headspace plays like what you would expect from Mint Green: a series of pop punk songs driven by passion and curiosity. But soon the record switches from songs like “Foggy” and “June 2nd” to a more dream pop-oriented number like “Pool Party.” It isn’t until the end that Headspace kicks into overdrive. “The Siren” will sound new to fans because it’s one Mint Green rarely plays live. Driven by blast beats on drums and harsh guitar, the song feels like the ignited spirit of someone with too much to say to calm down before saying it. When the song comes up in conversation, Ronnica can’t stop laughing, as if embarrassed. It’s a powerful closing track that fully embraces emo tropes, sure, but it turns its tricky tuning into a personal anthem, the type you would want to sing along to. “Those blast beats, the gang vocal ‘woo,’ those are things I had never done before,” she says. “This is the first time where I get really personal too. ‘Reading poetry and it’s 11:17,’ that makes me laugh because I feel extra and dramatic singing it, but it’s also cool to embrace that side of things and try a new way of writing.”
Mentally, Mint Green are ready to take on whichever challenges rise to greet them. When you grow up, you have to learn how to catch what’s thrown at you. This year may have started like an intense batting practice, but now Mint Green are in the swing of things and they’re primed to hit one over the Monster. It’s why Headspace has the name it does. The record aims to capture what it’s like when your mind is constantly changing as you swing from one experience to the next, each radically different from the one before it. “June 2nd” examines the inescapable dread of police brutality and corroding news during a season when everything should be carefree. “The Siren” gets sucked into the world of being pulled around, as a love interest puts up walls and later asks you to climb over them. “Foggy” begs the question of why it’s so difficult to prioritize the good memories you’ve had with someone over the negative ones. As the band changes themes and styles on the record, the members later changed roles in real life. But now, in its newest form, Mint Green seem primed to face the very world they set up on Headspace, this time with a refreshed state of mind.
“I feel a thousand times better than I did back in March,” says Ronnica. “Everything I worked for for almost two years seemed to hit a dead end. But Nick has stepped up so much. He lives in Attleboro but drives up at 7 am each day with his mom as she goes to work, stays for four days at a time to practice and bond, and then returns back home to work for three days straight. That’s when it hit me: If I can take all of these hits, then the least I can do is harness them to push back. Seeing friends like Edge Petal Burn or Sidney Gish release music made me excited to do the same. I feel energized and ready to do work with people who want to work too.”
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