Sunday, June 16, 2024

Ronnica of Somerville’s Mint Green performs May 28 at the Boston Calling music festival. (Photo: Annie Schugart)

Mint Green have achieved the prodigal promise of their name – coming off playing the May 26-28 Boston Calling music festival, the Somerville-based indie rock duo has practically been minted. The band’s newest album, “All Girls Go to Heaven,” is the kind of music that would soundtrack a poignant animated show about teenagers riding their bikes under yellow streetlights – think Bojack Horseman, but the people are good. We got in touch with lead vocalist Ronnica and drummer Daniel Huang a few weeks after the festival Sunday gig to chat about the band’s performance, bumping into Jack Antonoff on a golf cart, the Somerville and Cambridge scene and the new album. We spoke on June 12 by Zoom; the interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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The experience

Ronnica, you posted about not quite having the words to describe your Boston Calling experience.

R: For me, it felt like a lot of buildup. We knew about it back in late November, and every day felt like it was going to take forever to get here … and then finally, the week-of was when it was like, “Okay, I guess this is happening.” High expectations and stuff like that, but then at the same time I tried to remember that this one event isn’t going to drastically change our lives. As creatives and specifically musicians, you put a lot of weight on these individual shows or festivals, but in reality your success is more of a cumulative thing. It’s tough, because everyone around you is like, “This is the biggest thing, and this is what matters most.” In the back of your head you’re like, I’ve done so many things up until this point that all matter, or else I wouldn’t even be here.

Was this your first Boston Calling? 

R: It’s my first. Daniel’s been a couple of times because he actually worked it, which is starting from the bottom!

DH: I was doing bar jobs for two straight years when I was a med student. It was awesome being there this time: We got artist passes – so pretty much access to everything – and being in the artist village with other like-minded musicians was really cool. And seeing Jack Antonoff walking around, I was star-struck. Veronica got to talk with Jack Antonoff and Zach Farro, the drummer from Paramore. I missed my opportunity, but that’s okay. But it’s really wild that we were playing the same festival and basically feet away from them.

R: I can’t wait until it’s our fifth Boston calling or our eighth Coachella and it just feels like reuniting with everyone. I’d be excited to be at the point where these festivals feel like a normal show, and not like the biggest show ever.

Daniel, why did you miss talking to Jack Antonoff?

DH: It was like 95 degrees out. And I was in the trailer with air conditioning.

R: I was out in the wild keeping an eye out and suffering. We were chasing people down off an open golf cart.

DH: Also, right before our set, they were like, “Mayor Wu will be in attendance.”

R: Yeah, they’re like “Mayor Wu said she was here to see you?” Like, okay, let’s go. Oh my god.

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The band

How do you see the Somerville scene as informing your musical identity?

R: I was born and raised in Dorchester, and the beginnings of the band was in Dorchester. The first two years or so, I was still living there with my dad, and it made a very physical separation between putting my guitar and paddleboard and camera on my back and taking the red line out of Dorchester into Allston or Somerville or Cambridge. I was like, I’m going off to do this thing and I’m coming back late and this is a different crowd of people in this neighborhood. I eventually moved to Somerville in early 2018. Overall, shows in Cambridge at the Democracy Center had the biggest impact on us at that time, and house shows in Allston. Great Scott was a really big deal and O’Briens – that was where we got most of our experience.

Do you feel the scene pushed you toward a certain genre?

R: I did feel like I had to define it, like we had to put a genre label on ourselves. I always found ourselves being too light for the heavier bands we played with, then a little too rock for some of the acoustic friends that I had. As time went on, I realized it was a blessing to be able to go into these different bills. It’s cool to be able to go through all of these spaces and our music can resonate with people who may not have otherwise found us because of the genres someone else would put on us.

Especially because we started in Boston and still are Boston based, I like to mention this: Boston is such a college city – even more than people talk about – so the scene cycles over every couple of years or so when all those students move out or end their projects or just move on with life. You’re constantly subject to all these people from different backgrounds. Obviously Berklee College of Music kids may have a certain sound to them; kids from the suburbs may have a certain sound. You just never know what you’re going to get in a basement show.

Daniel, you’re a doctor! Are there similarities between making music and performing organ transplants?

DH: There certainly are parallels: My field is pretty technical, and music production is also pretty technical. I’m in residency for radiation oncology, a pretty specific field that not many people know about. You’re dealing with patients who are dying from a chronic illness – thankfully a lot of cancers can be cured in radiation oncology and that’s really gratifying, but it’s a difficult field emotionally, as you can imagine. Music is an outlet for me. It helps take your mind off of things.

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The songs

Your album closer “Ringtone” is so fun and infectious it could have been in “The Princess Diaries” soundtrack. Could you talk about the process of making it?

R: I’m glad you asked, because we haven’t played that song live yet at all. This might be sad to know, but the original name of that song was like, “Stupid song” or “Simple Easy” –

DH: “Easy Song.”

R: That’s what it was! Because we were offered the opportunity to be a part of this compilation back in 2020 to raise money for something. I was like, “I don’t think we can do one of our real demos that we were pitching to labels; let’s just write an easy song, just a throwaway song.” I remember literally writing the intro and I was just like, “All right, how do we waste the most amount of time? Like a guitar solo?” We ended up not putting it on that compilation anyway.

DH: “Easy Song” was basically a bass part that I worked out with Ronnica. We didn’t touch it for maybe two years. We revisited it in Nashville and just added all these cool production elements. Our producer did the pedal steel, which was awesome because it was actually really emotional – it just sounded really cool and angelic.

You’ve mentioned that “Whatever Happens” is the song that best represents the album’s concept.

R: Yeah, that one is crazy because it’s the oldest. We had it conceptualized at the end of 2017 or beginning of 2018. When I started that song, it was called “Machine” and it wasn’t about anything. It ended up being a song about being queer, and coming into your own and confronting or rather accepting yourself instead of living for someone else – all those types of things. Happy Pride! It’s definitely a weird one. It goes from this funky vibe to this dancey vibe to ending with a scream, one of the wildest progressions and also one of the shortest songs. So much happens in such a short time. I’m honestly very proud of it. I remember when we were working out that drum part, and Daniel was not a fan at first. I was, “No, we can do this! Let’s make it crazy.” It’s a rock song, you know? And then there’s what we call the Tears for Fears thing, where the guitars ding, ding, ding.

DH: The Tears for Fears thing is when drummers superimpose time over a standard beat, it creates this weird effect, kind of a polyrhythm.

I loved that effect. It kind of reminded me of “Loving Feeling” by Mitski

R: I’m always listening for that – I need to make sure that this does not sound like anything, so I played just the bridge part into [the music-recognition app] Shazam and, long story short, it sounded like Darude’s “Sandstorm.”

Ah, but most songs are probably six degrees of separation from Darude’s “Sandstorm”! 

R: Yeah, probably.

Is any song on the album your favorite, or one you’ve been really liking recently?

DH: I think “Golden” is a hidden gem.

R: “Golden” has a crazy story. I was going to name it too. I would say “Whatever Happens” as well, or “What I’m Feeling.” A lot of people are liking “What I’m Feeling lately.” It’s a good summer song.

  • Mint Green’s record “All Girls Go to Heaven” is available on all platforms. Mint Green performs at the In Between Days Festival at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Quincy on Aug. 19 with bands such as Modest Mouse, Phantogram, Lord Huron and Sunny Day Real Estate.