There are many stories to be heard in the long, unwinding song structures of Mint Field‘s forthcoming second release Pasar de las luces. First, its sound tells the tale of a rapid musical evolution, a follow-up to their Primeras Salidas EP in 2015. It’s a long journey from the sparky rock of their shoegaze-inspired debut to the strikingly mature ambient post-rock of this follow-up, but the Tijuana-bred trio made it in a very short time. With its bittersweet melodies and textures that draw on Brian Eno and Cocteau Twins, the nostalgically named project sounds like the work of a group with several albums to their credit. In an interview at the Remezcla office, guitarist Estrella Sánchez says the leap in style from one release to the next documents the band’s process of becoming.
“I think when we made the first EP, we were learning how to play and how we like to do music. We were finding our sound. We’re more like musicians now. Now, if I have a melody I can transform it into a song. Two years ago, I couldn’t do that. We’ve grown up in music and this is our sound,” she reflects. She’s earned the right to say that with confidence. Mint Field might have gotten to this point quickly, but they didn’t skip any steps.
Amezcua’s father is Bostich, a member of Nortec collective, one of Tijuana’s most beloved groups. Having a parent who is a working musician has made it easier to navigate the business, the drummer says, but the band hasn’t been ushered into a career they aren’t prepared for by a label or anyone else in the industry. They’ve been charting a course the DIY way since their first house show. They arrived at their sound by writing and practicing every single day, recording two-hour-long jams and finding the songs in them, then jamming some more. Little by little, their style took shape. As drummer Amor Amezcua recalls, “Every jam we had was more and more instrumental and longer, and with more melodic changes. We just wanted to grow as musicians so bad, so we started making less simple songs.”
Sánchez and Amezcua were high school friends and started playing together as novices in 2014. Amezcua learned to play a drum kit just for Mint Field. She had been experimenting with electronic music and invited Sánchez to play keyboards with her. When that didn’t gel, Estrella confessed her desire to do an all-female band “with real instruments.” Amezcua owned a drum kit, and Estrella was already playing guitar. After figuring out a couple of Cherry Glazerr covers, the two young women still in their teens, began writing music together, and searching for a sound of their own. When Andrés Corella joined them on bass, they felt they were really onto something.
Beyond the development of their sound, a lot of other things have happened since Primeras Salidas came out as well. Their career has advanced as rapidly as their musicianship. They’ve played Coachella and many more dates in both the U.S. and Mexico, getting written up by music press on both sides of the border. Corella left the band to focus on other projects. This year, they played SXSW and Festival Marvin in Mexico City.
Sánchez says Pasar de las luces chronicles it all and then some. “It tells the story of 2015-2016. All those songs came out in half a year. They all came so fast. All the songs are about us or me. Last year was a really tough year for me. I changed so much. I went through so many life changes. The band changed. We were very young. Right now, I’m 20. I was a teenager a year ago. I feel like now I’m the person I want to be for years.” Some songs, she reveals, are inspired by love and romantic heartbreak. “Para Gali” was written for her dog who died, which is its own kind of grief.
“This is Mint Field. This is how it’s supposed to be.”
True to their shoegaze roots, Sánchez’s lyrics can be indistinct, her clear voice melting into the instrumental layers of the track. Still, even when the lyrics aren’t intelligible, there is narrative as well as feeling being conveyed in each gentle crescendo, false ending, and shift in tempo. It’s easy to hear the influence of Cocteau Twins and Brian Eno, two of Amezcua’s favorites from her dad’s record collection when she was growing up. “The first time I heard Brian Eno, I felt understood,” she says. If Pasar de las luces was a novel, it would be a slow-moving, thoughtful coming-of-age story, the kind that rewards patient reading. Like any good novel, it has a strong sense of place. Their slowly unspooling melodies suggest the wide open spaces and crashing waves of Baja California and you can hear desert haze and salt spray in the project’s dry but dreamy atmosphere.
Through everything that has happened, Amezcua and Sánchez never stopped writing songs and the changes have kept coming too. Very recently, the Tijuana duo moved to Mexico City, joining live bassist Andrea Villalón. They are now the band of Sánchez’s dreams. They have enough music now to make a full album, and, if they hear from a label soon, they are happy to do just that. They’re ready. Sánchez says this state is the subject of their most recent single. “The song ‘Viceversa’ is about Amor and I, how we feel right now. The band used to be very different. I like how it is now. This is Mint Field. This is how it’s supposed to be.”
Update, 6/2/2017, 10 a.m.: This post has been updated to reflect a title change in Mint Field’s forthcoming release. It has also been updated to reflect that Andrea Villalón is a live bassist, not a full-time member of the band.