The Portland-based group, !mindparade, formulates elegantly distilled pieces that often cross the boundaries of psych-pop and experimental recordings. Their latest release, "Skyscapia", is a fluid venture into ambient territories where they let the music flow into reality.
Originally what started as a self-recorded project out in Indiana during 2012, !mindparade has blossomed into a 7-piece over the years, where they currently reside in Portland, OR. With an adventurous approach to songwriting, the group captivates crowds up and down the coast with their psychedelic textures and multi-layers of harmonies and rhythms. Their live shows have an almost jazzy or cinematic feel where the group creates a cozy yet expansive atmosphere with all the different instruments at play. With songs like "Chained Ghosts" and "The Vision", the group dials in on balancing the heavier and lighter sides of psych-pop while still exploring new terrain with story-like lyrics and vocal harmonies.
Earlier this Spring, !mindparade sprouted some new material with their project, "Skyscapia". Seemingly a study on the cycles between form and formless, the group went into the recording session without any premeditated ideas for songs or structures. They let it all wash over, sound waves crashing into existence, this album is sculpted with a stream of consciousness. Tap into the serenity and tune into some new vibrations.
Back in the Summer, we had the chance to witness !mindparade up in Portland at Island Fest and recently reconnected with the group to dive deeper into their origins and new releases.
Q: What's the origin story behind !mindparade back in 2012?
A: !mindparade was originally a solo home recording project that I started during my last year of college. I was studying music at Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana, which is a small school in a small town. They had this farm on campus where students would host shows in an old barn. My senior year, I played one show as !mindparade, solo, playing a kick drum with my foot, snare with my left hand, and synth with my right hand while singing. In 2011, I posted an EP on Bandcamp before I left for a job at a summer camp in Norway. I was backpacking through Europe after, nearly broke, had no job prospects, no plan, and to be honest I almost stayed in Berlin. I was staying with a friend of a friend, and she said that I could stay for free until I found a job as long as I played the piano in the apartment... It was a compelling offer! In some parallel dimension, there's probably a Berlin version of !mindparade, I wonder what that sounds like. Somehow, some bands from my hometown, Bloomington, Indiana, heard the EP and asked me to play some local shows. So I moved back. I recruited a few of my friends in the area to flesh out the live band. We expanded to a 7 piece in 2012, adding a horn section and violinist. I decided that !mindparade would be a project where I would try to employ production, arrangement, and composition as much as possible, sort of a maximalist approach. I recorded our first album, Everything Is Happening on my computer and self-released it that September.
Q: Did you all start performing in the local DIY scene with your release "Everything is Happening"? How has the scene changed over the years? A: Yeah, we started playing the Everything Is Happening material as the 7-piece band in 2012/2013 in Bloomington.
I didn't move to Portland until 2017. Bloomington has definitely changed since those times, it's gotten much more built up, and I think it's a bit more "on the map", for various reasons. It's always been a special place, but more people know about it now. The indie label group, Secretly Group, is based there, so it's like this microcosm of the music industry, and the local band scene is really good. Part of the DNA of the music scene there is due to the prestigious Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University. You get to see really amazing musicians there in small venues, plus touring acts come through that would usually otherwise skip Indiana. People in Bloomington are down-to-earth and creatively minded. It's a home-y community full of talent. The town has recently gentrified, even in the few years since I left. Old buildings have been torn out and now there's lots of apartment buildings popping up. It seems like that's happening everywhere, and it definitely affects local arts scenes. Rent is rising which always affects artists, who need to prioritize their time to developing their craft rather than making more money, and local venues and businesses, who need cheap rent. I think it often displaces artists and pushes them to other cheaper places where the cycle starts over again. The same thing is happening in Portland too, obviously. So it goes.
Q: With so many different textures and tones to your sound, how do you all go about forming new material? What's your view on writing soundwaves, has it altered over time?
A: Every song/piece I make begins in its own way. I play a lot of instruments and record ideas as they come. Occasionally, I do "dailys", where I make myself sit down and write something every day for like a month. It doesn't have to be a whole song, it can be a single riff, beat, or chord progression, I just have to document it. I always end up with a lot of ideas, which can become their own songs or make their way into songs. A few from our album Hypertonic materialized that way, like "The Genius". I'll also record jams with friends, and build songs out of them later, like our tune "Saw You". That was a jam I recorded with my old Bloomington drummer Charles "Chuck" Roldan.
I write words and poetry on my phone all the time. I pull those ideas into lyrics when I'm working out songs. And sometimes, an entire song just hits me and it comes out fully formed. That doesn't happen quite as often - but when it does, those ideas are usually strong and worth recording. My view on how to write is always changing. I often have 50 or so pieces in the works at any given time. I study and experiment with engineering/music theory techniques. I'm kind of always working out the music in my head whether I am in the studio or not. Once I start to formalize the vision of the song, I flesh it out in my home studio. I usually write all the vocals, guitar, bass, orchestral, and synth parts myself. Then I work with friends and bandmates to collaborate on arrangements or overdub specific parts. Overall, this maximalist and constant home recording approach for me is fundamental. This music wouldn't come out the same if I was working in studios with deadlines. Sometimes I think of writing a record like writing a novel. I rewrite and change my mind all the time. The songs are often rewritten and edited, re-recorded, and changed based on my experiences, often this goes on for years before they hit the public. It's like a distillation process.
Q: How was your experience writing from a stream of consciousness for your latest ambient exploration, "Skyscapia"? How did this journey compare to previous projects? A: "Skyscapia" is completely different from anything we've made before. It's experimental music in the way that it was actually an experiment. Nothing on this album was prewritten before recording, not even the lyrics. The original recording was an ambient improv set that we live-streamed during quarantine times in 2020 for the Creative Music Guild (PDX). I didn't think that it would turn into a recording that I released.
I multi-tracked the improvisations, then spliced the most interesting parts - cutting down 90 minutes to 24 minutes. We then reinforced these ideas with overdubs, adding drums, synths, guitars, strings, etcs.. It kind of became its own thing. Art like that can be really satisfying. It felt more like a sculpture. I kept thinking of how Michelangelo said that blocks of stones had their own forms inside of them already and it was up to the sculptor to discover what they were and sculpt them out into their final form... It felt like that.
It's way different than our other records, which revolve around arrangement and songwriting and such. Working on Skyscapia was liberating in that there were no rules. I wasn't trying to make it hit like a pop record or something. But it was also extremely strange to mix and formulate because of how abstract and ambient the source material was. It was disorienting, I mean, mixing an ambient/noise record, my attention would waver. I remember some nights I would be mixing and just space out and be like wait where am I? What am I doing?
Q: You all recently trekked out for a West Coast tour this fall, how was your time on the road? Any favorite venues or bands you shared stages with? A: We had so much fun on our West Coast loop this year! I have to give a major shout-out to Human Musik, who helped us put together a show in Long Beach. They have such a wild Krautrock-esque sound and are such sweet people. I think my favorite venue that we played was The Kilowatt in San Francisco - it's a bar that used to host a lot of bands in the 90's and still had that kind of classic 90's alt-rock vibe.
Q: What are your plans for the next year?
A: This winter we're honing in on some new records and working up new material to debut live. I'm looking for labels to collaborate with for releasing these new records. I'd love to hit the road and play more festivals.