FEATURED ARTIST – The Violet Mindfield
Interview with The John and Sean of the Violet Mindfield
By: Dennis M. Kelly
Dennis: Hey guys, how’s it going? Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions for me today! What is everyone up to today?
John: Hey! You’re very welcome, thank you for being interested enough to even ask them! Right now just I’m getting ready for our “California Burning” hometown record release show later this evening.
Sean: Yeah, we are throwing another record release party in our hometown of Pomona, CA! Should be a pretty rad night!
Dennis: Very cool! I hope it goes well tonight then! Well, getting the proverbial elephant in the room addressed with my first question, what influenced the band to make great 60’s influenced music?
John: Haha, well I’m thinking maybe because I’ve been listening to it since childhood, it’s been ingrained somewhere in there, that this is how music is supposed to sound.
Sean: John and myself grew up skateboarding. I guess all of our favorite videos had the dopest soundtracks. (Alien Workshop Photosynthesis, Baker2G, Zero Misled Youth, Toy Machine Welcome to Hell) We would wait for the credits, and write down our favorite songs. Next trip to a record store we would just dig for these bands we would hear in skate vids. We’re talking late 90s early 2000s where tangible copies were the only way to listen to music. Eventually, we just kind of traced all these artists back to the greatest decade of music, the 1960s.
Dennis: I can relate… I have a number of favorite artists from that decade as well, The Byrds, Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane, Pink Floyd and the list goes on, and on… But, you all do the music justice though; that is why you were selected and it is not easy to write music in this style and carve your own niche into it that looks and sounds awesome, and most importantly, original. So, you all should be commended for that! Does the band make any specific efforts to ensure your sound remains original?
Sean: Take it away John!
John: Thank you (slightly blushing) Yes we don’t wanna be complete rip offs, haha! I equate what we do to a kind of audio collage, where bits and pieces are cut out of different songs and rearranged to make a new one.
Dennis: Well, great job on piecing together some fresh-sounding 60’s influenced music, I love it! What is the musical background of each member of the band? Has anyone had lessons of any kind?
John: I had two guitar lessons when I was twelve, the first one I was shown a couple of chords to practice and learn for the next weeks lesson. Instead I went home and wrote a couple of terrible single note songs of my own….
Dennis: Oh no…
John: When I went to the second lesson and presented what I had been working on, I was told that if I was trying out for a band and played what I had written I’d probably be shown the door. After that I never went back. They were probably right though, haha!
Dennis: (laughs), Nah, but it clearly safe to say that you’ve come a long way since then, so no worries.
Sean: I had the hots for my fifth grade teacher who talked me into joining the school band going into Jr High. I played trombone and percussion for 3 years. Eventually I got a drum kit and took a lessons for a short period of time. Maybe around 2003 John showed up at my house with a Squire Strat pack (guitar practice amp combo). Ever since that day, it’s been on. Just shy of 20 years we’ve jamming.
Dennis: Sounds like your teacher was a great influencer, but at least she got you started in music, so thanks to her for that! What was the first song you learned on your respective instruments?
John: Probably “Louie, Louie” The Kingsman or “Brown Eyed Girl”.
Sean: Sunshine of Your Love- Cream (Bass).
Dennis: All great songs there, though I think Sunshine of Your Love is more my personal favorite out of the three. What were some of the bands that each of you were in previously and are they still around?
John: Sean and I have been playing together since we picked up instruments and have had various groups over the years, all precursors to what we do now, I think. At the moment, the only other band I’ve got going outside of The Violet Mindfield is a garage duo called The Mulberry Tops. Check us out @the_mulberrytops
Sean: The Goons, Snakes and Sparklers, The Lostones, What Nina Answered, Verus Animist Radicals, Los Pheromones. All but Los Pheromones have led to the Violet Mindfield. Los Pheromones is Harry’s other band that might make a come back?
Dennis: Quite a few bands there, I’ll have to check online for them. Is The Violet Mindfield self-managed?
John: We were until I recently. Now we’ve got Nate on board from The Bash Dogs helping us out.
Sean: We recently acquired Nate Barrett as manager. Only 1 month in. Mostly for booking. John runs the business side of things.
Dennis: That should help out quite a bit then, I expect. The band has a very nice discography going and you’re selling both vinyl and digital and I am curious how sales for both formats have been going for you?
John: Thank you! Sales are going great! Our new LP “California Burning” from Outro Records sold out in two weeks!
Dennis: That is really great to hear!
John: I’ve got a little secret stash of them though so if you want a first pressing check out our bandcamp page: https://thevioletmindfield.bandcamp.com/
Dennis: And did I see correctly that you’re even selling 45 rpm singles and cassette singles?
John: Yeah! Now they’re all sold out though, but we’ve got three new 45’s coming out very soon! One is an Outro Records single, one is a Hypnotic Bridge Records single and one is with the new French label Disques Rogue and it’s a 7″ EP.
Dennis: Now you have a video for Out Of Their Windows that came out in 2018, are there other official videos out there or is this a medium the band doesn’t want to invest much time towards?
John: I would definitely like to invest more time into doing music videos, I think it’s just more natural for me to be thinking music most of the time. “Out Of Their Windows” was kind of a video making experiment that my Mulberry Tops bandmate Roxanne and I put together.
Last year we did a video for the Outro Records Halloween Special, which is on their YouTube channel. The track we did is called “Hoodoo Girl” and it was written, recorded and filmed just for special.
Sean: We have some exciting stuff in the works.
Dennis: What can you tell me about the video?
John: I was thinking like a “Love Potion #9” kind of scenario, where a guy goes into a botanical type occult shop and the owner does a love spell on the guy to fall in love with her. We didn’t have time to find an actress so we had Sean play the shop owner.
Dennis: Obviously these days, a lot of music fans are much more varied in their tastes, but how do you feel The Violet Mindfield competes against a lot of other genres for fan’s attention?
John: That is a good question, I’m not really sure if we do compete, haha. We’re pretty underground so I guess when people get tired of what’s going on up at the surface, they go looking elsewhere and kind of stumble upon us down here in the shadows.
Sean: I think we’ve been on this slow ride of really tapping into the sound you hear today over the last 10 years. The songs go through treatments like a painting. We are not too conscious of genres, nor being accepted by a genre. I think that’s what makes our “sound” interesting.
Dennis: Agreed Sean. How does the band approach recording? Do you also try to stay true by recording analog and things like that?
John: For the most part it’s Harry and I in the garage, then I overdub the rest later. I find the process to go much faster with just two people, although the new Outro 45 has everyone on it and there are a few tracks on “California Burning” with the full band on the recording as well. It doesn’t necessarily need to be analog, I like using the Tascam portastudios both cassette and digital, mainly for their maneuverability.
Dennis: How about gear, mics, amps and all that, does the band try to get as vintage gear as possible?
Sean: Yes to an extent, there is an art and sacrifice that must be made to get the vocals to sound how they sound. Not only the recording, but the sacrifice comes in with the replication in our live setting.
John: It doesn’t have to be vintage though, the most important part is if it sounds right. It’s bonus points if it looks right though haha!
Dennis: (laughs) Yes, for sure. How do you all approach songwriting? Any particular methods, chief songwriter, or anything like that?
Sean: John is Chief of this pow wow.
John: I write all the songs, and I wouldn’t say there is any particular method other than the collage bit I mentioned. Besides that, they all come about differently. Sometimes it’s words first, sometimes it’s a melody. It could be a riff or chord progression that starts it off and some songs take years of rewriting and others only take thirty minutes.
Dennis: That sounds pretty typical for most songwriters, but totally cool just the same. Who handles the band’s socials? Do you try to stay close to fans frequently?
Sean: John and I run a lot of the social media, and now with guidance from Nate and our new keyboardist, Clifton Weaver, we are learning new ways to stay engaged with our fans.
John: We’re definitely not as active as I’d like us to be. I’ve always been an introverted/antisocial/ dissociative type haha! But I do think it’s very important to stay connected with the people that actually care so it’s something I’m really trying to work on.
Dennis: Where do you want to see the band in the next 5-10 years?
Sean: Doing this full time.
John: Getting more connected with the people that care, touring the world, making records and having fun.
Dennis: Rightly so. Well, I hope you’ll be able to make it happen, you guys are great! Do you have anything more you’d like to share with our readers?
Sean: Look out for 2 new 45s coming out from Rogue and Hypnotic Bridge Records, as well as subscribing to our YouTube channel for 2 new music videos coming your way! Love you and appreciate every individual that has supported the VMF!
John: If you’re in the Venice Beach area on April 29th we’ll be playing Soul Kitchen at The Venice West with The Mystic Braves! Roll through and say what’s up!
Dennis: Thank you very much for your time and I wish the band all the best!!
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