As Queens of the Stone Age took a hiatus last year (do not fret, fans, they’re still together), members began work on their own projects. One of these projects is headed by the latest Queens bassist Michael Shuman, giving us three-man band Mini Mansions. With a recent release of a self-titled album, the guys performed at the Yucca Tap Room Tuesday night.
But Shuman took no credit for the real formation of the band when he spoke to The State Press, “[Bassist Zach Dawes] was the middle man, helping us join forces.”
With extra time on Shuman’s hands and childhood-friend Dawes’ recent move to Los Angeles, a band was in the works. Keyboardist Tyler Parkford fell into the mix from his collegiate connection with Dawes. With Shuman a fan of Parkford’s work through Dawes, and Parkford’s reciprocal admiration, musical love was in the air.
Though their first release of a full-length album was just last month, the trio began performing only four months after their formation last year and has since toured in three countries.
Mini Mansions might as well have no association to QOTSA, though. One band holds a 14-year legacy of progressive beats that make them a rock band. Mini Mansions, on the other hand, performs with no kick drum, no consistent beat and a strong experimental drone that many reviews have compared to The Beatles later works.
With much criticism stemming from reviews such as Jody McCutcheon’s piece in CHARTattack and a forum centered around the debate of their quality on Rekords Rekords site, Mini Mansions has been questioned on its originality in its experimental sound or whether or not it is simply too Lennon-esque for everyone’s taste.
“We never sat down and were like, ‘Oh, you like the Beatles? Cool, I like the Beatles. Let’s make this sound like the Beatles,’” said Parkford, “We never wanted to be a throwback ‘60s revivalist band. I think we all just love harmonizing and having a lot of minor and major qualities. I feel like The Beatles are the most accessible and popular outlet to relate us to that.”
Others, like a user review on Sputnik Music, have begged the band for more spontaneity and for a pick up in the rhythm.
“We did all of that on purpose though,” said Dawes, “I think there are a lot of pre-conceived notions because Michael was in Queens of the Stone Age. We don’t get that rocky...That’s just the nature of relationships.”
What Shuman faces is a case of guilty-by-association, something he wants to get rid of soon.
“I want to become an alter-ego because it’s almost detrimental to the reviews,” said Shuman, “I have this association, and if this doesn’t meet that, it’s sub par.”
Without the influence of all these reviews, it just takes a quick listen to songs “Monk” or “The Room Outside” to understand why these guys are such a big deal. Their dark, deep vocals become another piece to their fluid, jazz-meets-psychedelic sound. The teasing of a rhythm pickup keeps the audience interested in their ever-changing melodies.
They may be a throwback, but they follow their own interests into a modern experimental sound with piercing chords that keep them original.
Mini Mansions is a group to be respected. They can take a speedy, cute Blondie song like “Heart of Glass” and transform it into a gothic jazz tune that is pure gold. These are strong musicians across the board who “just want to play,” as Parkford said. And what’s more? They follow obscure laws like Keith Richard’s Vowel Movement on perfecting their sound down to the “oohs” and “ahhs.”
For now, Mini Mansions pushes through the mixed reviews and just wants to tour.
“We’re doing these tours knowing that we’re only going to perform for 30 people,” says Shuman, “That’s how many people know our band. I would love to open for and tour with some similar bands.”
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