Last night in Brooklyn, beloved Texas band Mineral played the first of four sold-out New York reunion shows at Brooklyn’s St. Vitus, kicking off an extensive tour that runs into the winter of next year. In a way, the shows scan as a long-overdue victory lap: Although they were only marginally successful during their initial run, from 1994-97, their reputation has grown in the intervening years. You can hear echoes of their wrenching, turbulent music in a host of younger bands, including The Hotelier and Fireworks. They released only two records, 1997’s The Power of Failing and 1998’s slower, elegiac swan song EndSerenading, but the emotional impact of that small brace of songs remains raw and immediate.
A few hours before the show, we chatted with frontman Chris Simpson about the impetus behind the reunion, and how it feels to return to these songs two decades later.
I wanted to sort of start at the end: Mineral broke up right as you were being courted by Interscope Records. Looking back, how do you feel about that decision now?
I feel fine about it. I don’t think there was really an option. Me and [bassist] Jeremy [Gomez] were both, for our own individual reasons, wanting to move on and do something different. I don’t see that we could have done it any other way. I definitely know now that we probably took for granted the success Mineral had, and the connection Mineral made with people. We had some sense of it, but not to the degree that we should have. I mean, we weren’t really playing to that many people. We were happy if 40 people showed up. It just seemed like, “We’ll just do something else and pick up right where we left off.”
You alluded to this, but when you initially broke up, it was you and Jeremy who broached the subject. How long had you both been thinking about it before you actually brought it up?
Not too long. We were young, so we were kind of impatient. But we had started [EndSerenading], and we really wanted to finish it posthumously. We already knew it would be the last thing we did, and I think that played into the naming of the record and some of the song titles. It definitely played into my approach to the record. I was really interested in doing more layering [in the studio] without having the fear that we were going to go play it live and I wasn’t going to know what to do. It was the sort of freedom to be like, “Just do whatever you want, because you’re not gonna be playing live.”
The scene you were a part of at the time was characterized by its DIY aesthetics. What attracted you to that way of doing things?
To some degree it was attractive philosophically, but really we just sort of happened into that scene and were embraced by it. There was a network setup where you could all of a sudden start touring and put out records and to us, that was the bottom line.
So it was more a pragmatic decision than a philosophical one.
Sure, because we didn’t really come from the hardcore scene. I think a lot of bands from that era had, and that sort of DIY culture was transforming into something else. For us, it was just sort of happenstance. We played at a club in Houston one night with Christie Front Drive and they were like, “You guys are good — you should tour.” And we were like, “Yeah, we should tour. How do you do that?”
But at the same time, when Interscope was knocking at your door, you still chose to give EndSerenading to Crank!
I mean, we were sort of aware of the idea in the scene we were being embraced by that there was a general mistrust of major labels, and whether or not you could [sign with one] and still do what you wanted to do. So we struggled a little bit with that. That interest was the result of The Power of Failing. We hadn’t even started EndSerenading yet.
You were undergoing something of a religious awakening during the time you wrote The Power of Failing. How did that come about?
That started for me probably from age 14 or 15 on. I was sort of roped into that world. I was raised in that background, I had really embraced it as a young kid very passionately and wholeheartedly. Lyrically, I feel like Mineral for me was an expression of spiritual anxiety. I was moving away from home, I was going out into the world and I was really starting to question what I actually believed myself as opposed to what I was raised with. Both records were really colored by that. It was something I was working through — it was definitely one of the most important parts of my life at the time and that I was interested in working through.
It’s tough, when you’re so wrapped up in that culture — once you abandon it, it can be really terrifying to realize you have to redefine yourself.
I feel like Mineral was the beginning of that redefinition, and it’s taken all the time since then. It may take some more time.
So many people talk about how much your songs mean to them, but I’ve often wondered what your songs mean to you.
I’ve been surprised at how relevant they’ve felt and how I’ve connected with them. I don’t think it’s a secret that, for many of these 17 years, I’ve sort of distanced myself from the legacy of Mineral. I wanted to be judged on what I was doing at that moment. Even a year ago, this would not have been on my radar at all, the idea of [a reunion]. But in mid-life, you start naturally looking back, so to be doing that sort of naturally, and to then have the opportunity to actually reconnect with that part of my life, has been really cool. Initially, we were just going to do one show, so it was a lot more laid back. We got together and had a beer and said, “Are we even interested in this? Would we even want to get together in a practice space and see what happened?” And we agreed that we would. As we started getting together and practicing, it was fairly immediate for me, the feeling that, “I could definitely reconnect with this stuff. This could be really fun.” And that’s only grown as we’ve gotten more comfortable with the material.
Were you inspired at all by the fact that so many of your peers have gotten back together?
I would like to say I was, but more realistically I was doing a little eye-rolling. “Really? Everyone’s gonna do this?” Not, of course, knowing that I would be shortly behind them.
It was a short-lived thing, Mineral, but it was a really big, serious-feeling part of our lives. And to try to distance myself from that on purpose just all of a sudden seemed really weird. It didn’t make any sense. That’s part of me, that’s part of my journey. That’s another part of midlife, I think, being able to integrate your experiences and all of the people you were along the way. It’s not necessarily different — it’s just that now I’m that guy I was then, plus a lot of other people.