I had a chat with Mini Mansions’ Tyler Parkford about changing record labels, touring with their new album The Great Pretenders, and how Mini Mansions were sat in the studio doing silly british voices trying to come up with Alex Turner’s part for ”Vertigo”.
How was Glastonbury?!
It was fun! Pretty hectic.
Did you see any of the bands?
I saw Django Django, and I was really impressed! That’s pretty much it though, alot of it was just walking around.
There’s been quite a few London stops on this tour, do you have a big fan base here?
Yeah I think so – I would assume so! It’s interesting, because we’re from the States, we’re Cali boys, and we have a cult following out there in certain territories, but we’ve been given alot of love out in London. We’ve sold out yet another one of our headliner shows, which is really cool for us.
I’ve noticed you’ve got a months break before the next gig in August, what’s on the agenda until then?
We do, we’ve got a whole month! Well there’s 4th of July, I usually spend that on the roof of someone’s house watching fireworks. I’m really looking forward to it!
I remember first hearing about you and trying to find you online, turns out minimansions.com is actually what it sounds like, miniature mansions and doll houses.
So how did you come up with the name Mini Mansions?
Trying to come up with a band name, you want something that makes you chuckle just a little bit. That particular name was in a bowl of about ten other names, but that one stuck I think the most because our music has sort of a strange compartmentalised structure to it, almost like it’s got an architecture to it that makes you feel that you’re going through a strange, small mansion.
Well it’s a great name! It rolls off the tongue.
Yeah, we’ve been back and fourth with that company that sells doll houses for over five years now, trying to get the domain name minimansions.com, but they’re really, really stubborn about it!
Your self titled debut album came out on Rekords Rekords, and now you’re signed to T Bone Burnett’s Electromagnetic Recordings – why did you get a new record label?
That’s kind of a series of coincidences, but it’s largely due to T Bone sort of gravitating towards us. He saw us play live a couple of times, and he was sort of in the process of moving forward with a record label through Capitol, and Zach, our bassist, had sessions for alot of work that he was producing. He was already familiar with us as a band, and I think after seeing us live and listening to some of the new stuff we were finishing a couple of years ago, he was excited about the possibility to bring us onto his quest.
The Great Pretenders seems quite different than your debut album, as it’s more upbeat. Did you purposely go in a new direction?
I think alot of us had alot of time, that’s for sure. I think with any first records, you learn what you feel are weaknesses when it comes to songwriting and the production of it, and just the general slow of a record. We had alot of time to write both with each other and separately. When we joined forces we realised we were all alot more eccentric for some reason, and because of that I think this album have much more of a punch, you know? The first one is like a slow burn, where this one is more of an explosion.
I’m a big fan of both of your albums, but I remember being blown away the first time I heard Mirror Mountain, especially seeing and hearing it played live!
Oh yeah definitely, me too!
That actually brings me to my next question, do you have a favourite Mini Mansions songs?
Oh I can’t answer that! But what I can say… It’s kind of a day to day thing, I think on weekends, let’s say Friday and Saturday nights, my favourite songs are Fantasy, Mirror Mountain and Death is a Girl. Sunday morning I’m more into Creeps, Heart of Stone and The End. Everything else varies over the course of the week, what my feel is.
How did you end up working with Brian Wilson and Alex Turner?
Again, Zach sessions alot as a bassist, and he was actually recording for one of Brian Wilson’s new tracks and they hit it off. We’re all really dorky, huge admirers like millions of other people, and we were kind of like, we’d feel really stupid if we didn’t pull the sleezy, yet you-never-know move where you litarally just say ”Hey, by the way – I’m in a band, check it out Brian Wilson!” Michael and I were both like, ”Zach, you really need to do it next time you session with him!” It was the risk of him never getting back to us, but lo and behold, he did! He was really excited about contributing to a song, so we gave him three or four songs. He chose Any Emotions as that was the one he gravitated towards the most. This actually all happened when we were all in Dallas mixing, and by the time he got back to us we had almost fully mixed Any Emotions. He ended up sending us ten tracks, each of them about forty vocal tracks. He basically overdubbed tens and tens and tens of these vocal tracks, as you can hear.
With Alex, it was kind of just a longterm friendship, we’ve opened for Arctic Monkeys, and there’s their involvement with Queens of The Stone Age. He was hanging out in the studio where we were recording. Because he had recently moved to L.A. It was a little oasis in between whatever the fuck he was doing at night, and he would just stop by and chill. We had the song Vertigo where we sort of wanted to have an alter-ego part for the second verse, but we hadn’t even thought of actually guesting anyone for that. The more we were trying to come up with a voice on our own, it just sounded goofy, and anything we tried to do just sounded vaguely english. It’s kind of funny, because you’d think we’d come up with it sooner, as we’re sat there pretending to be english, and Alex Turner is in the studio while were doing it. And then all of a sudden, ”Oh, wait..!”
English guy in the corner!
Exactly! And he was really stoked about it, he really pulled it off. It took him about a week to see what he could do with it, and it was all great. He came in and layed it down, and he did it all in one take.
The suits. When and why did that happen?
I dont know actually, it’s not a new idea that’s for sure. I think one of us was wearing a suit at some occasion, it was probably me because I’m usually the most under-dressed, and I remember thinking ”I’m wearing a suit!”, and Zach was like ”Man, you look GREAT dude, we should all wear suits!” At the end of the day, wearing a suit isnt necessarily the most original idea you can have, but I think being in a psych-pop band it is a little different. It’s kind of like a canvas as it’s pretty formal, but we look for different things and ways to spice it up. It makes it feel like more of an occasion, which it is!
Now you never have to feel under-dressed again!
Ideally we would have flowers in our pockets, and maybe a corsage. (After this I went straight to the florist and got them all corsages to wear during their London gig – if the boys wants flowers they’ll get flowers)
How does the future look for Mini Mansions?
Our plan now is to utilize what we have open in July and September, to make a new record basically, already. That’s the plan!
That’s good to hear! Because it was quite a big gap between Mini Mansions and The Great Pretenders..
We work pretty quick when it comes to writing, it just takes alot longer when it comes to the process of choosing. Content isn’t really hard for us, it’s more or less finding the content that we all can fight the war with. We actually had a record ready a couple of years ago, but the whole process of putting it all together takes foreeeeever, so while we were doing that and being neurotic writers writing constantly, we had another 15 songs ready to go by the time we actually had a deal. We have about 12 or 13 other songs that have yet to see the light of day. If we ever become super, super big, we can just re-release The Great Pretenders as a deluxe edition with 15 extra tracks, and people will just melt at that concept.
Words: Ella Stormark