While 2016 was a dark stretch in so many ways, it was a bountiful year for Portland music. Read on as we count down our favorite 11 local albums.
Members of local dream pop band, Mini Blinds, are charming, to say the least. Heading in to talk with band founders Beth Ann Dear and Devin Welch was met with smiles and pleasant conversation. The dream-team pop duo now become four-piece “double couple double trouble” band are just as genuine and honest as their latest EP, Dust.
Growing up listening to shoegaze, pop punk and ‘60s /‘70s punk and psych rock, Dear and Welch are well versed in the language of music. Having played for much of their lives, the two met in 2011 and started playing in bands locally. After leaving their first band together, Appendixes, they went out into the scene as Mini Blinds and founded local vintage/consignment shop (and record label) Zero Wave on north Killingsworth.
Graye Guidotti and Maxwell William joined the band in 2016, adding a fresh new dynamic and turning the minimalist ‘60s dream pop vibe up a notch to something fuller with a new range of feeling. Guidotti crushes it on keys, adding ethereal backing vocals and sometimes stepping in on bass or guitar, and William adds a range of fills and crashes that no drum machine could match. Guidotti is also a notable karaoke wizard and a kickass KJ queen.
They are seriously a phenomenal bunch, inspired by a David Lynchian darkness, brought into light by ‘90s pop-punk and hardcore, the team behind the scenes is just what you’d hope for them to be.
ELEVEN: Tell me how you got started?
Beth Ann Dear: It started just the two of us, I’d say like late 2015?
Devin Welch: Our first show was November 2015. We didn’t even have a name yet.
BD: We were in a band called Appendixes before this, together, and we got asked to play a show and Appendixes couldn’t do it so we formed our own band to do it.
DW: We’d already been writing some stuff that wasn’t in the vein of the other band.
11: What kind of music was it?
BD: It was somewhat similar, I feel like what Mini Blinds is doing is slightly more minimal and more pop-influenced and less shoegaze I feel.
DW: Yeah, Appendixes was slow and doomy and a little bit dark. There were definitely some pop moments. But originally, Mini Blinds was more twee and sort of lo-fi.
BD: Even pop-punk influenced.
11: I’m sure adding two more members has changed the feel of it, no?
BD: It feels a lot fuller.
DW: We were previously doing this stuff with old drum machines, and one of the drum machines I have you can actually program, but the ones we use the most are totally preset-based, so really aside from just adding some delays, the rhythms just are what they are. Maybe you have a shift on the chorus or whatever, but they’re generally pretty metronomic. That kind of informs the feel.
BD: It doesn’t give any room for building up, as much. It’s harder to have that feeling of a climax and a fall when you have something that’s constant, you know? It’s really a more minimal thing, like a ‘60s rock beat where it’s pretty steady the whole way. But something happened with psych rock in the late ‘60s, early ‘70s where things started to become more dynamic. Where there could be rises and falls in one song.
11: What kind of music were you listening to growing up? And what influenced the kind of music you’re making now?
DW: We have a little bit of an age difference.
BD: Yeah, we do – but not that much!
DW: I think we probably listen to a lot of similar stuff now, but when we were younger…
BD: When we were teens–this’ll be a reference to the age difference that we have–when I was a teenager I was listening to like Green Day and Blink 182, and later teens I was really into Modest Mouse, Bright Eyes.
DW: In my early teens… well, the point where I started listening to music that made me want to play music was probably more like 6th or 7th grade, and for me that was like Nirvana and Sonic Youth. And obviously in the ‘90s–pop punk, hardcore, early emo and underground northwest music. K Records, Sub Pop.
BD: That’s more what we’re influenced by now, and we’re just influenced by our friends and what’s happening. I’m also influenced by some older ‘60s stuff too. And weird kind of shoegaze stuff of the ‘90s. Mazzy Star is a big influence, always has been. I want to start delving into the slide guitar aspect.
11: So Beth, you play guitar, and Devin, you play bass–but you also switch sometimes, right?
BD: We do! We switch, and now that Graye’s in the band, sometimes she plays guitar or bass and we both play guitar, or they both play guitar and I play bass. Which is kind of amazing.
DW: It makes it sometimes tricky live. We just organize the sets according to it.
11: I think that’s great, I love when bands can do that, it adds this whole other dynamic level to the performance!
DW: Well, it’s nice to feel like everyone gets to challenge themselves and they’re not pigeon-holed into one certain role. Although ultimately, you’re (Beth) still the lead singer all the time.
BD: And Max is always the drummer. He’s good at drums!
11: Are you two from Portland?
BD: I grew up in eastern Oregon, I went to high school in eastern Washington, in Richland which is Tri-City, like southeastern Washington.
DW: The atomic city.
BD: The atomic city, by the nuclear Hanford site where they buried all the rockets and stuff after World War II! I’ve heard that the Simpsons three-eyed fish is based off of that location, because there were three-eyed fish apparently! I guess they treat the water for it but…
11: Well, I’m glad that you don’t have three eyes! Where are you from, Devin?
DW: I’m also from Washington, I was born in Seattle and grew up in Kirkland, which is a suburb of Seattle. And then I lived in Seattle for over 10 years and then moved here in 2011. And then, maybe about a year or so after I moved here, started playing in a band with Beth and Eric Sabatino, Appendixes.
BD: I moved here in 2005. I went to college here, I studied abroad in Germany for a year, but since then I’ve been living here.
11: What school did you go to?
BD: I went to PSU.
11: What were you studying?
BD: I studied sociology. Actually, when I was in college I took this class that was called Youth Subcultures and wasn’t playing music at the time– I’d always played guitar and piano, but I wasn’t actually writing music–but I took this class, and I had a bunch of friends who were in bands from the Tri-Cities, where I grew up, and they were all living here playing music in punk bands, playing house shows around 2008. So, I started writing my research project on the DIY subculture and that’s what got me into playing music and got me to know everyone I know now, and lead me to know Eric, who I started playing in a band with. I kind of want to go back and read that paper!
11: Where are Graye and Max from?
BD: Graye is from Corvallis. Max is from here. We had a drummer before Max named Hannah, and then she left. Then we played with Kyle Roboquiso, he was my roommate. He was a fill in, and then Graye showed interest and Max started playing with us and Graye was like, “I can play too.”
DW: We were actually talking with Graye first about joining the band, but then Max is her partner and we needed a drummer, so he jumped in.
BD: Yeah, so it’s a double-couple double-trouble band!
11: I don’t think I’ve ever known of a band that was a double-couple, that’s amazing.
BD: There was a double-couple in Fleetwood Mac!
DW: Well, they were rotating.
11: I hate to ask, but where does the name Mini Blinds come from? Is that a style of blinds?
DW: Yeah, they’re the style in studio apartments.
BD: Those white vinyl ones. You know when people have photographs of cats getting stuck in blinds, those kinds of blinds! We have mini blinds in our apartment, which is actually really exciting.
DW: The reason for Mini Blinds, I already had the name, I reserved the Bandcamp because I was going to use the name for my solo project and then at our first show, we did a pass the hat and people could put in submissions for our band name. And then all the submissions we got were really bad.
BD: Almost all of them were about cats or vaginas! Which is fine, we love both of those things, but I don’t want to have either of those things in our name!
DW: But yeah, the thing about mini blinds, I think the attraction was in old noir movies, you get people peering through blinds and stuff, and in the ‘80s there were a lot of photo shoots and album covers where there’s light filtering through the blinds and you see the shadows across the face. Something voyeuristic, mysterious.