Four blues-rockin’ boys with their feet in Auckland but their hearts somewhere in 1960s middle America, Mini Simmons are the latest act out of New Zealand to catch our attention.
They’ve recently released their debut EP Whiskey and the Witch, some breed of acid-tinged blues dipped in a little heartache. After letting them dust off a rowdy launch night, we reached out for the latest.
Favourite whiskies, favourite road trip albums, and favourite punters: buckle in for a ride with Auckland blues quartet Mini Simmons.
HAPPY: Hey, how are you? What are you up to at the moment?
MINI SIMMONS: Afternoon! Pretty hungover, and surfed out but pretty solid. Maybe. Not sure actually. Last night was heavy. How are you?
HAPPY: A bit better than that… I think. So you’ve just released your debut EP Whiskey and the Witch into the world. How have the first-taste reactions been?
MINI SIMMONS: That’s an interesting question to think about. Because you’re just starting out, almost everyone you speak to about your music is someone you know directly or indirectly so all the feedback you get is propped up by compliments and telling you what you want to hear. Makes us feel good but you never know entirely how to filter it!
Having said that we’ve had some people we didn’t know and who know what they’re talking about getting in touch to say they are impressed. That’s pretty humbling and makes us feel like we’re heading in the right direction. Brad did all our recording and mixing in a bedroom of the flat so it’s damn cool that he was able to do such an incredible job with what we had available! Might have helped our vibe come to think of it. We just want to turn people on to the sounds we dig and it seems to be getting some traction.
HAPPY: And how did the EP launch go?
MINI SIMMONS: The EP show was cool. Real cool. We haven’t put on a whole lot of our own shows so far, lots of supporting slots which you get when you’re coming up. Totally different feeling doing your own though. Much more intense.
The venue (Thirsty Dog) holds around 150 and has really nice sound, epic little riser for the stage. Sick place to play and was perfect for us to launch a debut EP. It packed out and the crowd was really grooving. When it’s nice and intimate like that, the whole room just gets madder and wilder until it’s a frenzy. It kept building, it was crazy.
We also really dug having Joe’s Van there to play with us. Those guys are so rad. Huge sound for a three piece and really tight. We’d played with them a couple of times before so we knew the two of us would mash really well.
HAPPY: Tell us about your favourite crowd member.
MINI SIMMONS: Favourite crowd member… don’t know. There were a few clambering on stage, tables, the bar, everywhere. Chaos. The ones on stage even temporarily derailed Jess’ bass which was nuts. Max (who did our EP artwork) is a super mellow dude but he was one of the first to lose it. That got us fired up!
HAPPY: Really dig the ’60s influence coming through your stuff. What do you think the four of you would be up to, had you been born 50 years earlier?
MINI SIMMONS: Doing the same thing but it would be called ‘Pop Music’! We would love to have been in London, San Francisco, Laurel Canyon, the Greenwich Village scene… man we would have been totally tripping out. Uncrowded waves in so many spots back then too. Probably we’d just be regular guys though. Maybe milking cows in NZ. Yoni would. It’s the muscular drummer forearms. Or maybe he’d have been the first male hair model. You could still be ‘the first’ of something back then. Not everything had been taken yet.
HAPPY: Irish, Scottish or Tennessee whiskey?
MINI SIMMONS: Tennessee is what we drink most but we certainly don’t discriminate. Brad probably has the most cultured palate when it comes to that. We drink a lot of rum too. Dark is good.
HAPPY: Now the single’s out, does the Slippery Gypsy Woman know who she is?
MINI SIMMONS: No idea… maybe? Will be funny if she does. She ran away to the other side of the world with Yoni’s heart and money. Pretty slippery and well worth a song!
HAPPY: I feel like Mini Simmons is excellent driving music. Was that an intentional thing?
MINI SIMMONS: I guess it just happened. ’60s and ’70s music is good driving music and that’s what we’re tapping into. Something melodic but with roots in the blues. All the blues is really working music isn’t it? Or travel music. Mimicking the sounds of the old trains heading down the line. ’60s and ’70s music is mostly a derivative of that.
Also we started writing it on a road trip from San Francisco to Costa Rica. Maybe we were subconsciously writing it for ourselves…
HAPPY: What’s your favourite record to listen to on the road?
MINI SIMMONS: There are a few we go back to – hard to stop at one. Jimi Hendrix Live at Monterey is difficult to go past. Can you believe that was a single show? LA Woman by The Doors. Anything Peter Green. Damn the Torpedoes by Tom Petty. The list goes on but yeah… those are certainly band favourites.
HAPPY: Is there more music in the works? I realise that may not be on the radar yet.
MINI SIMMONS: For sure! We actually had a couple of other tracks which were to go on the EP but we decided to hold them back for a bit. They’ll go well as standalone work which is exciting, so we’ll probably look to put them out as a single with a B-side over summer.
We have a bunch of loose jams that have come through and are just waiting for a bit of structure. We actually have an 8-minute blues rollercoaster that’s the focal point of our live shows. It’s really just a matter of piecing all these together! We’ll do that over summer then get to work recording an album.
HAPPY: And when’s the next time we can catch Mini Simmons live?