Band Spotlight: The Minks
>>Penning themselves as Nashville’s “psychedelic-bloos band,” The Minks are here to deliver the rock ‘n roll cure to your blues.
After just a few moments of listening to The Mink’s 2019 album Light & Sweet, you are sure to be transported to a space: one that’s heavy on ‘70s rock themes and calls for some visceral body swaying. This is heady blues-rock with a healthy dose of psychedelic nostalgia, the perfect marriage of early Black Keys vibes with vintage staples like Cream and Hendrix.
The smooth but biting vocals of front woman Nikki Barber are the anchor here. With soulful pipes, solid axe-playing skills, and a fun blunt-banged aesthetic, Barber beckons her listeners to lose themselves in the blues-pulsed journey. The band’s website bio describes their sound as “low-down, all the way, purse-lipped, eyes-shut, head-whirling kind of rock and roll,” and it’s spot-on. This is not music for reverent listening via headphones at a café (trust me: I tried). These are tunes for getting a sweat on and giving in to the groove.
Barber is backed by a talented crew of Nashville companions, a veritable “rock and roll circus” as she describes it. The musicians met and assembled in the Music City’s ever-burgeoning scene. “It’s a small world within the city,” says Barber. “[Y]ou just run into everyone at some point.” Despite the over-saturation of musicians in the city, Barber is grateful to be living and creating music in Nashville. “Living there has pushed me to be a better musician,” she reflects.
There’s just enough twang detected in The Minks’ sound, a nod to their home base and the natural influence of the musicians surrounding them. The track “Ode to Hank” really leans in to jangly Nashville roots rock and would satisfy any Hank Williams fan.
With a deeper dive of the album, listeners can detect blues, southern rock, psychedelia, and even some punk rock. “I’m Okay,” the opening track on Light & Sweet, begins with an up-tempo, girl-punk feel, only to cut down to a half-time groove that lays into some dirty blues-rock progressions. The band elicits fuzzy, hard-rock tones in tunes like “J. Walker Blues” as easily as they drop danceable psychedelic lines in songs like “I Want You.” The acoustic simplicity heard on the track “Light & Sweet” is a welcomed and appropriate closer to the album.
The band cites influences ranging from Patti Smith to Creedence Clearwater Revival to Neil Young. When songwriting, Barber pulls inspiration from her surroundings. “It’s everywhere,” she states. “[Some] theme[s] of my songs are love and heartache and self-reflection and not giving a fuck.” You can hear the emotional maturity in Barber’s vocals, showcasing both strength and vulnerability.
The Minks’ full-length album was the product of homemade love. Roommate and friend Joe Bissiri teamed up with Barber to record Light & Sweet in their home studio. “We would record in our [pajamas] between baking banana bread and getting stoned,” explains Barber. “We got to take our time and rework things if they weren’t sounding just right.” As if this setup doesn’t already sound like recording gold to any musician, Barber adds a magical detail: “We even recorded the last song on my front porch during the summer with all of the grasshoppers chirping.”
Even the backstory of the band name conjures sweet home-grown nostalgia. Mink was a nickname attributed to Barber in her youth. She tried the band name on for size, with no intention to commit to it. “I had only planned to play one show ever, but it stuck and here we are four years later,” she says. A home studio, childhood nickname, and band of friends? It’s no wonder the Minks’ sound is as tight as it is warm and familial.
The band is in the thick of a busy east-coast tour, with gigs lined up everywhere from Atlanta to upstate New York. As The Minks gain a loyal following, Barber sets her intention to “keep having fun” while creating music and touring.
Given the heavy pulse, soulful lyrics, and genre fluidity, The Minks are a band to witness live. Be prepared to shift from jumping up and down to staying planted and headbanging. Dress comfy, give in, and get down.
The Minks play with co-headliners and Rochester stalwarts The Dirty Pennies at Bug Jar on Friday, March 6. Nashville’s pop-grunge outfit Reality Something and local blues-punk band Big Bertha are also on the bill. Doors open at 8:00, music starts at 9:00, and tickets are $10 at the door.
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