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EndSerenading by Mineral
One of the musical thrills of my lifetime was getting to see a band I was never supposed to be able to see.
I’ve spoken quite a bit about my college years and how moving to Boston got me out of the metal and hardcore rut and into the melodic indie and emo music that would shape me as a person, fan, and musician thereafter. Of all the bands that I discovered my freshman year — Modest Mouse, Christie Front Drive, Sunny Day Real Estate, The Promise Ring, etc. — none hit me straight in the soul the way Mineral did.
Much of the appeal of Mineral beyond the music was the feeling that they were a secret band. In 1997, the internet was there, but certainly not in its full-fledged YouTube, Spotify easy-discovery form that it is today. Hell, we’ve seen full-blown music discovery ecosystems come and go like MySpace and MP3.com since I discovered Mineral the old-fashioned way by a friend sharing their first CD, The Power of Failing, with me back in 1997. I loved it and listened to it incessantly, especially the song “If I Could.”
As is often the case in my 40s, the timing of events is confusing to me now. In looking up the dates of album releases, it occurs to me that EndSerenading didn’t come out until my sophomore year of college, even though my fuzzy memories make me think we had it my freshman year. For however fuzzy that is, I do remember purchasing EndSerenading almost instantly after hearing my friend’s copy.
One listen and I was off to Newbury Comics on Newbury Street in Boston to see if they had it. If they didn’t, I’d hit the Tower Records as well. But Newbury Comics had it and the feeling of joy to have my own copy of this record was everything because I didn’t know if I’d be able to find it when I left my dorm that day. This wasn’t Aerosmith or even the Mighty Mighty Bosstones who’d graduated to a major label. With Mineral, you had no idea if the store would have it in inventory or if you’d have to talk to a clerk and make a special order. The band was on an indie label called Crank! with the exclamation point and all. And there was a sense of pride in the idea that I’d get the knowing smile and nod from the John Cusack in High Fidelity employee working at the counter if I asked to special order something cool. The only thing cooler than buying something cool is asking for something that the cool store doesn’t have in stock because it’s even more obscure.
For me in the late 90s in Boston, that was Mineral as a cultural entity. And why was Mineral so obscure and why did they feel like such a secret by the time I discovered them? I was listening to their sophomore record EndSerenading and quickly came to find out that the band didn’t survive the recording process. By the time the album was in fans’ hands, the band had broken up. I wouldn’t be able to go to the Middle East rock club in Cambridge to see them. They weren’t going to tour to support this piece of art that I fell in love with wholeheartedly and with all my soul. You can’t get any cooler and more mysterious than that. Mineral seemed to answer the age-old question — also asked in High Fidelity. Is it better to burn out or fade away?
It seemed as if Mineral burned out forever. The members went on to found other bands including another favorite of mine, The Gloria Record, but it wasn’t like they were Mineral even if they had Chris Simpson, and Jeremy Gomez. It was great music, but it gave Mineral an even bigger sense of finality from the outside looking in.
That is until 2014.
A band nobody thought they’d ever see live was getting back together after breaking up in the midst of recording their sophomore album. How on earth did it happen that this band got back together? What of the band’s dissolution? How did they mend the fences and hearts to make this thing happen again? Chris Simpson and Jeremy Gomez did a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” and it goes to show just how much time buries unimportant trivial stuff from our youth. Someone asked about the band’s dissolution and what changed that allowed them to get back together for a tour.
It was so long ago that I can't really recall all of the details, but enough time has passed that it is all water under the bridge at this point anyway. The impetus for us getting back together to play again is simple...someone asked us to do a show! Believe it or not, that hasn't really happened much over the years. When we were approached, it seemed like the right time and we all agreed to give it a shot. Fast forward to now and we have 20+ shows booked! Who knew?
All it took was for someone to ask them to do a show? Keep this in mind if there’s a broken-up band that you’re desperate to see. Has anyone asked them to do a show? Contact a festival where the band would make sense and see if they’ll throw some money at them. It might just happen.
Fast forward to September 12, 2014. I’m no longer 19 years old. I’m 35 and my wife and I have a babysitter at home and I’ve dragged my wife to the Grog Shop and forced her to jockey for position uncomfortably close to the stage as the sold-out crowd of sweaty men-that-used-to-be-boys is ready to hug themselves and sing along to every word of music they’ve been listening to Chris Simpson sing in a time capsule since 1998. Simpson and the rest of the kids that wrote that music — bass player Jeremy Gomez, guitarist Scott McCarver, and drummer Gabriel Wiley — are no longer kids either.
For that night and those moments in time, we were all in a time machine. I think my wife finds it endearing, but I think she was shocked just how choked up and emotional I got as the notes of “Five, Eight and Ten” from the band’s first album The Power of Failing rang out. Never mind the music, these mythical artists whose group barely existed before breaking up were physically standing on the Grog Shop stage in front of me. Every hair follicle on my body was on fire as the guitar notes rang out in triplicate. Simpson starts singing over those notes before the drums and bass crash in to foretell the whole band playing together after about a minute. The loud-soft-loud dynamics were a huge part of those early Mineral songs. They were raw and dynamic and sometimes sloppy, but more earnest than anything you’d ever heard before.
It’s what made their sophomore album EndSerenading such a stark listen. The band could still rock, but this new work leaned into a more mature sonic palette or palate depending on whether you want to compare it to painting or food.
After blowing the roof off of the Grog Shop for five songs from their first record, Mineral leaned into EndSerenading. They started with “ForIvadell,” which is a mid-tempo jangly rocker. Next up was “SoundsLikeSunday,” which is quietly one of the best songs on the record. It takes a while to build there, but over five minutes the band builds to a resolution and crescendo as the band almost drops out completely. Simpson’s voice stands alone to kick things off singing the refrain “How blessed we are for crying now, but we will laugh someday and how” over and over again. It’s a gorgeous song and a beautiful lament.
The band then started playing the opening notes of “Unfinished” to giddy applause from the man-boys, myself included. It’s a six-minute song with shockingly few lyrics. The song is another builder that is content to let the guitars breathe in sync with the tight rhythm section. At 2:10 Chris Simpson finally starts singing.
I wish you could put your ear up to my heart
And hear how much I love you
I wish you could put your ear up to my heart
And hear how much I love you
I still dream of December
With rings on our fingers
And the two shall become
And the two shall become, become
And that’s it. That’s the whole song, lyrically, but it feels like so much more. The drone of the guitars that lead into each section before it explodes into compressed and distorted guitars around the four-minute mark is perfect. By doing less exploding, Mineral discovered on this record just how big of an impact their explosions could have when they utilized them. Simpson’s voice hits the top of the range to match McCarver’s guitar and the purposeful driving bass of Gomez and drums of Wiley. It’s powerful on the record, but when you see Gomez and Wiley rock out with McCarver as Simpson works to hit every note, it’s another level.
The band followed that up with one of my favorite songs “If I Could” from The Power of Failing. Not that our version was ever good but I loved that song so much that my band covered it for kicks. Just watch how every single person is singing along at two minutes in the video below. The most amazing thing to me is that these aren’t crusty people like me. These are whole new generations of music fans that have very different Mineral discovery stories than mine. It’s awesome to see a band that was dead and gone continue to have a life. Make sure you pay special attention to the 4:10 mark when the band and the crowd sing “And I know I don’t deserve this” together. This is Mineral in a nutshell and why it’s such a shame that it took so long to have these moments together.
Fast forward to the final tune from the set, the band played “&Serenading,” but it was obvious to the hardcores in the audience that they couldn’t be done and that they’d come back for an encore.
They opened their encore with the two songs that open EndSerenading — “LoveLetterTypeWriter, and “Palisade” — because even though they’re two separate songs, they belong together. One is a soft, droning lead-in to the other. It’s a fitting way to end a show, because it was, more than anything else, what sold me on Mineral. I had heard The Power of Failing and I liked it, but when I heard these two songs open EndSerenading, Mineral jumped to a whole new stratosphere for me as a band. It’s so simple how “LoveLetterTypewriter” finishes, but it’s perfect.
Will you ever know how much I love you for that?
Will you ever know how much I love you?
And then “Palisade” hits some huge guitar notes before picking right up where the previous song left off. But the peak of the song is some of the band’s most infectious playing and Simpson’s best singing.
With my eyes closed
Your feet sounding like a symphony of strings
You picked me up and whispered "Forever"
Like a secret in my ears, now
And with that, I was in love with this band because it made me feel more human. It gave me all the outlet for emotions that I’d previously leaned into aggressive music to express. This band sounded like it looked inward. It looked in the mirror rather than for a victim or someone else to blame. As a 19-year-old kid, it felt more important to think about who I was going to be rather than try to demonize everyone else who was not me.
I don’t think Mineral knew they were having this effect, but that’s what art is, right? Sometimes people have no idea what they’re trying to say or how it will be heard on the other end. The things I had in common with Mineral and their Christian, Texas upbringing were few. Their perspective honestly didn’t hit home to me, until they sang it at the top of their lungs with jangly guitars leading into huge distorted choruses and leads.
Mineral has stuck with me all these years and continues to be one of my annual go-to bands. I always load up EndSerenading toward the end of fall. This album feels like the beginning of winter to me. I lean into that without dread with albums like this. Certain albums just scream for seasons. I’ll always associate Painted Shut by Hop Along with Summer. I’ll always associate Superunknown with Summer because “Black Hole Sun” dominated MTV for an entire summer. EndSerenading is the part of Fall when the leaves that are left are dangling by a thread waiting for a stiff cold wind to knock them down. I don’t think the boys from Texas imagined that when they wrote it though.