Ten years ago, nearly 90 million viewers were exposed to Janet Jackson's nipple during her Super Bowl XXVIII "wardrobe malfunction" with JT, Brittney Spears eloped twice in 12 months, her first marriage lasting a mere 55 hours, and the driver of the Dave Matthews Band tour bus made it rain 800-pounds of feces onto the Chicago River.
Yeah, 2004 was a questionable year for pop music. But in the midst of all the head shakes and face palms the fourth year of the new millennium brought upon us, one of the best indie, electropop Latin bands to hit South Florida's music scene was born: Minimal.
Tonight, the eclectic foursome will be throwing A Beautiful Chaos at the Garret at Grand Central in downtown Miami in celebration of their ten year anniversary.
County Grind hit up drummer Alejo Angee on the eve of Minimal's birthday bash and spoke to him about the band's evolution throughout the years, the state of SoFla's local music scene, and lead singer Gabriel Ayala's alter ego.
Happy Birthday, Minimal! Here's to ten more.
County Grind: You'll be celebrating 10 years of music making tomorrow night at the Garret. How would you describe your band's journey throughout the last decade?
Alejo Angee: It's been a rocky journey. I guess when we started 10 years ago, there was a lot of excitement about non-alternative music here in Miami. We were playing a lot of Churchill's and Transit Lounge, maybe Tobacco Road. There were a lot of really cool venues and people were showing up. I don't know if it's that I'm getting old, but I don't really see that anymore (laughs).
Minimal has been together for 10 years, and for a band to be around for such a long time is a huge accomplishment. How have you guys managed to stick around for a decade?
It might sound cliché, but the love of music, the love of what we do. We've changed over time, and learned, especially with the last album, how to play a bit with the music industry, performing and traveling, getting our music on soap operas. That was the biggest lesson we learned, how to get our music out there through different mediums other than album releases.
We have a bunch of Latin bands in Miami. Obviously, your sound has a lot to do with it, but how has Minimal distinguished itself from the rest?
So number one, like you said the sound. There's a little bit of tropical energy that comes through sometimes, but we're very eclectic and like to experiment with synthesizers and stuff. Also, our live shows. During our 2010 EP release party for Hermoso Caos, Gabriel (the lead singer) dressed up as a futuristic space man from the '50s and '60s (laughs). People associated it with the band for a while.
How has your sound evolved over the years?
Wow, tremendously. We've always skipped on guitar solos. Our songs were very unstructured and not really identifiable. I think we're beginning to flirt now more with very traditional indie sounds and atmospheric parts. Our Flaming Lips kind of influence is beginning to take hold after a long time. I feel we feel a little more comfortable with the instruments.
I think your sound and concept is what's attracted people to your music. It's different, but good.
We do have a little bit of pop. We oftentimes come across as a musician's band, like half the audience is musicians and stuff, and I think it's because musicians can tolerate and appreciate out-of-mainstream compositions better than mainstream consumers.
Let's go back to the start. How'd you guys meet?
Three of us had been playing together since high school. We graduated in late '90s and started a punk band right out of high school. It was called Estación Local, but it came to an end, and at the end it was like, "OK, what do we do now?" Two left and three stayed together. We used to be a political band, and in Miami, that didn't play well. We got banned from a lot of clubs.
Why do you think your political messages weren't accepted here?
We used to wear Che Guevara T-shirts, and because of our rhetoric, we were directly associated with socialism. We were those very liberal rebels and a lot of people in Miami wanted nothing to do with it. That changed with Minimal, and we decided to experiment with a lot of things, rather than play aggressive punk like we did before.
This is gonna be a tough question to answer, but I'm gonna ask it anyway. What has been your most memorable show?
(Laughs) That is a tough one. Let me think for a second... OK, one of our most memorable shows, it was in New York. We were playing at a small bar and I think we were intoxicated or stoned or something (laughs). One of the members tripped over the drum machine cable and none of us knew what was going on. But we just kept on playing. We probably sounded horrible to the audience, but just went with it.
What's your favorite venue to play at?
We absolutely loved playing at PAX when it was open because they treated their musicians extremely well.
The Vagabond is closed, Churchill's is changing ownership, and Tobacco Road may soon shut its doors. What impact do you feel these changes have made or will make on the local music community?
It's a little scary, you know, because the Miami music scene, you can look at it a couple of ways. There are those that say we have a shitty music scene, but at the same time, you have these amazing bands and having no place to perform, having that taken away from us, it's difficult. It gives us room for reinvention on our behalf, but some bands don't have the money to do that. It's becoming very difficult. It's funny, my friend texted me the other day asking where to go for good music, and I told her I don't know anymore.
What are you looking forward to the most about tomorrow's show?
Wow, we're super excited to see people we haven't seen in a long time, old friends, and to perform. You can listen to the album, but it's on stage where we feel best and give it 100 percent, and being able to celebrate 10 years with friends and being able to say we're still here. Gabriel is also presenting his new identity tomorrow, so that should be interesting.
Can you give us any clues on his alter ago?
(Laughs) Maybe some horns? We should find a name for his alter ego.
What reaction do you hope to get from your fans?
Good question... Just excitement number one, and play some songs that are gonna be recorded next month and see how they accept it. It's produced by the Dominican-New Yorker engineer who's worked with Juan Luis Guerra. We are thrilled.
A Beautiful Chaos. Minimal's Ten Year Anniversary Party. Tonight, May 15, 9 p.m. The Garret at Grand Central, 697 N. Miami Ave., Miami; 305-377-2277; grandcentralmiami.com. $5.
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