Amor Amezcua and Estrella Sanchez are Mint Field. Originally from Tijuana, Mexico, this nostalgic shoegaze duo takes us through bittersweet memories- both past and more recent ones- by transporting us to blissful visual landscapes with their debut album “Pasar de las Luces” (“Passing of the Lights”). Reflecting over the spaces of three different cities which have had a significant influence on their artistic identity, Mint Field talk about their emerging sound, the international differences of the alternative rock scene, and how every recollection of their lives influences their creativity.
TIJUANA - Beginnings
Although you’ve been friends for a long time, you just started making music together a couple of years ago. When and how did you decide to make Mint Field as a musical project?
ESTRELLA: We really met each other to make music.
AMOR: Our friendship actually grew playing.
E: The second time we hung out we knew we were going to be friends but at the same time, I had already told Amor that I wanted to play music and she told me that she wanted to play as well a few weeks earlier. It was all really quick -- like in the span of a month or so.
So how did you two actually meet or how did you both realize that you wanted to play music?
A: We knew each other from before. We didn’t talk to each other but we knew about each others’ existences. I switched schools to where Estrella was and then we started talking on Facebook about, “Oh, let’s go see this band” or to go to FYF or something like that—and it didn’t happen—but yes, it was because of school.
Your album has a lot references to the past: the seasons, and visuals that are almost static for a spectator, all while having a nostalgic point of view. Can you talk about what nostalgia means for you? Does it come from the past?
A: For me nostalgia is very important in my daily life. Everytime that I see something it reminds me of something else [from my experiences] and it might cause sadness, or happiness or whatever but I think that it reflects a lot in how we express ourselves musically. We talk about experiences and memories regardless of whether it makes us feel happiness or sadness and that causes a lot of nostalgia when we write because we talk or we play and it reminds us a lot about the thing we are speaking about, you know? And so for me it is very important. It’s also not like I think about it as: “I have to be thinking about this certain thing,” but it’s something that informs what I think and what I do.
E: For me I feel like it’s just of a reminder [of the past]. Because there are a lot of songs on the album that are very old, and I feel that I wrote as I felt sad. I think it’s the same [as Amor’s thought], there are songs that are from a younger person than who I am right now. And so in that time in the past as I felt it, I wrote it. If something had happened in a car—like for example, in “Ojos En el Carro”—I wrote it like it was, and that was a reminder for me. Nostalgia is something that is always there. I don’t know if I feel very nostalgic at this point in my life but I used to be like that about a year ago, and it hurt me a lot; like it made me hold onto things a lot. But now I see it in a very different way, I remember it in a different way, in a very sweet way. There are things that remind me of other things. Nostalgia can be such a complex concept because it can be about a lot of different things, from something terrible to something pretty, or something that you learned but for me it is a reminder of the things that fill me—make me who I am—because of what has happened.
And do you get nostalgia from a specific event, or is it like a state from the past that you’re remembering? Do you get it from home, childhood, or adolescence?
E: From everything. I have always been a very sentimental person. I feel a lot, sometimes more than I should, and that’s why an event can mark me a lot: because I feel that it does. I am a very passionate person, I think ... very passionate. I remember, from my childhood, feeling like this for very silly reasons. From things you think about when you’re a kid—like, it gives me nostalgia when I remember how I began to sing—and I was very little, I was like 6 years old.
A: I think that really it’s everything. It’s not solely childhood, or a person... it really can be something like a scent of something... it’s anything. Any little thing could remind you of someone, something, an experience or a moment really, even a city—
E: —whatever—It really can be anything. It can be a texture, a flower...
There are many artists—whether they are photographers, musicians or even painters—creators in general that are from Tijuana and use the city as a reference or inspiration in their work. Because your album talks about nostalgia, do you refer to Tijuana as a source of this feeling since you grew up here? Have you used the city as a musical inspiration?
A: Really everything that surrounds us informs us. And obviously the city that we live in is something very important for the people that we are. It’s everything. For example,in Playas de Tijuana, which is a very calm area where time passes very slowly, there are the sunsets; everything is so little. But there is also the transition from when we moved to Mexico City, and the new songs came out. Those songs are much more fast paced or have layered features. The city that you are in—or the one you are talking about—everything that surrounds you (it doesn’t even have to be the city) will be reflected in the music because it is what [you] live.
This question is regarding the track “El Parque Parecía No Tener Fin”. This song and “Cambios del Pasar” are the only songs in which you utilize spoken word instead of song to express the lyrics. How did you come about this creative choice?
E: “El Parque Parecía No Tener Fin” was a text before it was a song. It was more like a poem. That song really doesn’t talk about much; it is more contemplative. It emulates walking and the rhythm of people, how the environment feels, the rain. I feel that, because it was a written word poem, when we did the music for it, [the song] came out as a march, and then I imagined that there would be a melody of a voice. It ended [up] having some song to it, but it is more of a background melody and not the focal point of the song. It made more sense if it was spoken. It’s the same with “Cambios del Pasar” because it is a tough one—like: “this is who we are!”—that [kind of] song. We wanted it to feel that way because there are some songs that are… too [melodic] to the point that [they] are almost dramatic, but other tracks shouldn’t feel like that.
Referring back to “El Parque Parecía No Tener Fin” once more, there is a phrase that I love that says: “Corre, no tiene fin” (“Run, there is no ending”) and how I imagined it is like if you were on a loop experiencing the same thing over and over again, as if you are walking in the park and there was no escape. Do you mean the song as a way to express a feeling of being stuck somewhere, or does it induce a state of bliss being indulged by the same memory repeatedly? Were you referencing a specific park?
E: Yes, it was a park. It’s a trail in Mexico City. There is a street called Amsterdam, and the first times I traveled to that city I didn’t have many friends there so I would go on walks. On Amsterdam there is a circuit, but I didn’t know that—I thought it was a one-way thing. So later I realized that I was walking in circles. So the song is describing the actual place with its text. I don’t think the song has to do with being stuck; it is more like experiencing the moment. It was a strange situation- something funny that could also be reflected to something like understanding how to be alone- because I was alone listening to music with headphones on.
You are very visual musicians. Your lyrics and songs have a lot of pictorial references, like purple eyelids in “Parpados Morados”, and the colors of Autumn in “Quiero Otoño De Nuevo”- they signal a lot of color and imagery. The music really helps the listener transcend from a purely auditory world to a more visual one. How do images inform your songwriting?
E: Referring to those two songs, the names are used more like metaphors but “Parpados Morados” is about the process [of color change that your eyes undergo] when you are about to cry and how your eyes get a little red; eyes really change when you cry. It’s a good question because I had never thought of myself in that way [as a visual artist], but now that you’ve mentioned it it makes sense. “Quiero Otoño De Nuevo” was made because I really love Autumn —and really that song doesn’t say anything—but it does make you think about the landscape in the fall. I’ve always been very visual and I am always noticing everything, mostly in things involving nature and the human body and stuff like that.
When you are writing are you actively thinking the song should sound like the image you are seeing?
E: A little bit, but not 100%. Sometimes I will think about it, but it ends up being something completely different.
A: That’s true, because we are really writing about something you saw, so unconsciously you do it.
Speaking of Mexico City, and of Mexico in general, you have been playing shows in various parts of the country, but more recently in the United States and Europe. What are the changes that you perceive in the alternative rock scene in Mexico and these other places?
A: In all of these places there are people that are interested [in our music], but the main difference that I perceive is the support of the music.
E: Like the attention that the audience gives at a show.
A: In Europe, it is like, 100%. From the venue, the public, everyone.
E: Everyone respects what you’re doing a lot and, for example, here there will be places that will give us that attention but there will be other places where people just get drunk and whatnot; they just party. In Mexico, I feel that our shows there are always filled with people that are interested in our music. Speaking for different bands, the scene in general is hard and there are very different contexts because in Mexico there isn’t a shoegaze scene or there are not too many bands. It’s very little still, and there is also a very small audience for that type of music. Overall, I think that all of the people that come to our shows are the same. They either scream a lot or keep quiet all the time: very drastic. Like yesterday, in San Francisco everyone was like: “Wooo!” and, in Portland, everyone was just nodding their heads but paying attention.
A: Everyone is interested but they react differently.
Did the size of the musical scene of Mexico influence your choice in wanting to be signed with a record label in the U.S?
A: Actually the musical scene in Mexico isn’t small, it’s very, very big. There are a lot of people and a lot of artists but there is no support for the bands.
E: Like there wouldn’t be a record label that would sign you and support you with tours and all of that. At least with a band like ours. There was no option; we tried in Mexico but it was very hard.
A: We just sent out a lot of emails and we found a person that helped us send even more emails, and it happened. They were the [only] people that answered us and believed in our project, which is the coolest part. It happened without us thinking that we “wanted” to be with a U.S record label.
E: We looked literally everywhere, anything that you would dream of crazy we did it. We sent out so many emails and only one [label] answered.
Now that you are signed to Innovative Leisure, how do you feel that you’ve evolved as artists and musicians since the first album you recorded with them?
E: It’s like taking everything a little bit more seriously. Our music itself wasn’t affected as much by the change. It was more about the seriousness of the project because there are now people surrounding us that are supporting this.
A: There are more people involved.
E: Before, we could be off the hook if we didn’t do something and be like, “well, nothing’s really going to happen,” but now we have to do it. It’s super good for us because it was what we wanted in the end. We really want to live off of this.
A: Yes, and it also brings us so much more tranquility because in the past we would do everything ourselves. We would have to make our CDs, t-shirts; send emails and respond to them; making everything 100%. Now [our work load] is lighter. Even though we are always working, we don’t have to do everything on our own, and now we get to focus solely on the music, which is the best part.
What have been the most valuable experiences from this tour? What have you enjoyed the most about traveling?
E: The most valuable experience for me is to go out and see other horizons because I was very trapped in the idea of being in Mexico and the U.S. They were the only places that I had known and played in, and to later find out that there are other parts of the world that really support that music and be like, “there is really a place where they appreciate this,” made me think that this is how I would like things to be. It does happen. Sometimes you feel so trapped but you don’t know how to [achieve what you want]. Like it happened with us finding a record label, us being Mexican and making music in the U.S they categorize us although we don’t want to be “Latin” artists, and in Europe [there] is such an open mindset. It’s something that I carry with me, because I would love to be like that with everyone, to be able to respect everyone and pay attention to musicians as opposed to listening half-heartedly. I also learned that going on tour is hard and you have to rest a lot, to sleep well and not drink too much. You have to take care of yourself. Touring really opened my mind because instead of traveling from city to city, as you do here, we traveled from country to country in Europe, so we had the chance to meet a lot of people from so many places. I feel like hearing other languages and hearing people speak, or how they act, or how they treat us made me learn a lot in the two weeks we were there.
A: All of that, totally. We had very cool experiences. We saw King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, a lot of landscape, the roads, and met a lot of people. You realize that although we are all really far apart from each other, there are people interested in the same stuff that you are into—
E: —Like people that like the same music you do but live on the other side of the world.
A: Yeah, that’s the best part. We also realized that it’s impossible to tour three months and play each day.
E: Like I said: “I’m going to be able to sing every day” and I lost my voice for a week when we were still on tour.
A: We discovered our capabilities and met a lot of people. We are very happy because it was our first tour.
Can you speak in more detail about how you’ve dealt with the miscategorization in Latin rock instead of what you are, which is shoegaze?
A: Really it’s a problem that people instantly categorize us. As if it was a necessity to label everything. And in our case, it’s not something that we think and it isn’t something that we always have present when we are composing; but it’s something that we wish to avoid when speaking about categorization. Because people are limiting us to explore our sound.
E: Specifically talking about the categorization of “Latin artist”- there is “rock”, but people refer to us as “latin rock”, and really there is not much difference. It’s exactly the same but in Spanish. Nothing changes. It’s not like we are saying that we aren’t Latin American—of course we are—but it doesn’t have to do anything with the music. It’s music that comes from Latin artists but it isn’t Latin music; those two are very different. And the problem with that, especially in the United States or in Europe is that they already have an idea of what “Latin” music is. I remember one time we were in an Uber in Los Angeles and the driver noticed we were carrying our instruments and he told us that he listened to a band- Maná- because he already has that idea of what Latin rock is. When you already have an idea about what something is, you think you already know it and that’s not the case. It’s narrowing the the possibilities of the subject matter just because you want to put it in a box.
And have you had problems because of this issue when it comes to booking shows because of miscategorization?
E: Personally, not much. We’ve been lucky with that. Other artists I know may sometimes go to showcases in the U.S like SXSW and be labeled as “Latin-artist-I-don’t-know-what.” We have played showcases for Latin artists but that happens because we are paying attention to what they offer us. It’s not something that we deny, but [those showcases] aren’t something that we wish to happen a lot. We want our possibilities to be infinite.
Amor and Estrella have worked their way from the ground up, starting in Tijuana by shaping their sound, touring in Europe and the US, and always fighting against the industry’s preconceived notions of what they are, and what they are supposed to be. Their life experiences and surrounding environments are creative sources to make music for the eye, taking their sound to a cinematic-like space that vibrantly encapsulates the feeling of a certain emotion or event. This truly demonstrates that there are no frontiers that confine the sound of Mint Field.