By Cody Drabble
If you’re headed up to High Sierra later today, here’s something to check out:
Years from now, the summer of 2013 will be remembered as the season of an indie folk revival, which bodes well for Justin Miner and his eponymous band.
“Our timing is right, for the first time,” Justin Miner said. “I’m hoping that since we didn’t chase the scene, that the scene came to us, that it will work out for us.”
Miner plays at the High Sierra Music Festival tonight but before they headed up the mountains they stopped off in Sac.
Miner, an acoustic driven folk-inspired band hailing from the hipster headquarters Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles, took the stage at Harlow’sbefore an enthusiastic crowd.
Frontman Justin Miner refers to his band as “a family affair” when he introduces his bandmates on stage. Kate Miner, Justin’s wife and songwriting partner, rotates between ukelele, mandolin, and harmonica. Amanda Koosed, Justin’s cousin, plays keyboards. Jeremy Miner, Justin’s brother, contributes on lead guitar, banjo, and backup vocals. Only the rhythm section – drummer Dave Schectman and bassist Justin Krook – aren’t blood relatives, but they played with Justin and Jeremy Miner in a prior LA buzz-band Fight From Above. Justin and Kate Miner started the band in September 2012, just after they got married.
Miner paints in bright airy choruses with bluegrass style vocal harmonies. A mix of folksy finger picking and twangy choruses grounded in pop sensibilities defines the group’s sound. Miner will fit right in at the High Sierra Music Festival this weekend.
After an exuberant and uplifting set, I spoke with Justin and Kate Miner about the future of their new band.
How did your current band Miner evolve out of your previous band?
Justin Miner: “Fight From Above was my last band, with all of the guys that are in this. I just got tired of music and left the country for a while. When I came back, I started this project in my bedroom, just kind of noodling on some stuff. [Kate] was around, and she had never sung before, but I asked her to sing on the record. I liked it so much that we went from there.”
Kate, in addition to singing and songwriting, you accompanied on several instruments. How did that start? What instrument did you learn first?
Kate Miner: “Guitar is what I started on, but mandolin is my baby, the one I’ve really taken to. That’s the one I wanted to become an expert on because it has a cool sound, and it’s a good size for me too.”
What does the future of Miner look like?
JM: “Right now, we’re wrapping up our full length debut, which is currently being mastered. Hopefully it will be released at the end of the summer. Looking for a label at some point, if the fit is right. We’re playing a lot of shows. We’re heading to High Sierra Music Festival e’re playing a residency at the Bootleg back in our hometown. The record will be done when we finish that. We’re going to see what happens.”
You guys are proud Broken Social Scene fans. Why cover “Major Label Debut?”
JM: “Yes, we’re very big Broken Social Scene fans. There are a lot of reasons we like Major Label Debut. The main reason is I’ve seen them a bunch of times. That song is just unbridled joy. The feeling of that song is a lot of what I wanted to make this band about, so that song encapsulates it for us.”
What influences did you explore writing the songs for this record?
JM: “When I was writing it initially, it was Neil Young, Jackson Browne, older stuff. But I’m a current music fan also, like the Broken Social Scenes of the world. I was a big Bright Eyes fan growing up. This whole new folk movement, like Fleet Foxes, is kind of catching up to where I’ve been waiting for it to get to. I’m very happy about that. I’ve been waiting.”
How has your songwriting process evolved since your days in Fight From Above?
JM: “Right now it’s a lot with my wife [Kate]. We’ll sit down, one of us will come up with a piece of something. We’ll start by having a conceptual discussion of what the song is about, which is kind of a different way than I’ve ever approached songwriting. Before, it was more abstract. I’d have a word, or a riff, or a chord progression, and built from that – what did that make me think of? [With Kate] we actually have a story we want to write before we ever get to the lyrics. That’s helping focus it a little more, I think.”