It's not every day that a 2-month-old band with only a self-produced EP gets the call to play Coachella, and Tijuana's Mint Field says it was almost unbelievable when they did last year. "It was crazy and we didn't know how to handle it," drummer Amor Amezcua tells SFR. "We got confirmed three weeks before the festival, so we needed to be prepared in three weeks—we rehearsed all day, we tried to be professionals, but we didn't know how."
Amezcua is underselling her band and its ability. With a healthy dose of dreamy guitar effects and mid-tempo throwback psych underpinnings merged with subtle nods to garage punk, it doesn't much matter that she and bandmate Estrella Sánchez were relative newbies to playing and writing music when they put out their EP, Primeras Salidas, in 2015—they've captured something special. Call it beginner's luck, call it innate talent, call it a musical upbringing (Amezcua's father is Bostich from the wildly popular Mexican band Nortec Collective), call it whatever, Mint Field has struck a sublime balance between deceptively simple and ethereal guitar tones and a soothing-yet-rocking body of work that's carved a niche someplace between shoegaze, dream-pop and indie rock, though Amezcua says she's not entirely sure why the shoegaze moniker stuck so prevalently. "I think it's not fair to say 'Oh, they are a shoegaze band,'" she says, "when I think we're a strange mix of genres."
Perhaps it's due to easy comparisons to bands like Mazzy Star, though that band seems like another lifetime, and anyway, Amezcua says, "We were born into the classics … like Pink Floyd." A love of older rock is apparent in Mint Field's sound, though rather than calling back and regurgitating, their style is really more like a reboot. And goddamn, it's a perfect soundtrack for feeling feelings.
Amezcua and Sánchez grew up in Tijuana, often crossing the border for rock, punk and indie shows in San Diego and Los Angeles. "In Mexico, it's a really small scene for psych or rock," Amezcua recalls. "We weren't really connected to that scene, more to San Diego or LA." Meanwhile, Sánchez had only dabbled in guitar and Amezcua had never played drums; somehow, though, they made it work.
"I think we're lucky," Sanchez says of the Coachella appearance, and all that's come after. "Sometimes after something like that, a band just disappears, but we have a team now who supports us, and it's … still pretty weird that people listen to our music; we were just in Europe touring for the first time, and it was so weird to us that people actually came to our shows."
But they have. In droves, since Coachella. This caught the attention of Los Angeles label Innovative Leisure (which also boasts Crystal Antlers and Holy Fuck, among others) which, in turn, allowed Mint Field to record their debut LP, Pasar de las Luces, with Detroit-based producer Chris Koltay. Amezcua and Sánchez say they lived and breathed the record for two solid weeks, and that the label allowed them to do whatever they pleased. Koltay, of course, had input, though both Amezcua and Sánchez say that they were firmly in the driver's seat.
"At the end we were like a family just making a record," Sánchez explains, "and we got the chance to record with [equipment] we had dreamed about—and were able to wake up and say, 'I think right now I'm going to record vocals because I feel it.'"
Luces is obviously a more polished product than Mint Field's homemade EP, though, without overproduction, undeniably still nails the sound. Everything is bigger, like a swirling cacophony that starts soft and gradually expands into a focused chaos or blissful soundscape. Songs like "Ojos en el Carro" sound almost like a hymn with reverb-laden vocal moans filling out the background and the guitar delay looping back around to fuzzy psych-rock excellence, while tracks like "Club de Chicas" kick up the tempo and begin to border dance rock. You'd hardly know they don't have a permanent bassist, or that they're not seasoned vets.
All vocals are in Spanish, which isn't as common for an international indie band as you might think—there are pressures to write and sing in English to appeal to more fans, though Sánchez says it was just easier to write in her native tongue. "You hear so much music in English that when you're starting, you think maybe you're supposed to sing in English; most of what I've heard is in English, but it was very hard for me to write like that," she says. "There's one song on the record that is in English, but it's just because we thought it sounded better, but I like how Spanish sounds. It's my language."
Mint Field's next stop is Santa Fe for an all-ages appearance at Second Street Brewery's Rufina Taproom alongside looping weirdo P S I R E N S (whom we also love) and Albuquerque glam-metal quartet Chicharra. Can we all agree Second Street has been hosting a veritable nonstop stream of kickass shows? Yes we can. Regardless, Mint Field is a serious coup for music lovers of all stripes and at the top of their game.
"I think we're lucky," Amezcua says. But I think we're the lucky ones, Santa Fe.
Mint Field with P S I R E N S and Chicharra
8:30 pm Tuesday March 20. $8.
Second Street Brewery (Rufina Taproom),
2920 Rufina St.,