Minor Birds is a long-living duo that have been around since 2004, in different shapes and forms. It consists of the siblings Chelsea Wilde and Joel Wilde, and what separates them from everyone else is their unique output of music. Ranging from baroque pop to experimental classical music. They’ve released a lot of records since they got into making music again, in 2009. Since then, they’ve released a specifically great album titled “Hold Back All My Dark” – which I would consider to be their current epos. Instead of being a long introductory to them, I want this interview to speak for itself. When I asked the questions, Joel Wilde answered them and they’re ranging from what they did in between 2004-2008, and what went into recording their latest album, to everything else.
Normally, I don’t tend to ask people about their history. But in this case, your history is filled with different stories that might need to be told. You two have been making music since 2004, which was followed by “tragic events” in 2008 – as a result, began to evolve into Minor Birds. Could you tell me about this period from 2004-2008 and specifically what those events were?
– Eesh. Getting personal right out the gate… I (Joel) will answer and let Chelsea answer as well. Back in 2004 we were involved in various aspects of church and played together in that regard, but we also played a handful of shows under a side project (though, we never really recorded anything). In early 2008 Chelsea’s mom passed away and during that time the church “family” we were a part of showed their true colors. This isn’t something we really want to get into….people can just be really shitty. However, this made us seriously reconsider our beliefs and what we were devoting our time to. Since most of our musical endeavors were church related we stepped away from all of that and focused on taking care of everything surrounding her moms death. During that time, Chelsea took a sabbatical of sorts. She didn’t sing or play any instruments for about 6 months, but then in late 2008/early 2009 we finally began writing new songs – darker songs – most of which were pretty bitter and directly about that situation. Eventually, we broadened our topical horizons and let our style take shape as Minor Birds. We still plan on recording and releasing those songs at some point, but for now we’re just letting those sit on the back burner. They’re not really relevant to us at this moment.
I could’ve guessed that it had something to do with a rather harsh memory of some sort. I was pretty careless, so forgiveness would be asked for in this part. But I came to wonder, what happened when you began to write material once again? What did it transpire to, in 2009?
– No worries. Like I said, we have moved beyond that. We both write and create because we have to. It’s part of our lives. Hard times wont ever stop us. Once we had a few solid songs we played some open mics and got some shows from there. We kept things pretty simple and low profile, mostly working on creating our sound and finding the direction we wanted to take. In 2012 we decided we really wanted to make a go of it and recorded and released our first EP, Light as a Feather/Straight as an Arrow, as well as a two song collaboration with our good friend Oscar Goldman entitled Gold Minor. Thanks to our friends and fans we were able to get that pressed to vinyl via kickstarter. Both albums were released under Ascension Recordings and Publications. Chelsea also went on a two month tour across the country in the fall with Gayle Skidmore. I had to work, but was able to join up for a bit when they returned to California. Then this year saw the release of our first full length album, Hold Back All My Dark, followed by yet another two month cross country tour with Kat Jones. This time I quit my job and went along for the ride. When we got back from tour we moved to Oakland and are still in the process of getting settled. That’s pretty much our history in a nutshell.
How did it feel when entering a Kickstarter-“campaign” for the first time, for Minor Birds? Also, what was it like to record those two releases, how did you go by when doing just that?
– We definitely had our doubts going into the kickstarter campaign. We really had no idea what we were doing and really what we were taking on. It took us a lot longer to fulfill our rewards than we initially thought, but in the end it was a rewarding experience. To see that we had that kind of support was awesome.
Gold Minor kind of just came together out of nothing. I had a song I was playing with on banjo, and we let our good friend Evan Friedel have a listen and he said it should be longer, so we went to Oscar Goldman and he threw down a verse and the rest is history. It happened so quickly and easily that we had to do another one. We recorded everything in our homes and had Evan do the mixing and programming for it. I think it came together really well and I am still stoked on that release.
Hold Back All My Dark was a little more thought out and we actually recorded it in Great Modulator Studio in Murphys, California. This had been an album that we had been working towards for a couple of years and it felt amazing to develop and actually complete it. Looking back I wish there wasn’t such a time crunch at the end so we could have tweaked it a bit more, but who knows when it would have been released if we didn’t set that goal and follow through.
Did the people that help record your album do anything with the kind of style you wanted, or were you freely available to choose whatever you liked? Your sound is somewhere in between dark cabaret and the more classical baroque-pop schtick. Is this something you’ve developed over the years or simply what you do?
– We had the idea of the sound and style we wanted for the record. They helped us with capturing it. We have worked towards our sound and continue to develop it as we go. We like to offset darkness with beauty in both lyrics and sounds.
Could you elaborate? What does darkness and beauty mean to you?
– Darkness is the side of humanity that we try to ignore or overlook. While all of us are busy trying to celebrate the great achievements of our time, we ignore all of the shit we have left in the wake. The homeless, the widows, the orphans, the meth heads, etc. All the people we have stepped on, raped, killed, to get where we are. We want people to recognize the cost of the life we live, but they need to be drawn into that space. We use beauty to offset or subdue the heavy weight of the subject matter, In both the phrasing and melodies Beauty is a harder thing to describe because it means so many different things to different people. That’s pretty close though. Our sound is our version of beauty. It hints at the darkness, but keeps it light enough for people to enjoy without knowing what is happening on the first few listens.
What did you feel was the difference between recording these two “smaller” releases, in comparison with your first whole full-length album?
– The two smaller releases were much more exploratory. While both were a lot of fun to make and I can still enjoy listening to them, they mostly showed us that we are not recording engineers. What Evan was able to do with what we gave him for Gold Minor was phenomenal and really pushed us to work with a studio for the full length. The guys at Great Modulator were a blast to work with and really helped us achieve the sounds we were looking for.
So, what kind of aesthetics have influenced you, more than the actual words and their meaning?
– I like to consider myself subtly subversive in both look and sound. We aren’t out to be famous. We aren’t out to be loud. We aren’t out to grab your attention. We are out to sneak in the back door and hopefully change the way you think without you even knowing it. Musically, both Chelsea and I listened to a wide range of styles/genres growing up. Modest Mouse, The Faint, Deftones, Brand New are probably the most influential bands for me. These days I have been listening to Glass Animals, Aesop Rock, Baroness, and a lot of bands we know/ play with. Stylistically, I’m not sure. Chelsea is more up to date on fashions and such. I’ve always just worn whatever.
You say that you have an “honest” and “open” relationship. In what way does this effect the music you create, as it is written? If it’s not too personal of a question, of course.
– Our music is a collaboration. We each play our part and give feedback to each other. We keep our egos to a minimum and work together to create our sound.
Alright, I have no more questions to ask. Thank you!
– Sweet! Thanks again for doing this.
Listen to their latest album “Hold Back All My Dark“, down below.