We recently sat down with Zak, Jesse, Brad and Yoni the four members of Mini Simmons, an NZ based Blues-Rock band that captures the stomping swing of wild 70’s, with groove oriented bell-bottom flare. Dreamt up on the Pacific highways of Mexico, electrified campfire seances propelled the band onto the stages of the Auckland club scene. Keep reading to get to know the boys and their movements over the summer season…
Where are you all from and how did you meet?
Zak (lead vocals)
Jess and I are brothers so we met quite early on. Yoni’s Mum was our music teacher at primary school. All three of us grew up out near Muriwai Beach so we fell in together pretty easily.
Fast forward a few years... Brad and I flatted together through University in Dunedin – We bonded over many things but he’s also from Auckland so we became super tight.
Brad had been away playing in a band in London and the 3 of us came back from surfing in Central America at the same time.
It probably only took two months of Brad knowing the other guys before we all started hanging out every weekend. It feels pretty much like family.
How did the idea of starting a band come together?
Really it all started in Mexico. Jesse, Yoni and I started a joke group, when we were on a road trip surfing from California to Costa Rica. We started coming up with these ludicrous acapella lyrics that we would mash together in raps on long highway drives.
By the time we arrived in Costa Rica, coming to terms with the fact our trip was almost at an end... we were kind of like “Really, are we just going to go back to jobs? We need something to get psyched on every day - like we had experienced surfing for the past 6 months.”
So we decided then and there that we would start a band. We wrote our first single (Slippery Gypsy Woman) with no instruments in an Israeli, Costa Rican hostel. It’s mad. Yoni had this handful of lyrics he wrote while walking a mud-track down to the beach.
Originally I was going to play bass and sing, Jess would be guitar and Yoni would drum. But when we got home and tried we realised the group needed a REAL musician.
That's where Brad comes into it. We straight up told him he was joining our band the second weekend we got back from our travels. We were out drinking one night when I told Brad to come along. I recall Yoni walking up to him (a little under the influence at the time) and demanding that he “better be good” or he was out.
Brad came to his first rehearsal and ripped. It was funny, but for the first two months I think he planned to quit after “1 more session”. He was in another couple of bands but each time we’d suck him back in. I was pretty sure he put down a definitive marker to quit after the first live show – an Open Mic Night at Muriwai Surf Club. We went bananas for it and pulled out every stop we knew – we pretty much just threw ourselves around and got a great reception from the 100 or so people in the room. That show was what hooked him and we’ve been playing together ever since.
How Did you come up with the name Mini Simmons?
A Mexican Palm Reader lady told us we’d be famous. Or we may have told her… anyway her name was Mini. We called her Mini Simmons after the surfboard because she was short and stumpy, so that’s what we called the band
How would you describe your sound?
It’s really Blues-Rock’n’Roll. It’s our take on the British and American bands of the 60’s & 70’s.
They put an electrified twist on the REAL Blues (the Robert Johnson’s, Muddy Waters’, Howlin Wolf’s etc) and then we’ve done our thing with what we heard from them.
All 4 of us love that music, the blues. Our sound swings between being raw and melodic. Some songs definitely lean more heavily on the rudimental pulse of the blues where as some have layered instruments and harmonies. Talking about it sounds like the two don’t fit under the same umbrella but it all adds up to a sound that draws from Blues-Rock’n’Roll.
We all have a massive part in determining the sound because we’re all quite opinionated on what we like. But at the end of the day Brad is definitely the one with the ability to harness what we express and draw it out in a form of sorts. He’s the musical director.
How have you found the public response to your unique style and vibe?
Things started pretty slowly really. Up until recently it wasn’t that far outside of our friend group that had heard of our music or was coming to shows... but it’s starting to build momentum. Especially with some of the festivals we’ve got coming up over the Summer.
Live; we generally have really good reactions. Half of our groove is visual so our shows usually have a pretty intense energy to them. Performance wise we try to be pretty in-your face. Not in a confrontational way but we want to wake people up. Change the pace from that day’s desk job.
We like to wear pretty out there clothes too. Flares, leathers, frills, scarves. Swinging London fashion mirrored the music perfectly and so the ‘vibe’ of the band is not just a music thing. We get some fairly strong reactions to it. Mostly the girls love it (or want our clothing) and guys bug out in a sort of offended respect for the way we push the boat out. It probably stacks up a bit more that everyone is on the 90’s buzz so you’ve got the chalk and cheese element.
It started off slightly subconsciously. I’ve always worn some pretty out-the-gate stuff, but we ham it up a bit more now.
How long have you been making Music for and who are your major inspirations?
We’ve been playing together coming up 2 years, but really pursuing it properly for about 12 months. We recorded 4 songs (our first EP – Whisky & The Witch) in our bedroom and put it out this time last year. Those were pretty much the first 4 songs we ever wrote so they were a bit of a stab in the dark.
As far as inspirations, we have loads but can’t go past Peter Green. To try and narrow some others down for you, Tom Petty, The Doors, Taj Mahal, Neil Young, The Rolling Stones and any old Blues. Robert Johnson is great.
Your debut Album is due to be released in March next year, has there been a moment in your creative process when you feel like you’ve nailed it?
There’s definitely moments in certain songs where you feel like things have come together. I don’t know that you ever feel like you’ve truly nailed it. That would be clocking life right? Probably the closest we got to feeling like we’d “got there” with a song would be ‘Sunflower Fields’. It’s a bit of a departure from heavy riffs and at 7 minutes it’s got the space to ebb and flow just how we imagined it. Might be a bit long for a single but who knows.
Our Album is looking like we’ll release it in March next year. Pretty much all recording was finished last week with a couple of overdubs and vocals in the last session. We’re pretty happy with what we’ve got down. It’s certainly a big step up from what we put out a year ago. We recorded at The Lab with Olly Harmer engineering – he’s a ‘bit of a blisser’ and did an amazing job for us.
We’ve already released the first single ‘Kid’s Off Broadway’ and will put out another 2 before we release the full LP. ‘Southern Cold’, our second single, is actually coming out on Friday this week so listen out for that too.
Do you have a favourite song to perform or song your most proud of?
It probably differs a little for each of us depending what songs we had more input into, but favourite to perform across the board is ‘Little Man Blue’. It’s our most ambitious for sure. We close the live set with it almost every time now and it builds in a way that is hard to ignore.
Can you tell us about any gigs you have coming up this Summer?
Yeah we have a pretty sick trio of festivals lined up for Dec/Jan.
We’re starting on Dec 29th at Rhythm and Vines which is essentially the benchmark of NZ Festivals. We’re on the Garden Stage at 10pm with a host of other bands which will be super fun and something we’ve aimed to do since we started.
Then we’ll trip up to Tauranga for a brand spanking New Year’s festival – Tides, on 31st Dec. We’re playing there with a good crew of bands that are doing really well for themselves. That will be epic.
Then on 12th of January we’re playing Nestfest in Hawkes Bay. That’s promising to be MASSIVE. It’ll be the biggest crowd we’ll play to I’d imagine and we’ll be sharing the stage with some top International and NZ acts. We can’t wait.
Keep your eyes peeled for an Australian//NZ Tour at the end of Summer to support our Album release. That’ll be our first trip over the ditch which is a bit nerve wracking. We’re starting to book that in now!
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