Dawn of Minuit's success
Despite TV appearances and being courted by major record labels, Nelson band Minuit consider it a privilege to be included in the Nelson Arts Festival programme. Angela Moriarty talks to the band about music, contracts and boy bands.
If recent events are anything to go by, soon it won't be necessary to explain that Nelson band Minuit is pronounced "min-wee", nor that the electronic breakbeat outfit is made up of songstress Ruth Carr and "the boys" on the samplers, Ryan Beehre and Paul Dodge. You'll just know, just like BMG NZ general manager Mike Bradshaw does.
Bradshaw was in town recently to dine with Minuit and discuss their music, their future and contract possibilities.
The band took him to Harbour Light Store Restaurant on Wakefield Quay - and he paid.
"It doesn't mean anything, I was just really proud that he came down to Nelson," says Carr modestly.
"Even the fact that we have been recognised by a major label and they are even considering us is cool."
"Cool" is an understatement. BMG doesn't have a lot of New Zealand acts on its books and is probably regretting letting the likes of Che Fu get away, in light of the man's regular additions to his trophy cabinets and the general heightened popularity of New Zealand music.
Minuit is not only breaking beats - it's also breaking into television and being recognised by New Zealand music shows like Space and Squeeze.
Space presenter Hugh Sundae said "these guys are going to be huge".
Minuit was rather chuffed by the comment, although Carr questions: "Would he be told to say that?"
Minuit doesn't have a marketing manager yet, so the answer is probably not.
Compared to lounging in the sun in the small backyard of Beehre's Monaco recording studio/home, the whole contract negotiations and doing-lunch thing seems a bit surreal.
Just a few months ago Minuit was performing for free at the Easter Fair in Mapua.
The group thanks the now defunct Gathering for its introduction into the music scene.
"That was the thing that really got us motivated. We thought 'man, it'd be cool to play there' and so we had to get a demo tape together - deadlines, that's the only way we get stuff done," Dodge says.
They were accepted, and Minuit debuted on the stage at the 1998 Gathering with songs such as Best Dress and Luck.
"For musicians into dance music in Nelson the Gathering was just amazing, especially then when there was nowhere for dance bands to play - it was a really big deal, really exciting for us," muses Carr, who has recently been "vilified" for telling it like it is when questioned on music television about the Nelson music industry.
"They asked how the Nelson music scene was and I was honest," she says.
"The main things, I think, that hinder the music scene here is there's not a university and there's not a lot of venues for original bands or even DJs to play - there's the Phat Club now which is cool but before that there wasn't really anything.
"Nelson's great and everything, but the reality is the reality."
Added to that is the reality that with pending contract negotiations (either with major international label BMG or Wellington independent label Loop), Nelson band Minuit may soon no longer live in Nelson.
Beehre, who Dodge says tends to avoid interviews, joins the conversation.
"It's unknown territory really," he says. "If we sign up with a major label that's going to be a new thing and they're going to want other things from us. If it's going to be beneficial for us to be in Auckland for six months, so be it. We've got to make the most of it."
Dodge adds: "We're all really excited about it, the idea that things are happening with this now. We really like playing the underground, non-mainstream stuff but it's really cool and exciting being able to get on telly."
The trio are quite frank about the popular view within the industry that signing to a major label is selling out.
"Major record labels are kind of frowned upon because it's said that they take all the money, but having said that man, wouldn't it be cool to pick up on a major label and still do what we want and have the big boys behind us," Dodge says.
And Minuit will do what they want, he says.
"I'd hope so, especially since we have done it ourselves for five years. Just because they have got the dollars, we're not going to change what we do - I think we can come on our own terms to a record company."
And for songwriter Carr, that'll probably mean no boy band-style lyrics.
"Those boy band guys have the soppiest lyrics. I would not even speak in my sleep what some of these guys write. I can't believe they voice that."
Just don't tell that to BMG's Irish band, Westlife.
So what does Carr like to write about?
"Boys," she laughs.
"Na, I don't like to write about boys, just things like maybe cool lines that I have read in books and I think 'man that's clever', or stuff I've heard in conversation."
With Minuit's influences changing from the early trip-hop days of Portishead and Tricky to more breakbeat dance stuff like Ronie Size and Freq Nasty, Carr says her inspirations remain the same.
"I don't think it does change because I think that what I'd be singing about, I'd be singing about no matter what the beats per minute was. Although if I come into the studio and listen to something the boys have been making, it might make me feel a certain way and where the lyrics might go may depend on what I'm hearing in the beats and the sounds."
If there is a happy ending for Minuit in its quest to release its debut album (it was originally due to be released independently this month ), it will not be without its ramifications.
Minuit credits both the Gathering and the Artery for getting them started. Both are no longer. With a possible move for the band, that means Beehre - who does recording for a number of other local bands - will be gone too.
Dodge is characteristically optimistic.
"Stuff moves on and new stuff comes out of it and people still make music."
The Nelson Arts Festival presents Beats, Treats and Ringside Seats, a performance by Minuit and Christchurch kiwi-pop group Pine, next Wednesday, The Boathouse 8pm. Tickets $20, available from Everyman Records.
Caption: Photo COLIN SMITH 36135