By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Potential. It's an overused and double-edged word, implying lack of present-tense success and the possibility of future failure. It's is a word that was used, quite accurately and frequently, to describe what the band Mineral had. The group released only two full-length albums, The Power of Failing and EndSerenading, during its brief run from 1994 to 1997. Since splitting up halfway through the recording of EndSerenading, two of Mineral's former members, singer-guitarist Chris Simpson and bassist Jeremy Gomez, seem ready to get past the loaded expectations of the "p" word with their new band, The Gloria Record. Of course, it's even harder now: The Gloria Record has to live up not only to its own potential, but to Mineral's as well.
It's not that Mineral's muse was ever stunted by the expectations foisted upon the band. The Power of Failing was a blast of cold water in the face of the mid-'90s indie-rock scene. Filled with effusive, dynamic instrumentalism and beautiful interweaving melodies, paired with lyrics about searching, suffering, and the aesthetics of beauty and its appreciation, it unintentionally offered post-hardcore scenesters a different definition for their new favorite genre label, emo.
EndSerenading furthered Mineral's legacy, but through a newly contemplative musical context. Much of Failing's bombast disappeared; the songs were slower, lusher, and occasionally listless. It almost sounded like the work of another band. As Simpson says, "It's kind of hard to talk about Mineral's sound without talking about the difference between the two records, 'cause the first record was very heavy and abrasive, and the second record was a lot duller and more subdued."
National Skyline and [DARYL] open
The two records and the handful of seven-inch singles the group released created a shadow that its members still have trouble escaping--a fanatic following that hung on Mineral's every chord progression and Simpson's every utterance. The band was the anchor for the now phenomenally successful Crank! A Record Company, the label that released many of their stylistic contemporaries' efforts and that The Gloria Record now calls home.
Crank! owner Jeff Matlow explains that "the success of Mineral definitely broadened the reach of the Crank! name and further established an identity for the label that we had been building with our first few releases. The fact that I got four great, close friends out of the deal is all the more special to me."
Despite the fans' enthusiasm, Mineral broke up. In retrospect, it had as much to do with the fans' enthusiasm as with anything else; the members of Mineral were only in their early 20s, and they were on the verge of being typecast for the rest of their careers. "I feel I really had some sort of--not that it was like any revelation or anything--but I had some sort of a creative awakening around the end of Mineral," Simpson explains. "I know I was creatively involved in Mineral, but I just don't feel I was exercising any creative energy. It just seemed like the songs came out and that's how they were, and that sounded fine to me at the time. I didn't really question anything. I just started feeling the need to push things in different directions."
So, shortly after Mineral's split in the summer of 1997, Simpson began writing songs for his new project, originally conceived as Gloria (the name was changed after the members' continual references to "the Gloria record" they were readying struck a chord). He reconvened with Gomez, as well as another guitarist, Brian Hubbard, and drummer Matt Hammon (no longer with the band), and the foursome recorded The Gloria Record's debut, a self-titled, six-song EP. For a young man trying to escape the trappings of his former band, collaborating with the same bassist may not have seemed the most logical decision, but sometimes chemistry overrides such conventional assumptions. "For us, it was a very simultaneous thing when we quit the band," Simpson says. "We had our own reasons, and some of them overlapped a little, but we were both ready to try something different."
Less rock-minded and more orchestrally inclined, the EP set the course the band would take. Though differences between the two bands weren't obvious to some fans who wanted The Gloria Record to be Mineral Part II, the similarities end with the fact that Simpson sings for both bands. His ethereal, sensuous voice is the carbon base of both outfits; his syllables stretch like strings of saliva between lovers' mouths, held until every drop of emotion is wrung from them.
As Crank! honcho Matlow explains, "The Gloria Record definitely continues with the same philosophy. The only comparison I make between Mineral and The Gloria Record is that there are two members in common. The Gloria Record's sound, vision, and goals are quite different from Mineral's--neither better nor worse. They write great music, they love playing music, and they are determined to work toward increasing the exposure for the band--a label's wet dream."
The dream continues with the band's recently released second EP, A Lull in Traffic. Forged by a different lineup, the addition of drummer Brian Malone and pianist-organist Ben Houtman has thickened the band's sound and pushed any allusions to Mineral completely out of the picture. Though many, including the band itself, expected The Gloria Record to follow up its debut EP with a long player, the members believed it necessary to document the songs written in the interim, between the lineup uncertainties and the solidification of the current unit.