Feature Stories

Austin Emo Legends Mineral Reunite for One Last Dallas Appearance

No band breaks up for good anymore. With festivals offering exorbitant sums to bands and easy access to music on the Internet, it's no longer taboo for an independent band to reunite, even if the reunion is short-lived. Heralded bands from the '80s and '90s don't need to tour nine months out of the year to get their name out there, because their music has been praised and shared for years.

Many of the pioneering emo bands from the late '90s were busy in 2014. American Football, Braid, the Jazz June and Gameface played shows that celebrated both re-releases and new records. Among the recently reunited bands is Austin's Mineral, whose two albums were re-released with bonus material on Arena Rock Recording.

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Come Saturday night, Mineral will make a long-awaited return to Dallas, but it might be your only chance to see them play here. "It might all end there or we might pick away at it, do shows here and there," frontman and guitarist Chris Simpson says. "It's tough to say. We didn't want to overstay our welcome, but we want to play for people who are interested and play internationally."

Simpson and company are winding down a reunion tour that began in August 2014. The four-piece will play Houston and then Dallas, but after that, all scheduled tour dates are outside of the United States. That's a first for the band, who only played within the US during their original incarnation. But don't place a large bet they're coming back to Dallas for a victory lap.

In addition to Simpson, the band consists of drummer Gabriel Wiley, guitarist Scott David McCarver, and bassist Jeremy Gomez. The group concocted something extremely potent when it came together in the mid-'90s. Their debut, The Power of Failing, was clearly influenced by Sunny Day Real Estate. The charging, quiet vs. loud dynamics, along with maudlin melodies and high-reaching vocals, were easy to label emo. Many fans of pop-punk, hardcore and indie rock found the '90s version of emo -- a progression from emo-core in the mid-'80s -- to be an absolute revelation. So did keen major-label scouts looking for something to sell to teenagers after grunge's popularity died down.

Mineral and their contemporaries, like Christie Front Drive and Texas is the Reason, received heavy courting from major labels, but opted to break up instead of signing with one. (Mineral was about to sign with Interscope Records at the time, believe it or not.) The bands were wise enough to recognize that once they received major label backing, growing internal struggles would quickly and irreparably damage relations among their members.

Given the acclaim of Mineral's debut along with their posthumously-released second album, EndSerenading, it's no surprise that the members received strong and mostly favorable reactions to their post-Mineral bands. Simpson and Gomez formed the Gloria Record, while Wiley joined Pop Unknown and also formed Imbroco with McCarver. But none of these bands eclipsed the impact of Mineral's work, and people asked about a potential reunion for years. The answer was always no.

"That annoyed me for a long time," Simpson says of the reunion question. "Now I'm older and more laid-back and accept that for what it is. That's a beautiful thing, to see people feel [strongly] about something you made."

The influence of Mineral's sound, and that of the other bands they toured and shared vinyl sides with, became obvious during the wave of mainstream emo in the early 2000s. Bands who used their angst as fuel for fame and platinum-selling records got lots of attention, but they seemed insincere. They had more in common with '80s hair metal in terms of look, sound and approach.

"Most of the time, when people told me Mineral influenced this or that band, I would say, 'Oh man, sorry,'" Simpson says with a laugh. "I don't think it could possibly be true, but if I'm responsible for that in any way, I apologize."

Trends in music are cyclical, so the mainstream acts eventually left the stage and younger independent bands came into the spotlight. Acts like Into It. Over It and Empire! Empire! (I Was a Lonely Estate) took cues from '90s bands like Mineral in their sound but also in their do-it-yourself (and don't count on becoming famous) approach. Called the emo revival, the current period is a rewarding time to be a fan, whether you're in your teens or your 30s. This music isn't strictly for the babysitter-money crowd, thankfully.

A number of bands have recently reunited, including the Promise Ring, Sunny Day Real Estate and At the Drive-In. Mineral was one of the few holdouts. Simpson was content in his folky project, Zookeeper, and his fellow ex-bandmates were all happy with their own bands, too. But when Jimmy Eat World's Jim Adkins asked Mineral to play a one-off reunion show, they decided to do more than that. An official Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and website all came online at once, and fans were given more chances to see the band again -- or for the first time.

Mineral received more press coverage before and after their first reunion show in August than they ever did when they were originally together. Outlets like NPR, Stereogum and Pitchfork featured stories on the reunion, written by true believers. The venues they played across the country were packed with people truly attuned to the band. Aside from the robbing of their van in St. Louis, where they lost electronics and cash from merch sales, the band's tour has been great.

"It's been a wonderful experience playing for people in a lot of nicer venues than the first time around, with a sound system where everyone can hear everything," Simpson says. "The beauty of playing the songs now and reconnecting with them as 40-year-olds instead of 20-year-olds is a special experience I'm sure not a lot of people get to experience in their lives."

As to whether any new recordings will surface, that's as uncertain as the band's touring future. "We just want to play what people want to hear," Simpson says. "Nobody wants us up there playing new material right now. I'm sure a lot of people are curious. For us, it could be interesting or it could completely tarnish the history of what was. We would definitely be open to try and throw a couple of ideas together. Thankfully we have our work cut out for us."

MINERAL play with Josh T. Pearson, 9 p.m. Saturday, January 10, at Club Dada, 2720 Elm St., dadadallas.com, $17-$19


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Eric Grubbs is a Dallas-based writer who has published two books, Post: A Look at the Influence of Post-Hardcore 1985-2007 and When We Were the Kids. His writing has been featured in Punk Planet, Popdose, Fort Worth Weekly, The Dentonite and LA Weekly. He supports Manchester City and will never root for Manchester United.
Contact: Eric Grubbs