The normal trajectory for a reasonably niche band returning to the live arena goes something like this: play a few small shows, release some new music, wait agonisingly to see if anyone cares and repeat, scaling things up a little each time. Not so, Mini Mansions. “We did our own show in New York and it was fucking awesome and then the next night we played to 40,000 people supporting Arctic Monkeys,” laughs singer Michael Shuman, speaking from Toronto during a day off from the tour. “And that was actually meant to be our first show back.”
It’s a mighty ask for a comeback show, but then the LA trio – completed by keyboard player Tyler Parkford and bassist Zack Dawes – aren’t exactly newcomers to the big stages. In the interim three years since second LP ‘The Great Pretender’, Michael has been back playing bass with his other band, Queens of the Stone Age. Tyler and Zach spent the time on stage with The Last Shadow Puppets, while Tyler is now in Arctic Monkeys’ touring band, meanwhile all three signed up as cult outsiders Sparks’ backing musicians for a stint too.
It’s a hefty CV, but one that also nearly broke Mini Mansions as their own band. “Though [those projects are] all good things we really started to not have time together. And there was a time when I thought, let’s just probably stop this. It doesn’t seem very healthy…” recalls the singer. However instead of quitting then, the band decided to carve out time in the studio and from it came forthcoming EP ‘Works Every Time’. “We were all together and all focused and we wrote probably some of the best songs we’ve ever done and that’s when I thought, OK we have something really special and I don’t wanna let it go,” affirms Michael.
“I was busting out songs, because I had so much content running through me.”
— Michael Shuman
Drawing primarily from a recent wealth of experience gained during an intense, two-year relationship, songs like the synthy, heady prowl of 'Midnight In Tokyo' and the slinking, nocturnal title track are their most direct and immediate offerings to date. “Falling in love is the most amazing thing and when that happens it's actually really easy to write because so much shit is pouring out of you. Same for breaking up, but in the opposite direction,” he explains. “I was busting out songs, because I had so much content running through me.” Then there's the filthy cover of Edwyn Collins' traditionally lovelorn '90s classic 'A Girl Like You' that ends the EP. “It always just seemed like a dirty song to me,” laughs the singer. “The slinkiness of it, that's the way I thought of it. I understand it's lyrically supposed to be sweet, but I always heard it as super sexy and dirty...”
Though short, it's a return that kicks any of Mini Mansions' doubts to the curb. Next year they'll follow it up with a third album proper, meanwhile now they've just got the small matter of a stadium tour to contend with. Just another day in the office for this lot...
'Works Every Time' is out now via Caroline.
As featured in the September 2018 issue of DIY, out now.