Mind Riot Brings Grunge Rock Back

Hard rock band and New Jersey lifers Mind Riot are staked to make their triumphant return to Asbury Park’s The Saint on Saturday, April 15. “I love playing the Saint. I don’t know what it is about there,” Mike Rainone enthuses in a freewheeling interview with his bandmates posted on becausejersey.com. “I would say it’s my favorite, even though we’ve played the Pony.” Guitarist and co-songwriter Brian Moyes agrees: “The Saint shows feel like an event.”

Unlike some bands we could mention, Mind Riot don’t deny the provenance of their name. “It’s a Soundgarden song,” admits Mike Rainone, engaging in a time-honored tradition which gave us bands like The Rolling Stones, Radiohead, and Adam and the Ants. “The nineties grunge is big [for us]. We grew up listening to a lot of blues, a lot of hip hop and funk. But that main thing is that Alice In Chains, Soundgarden, Nirvana [kind of sound].” Though like any good teenager of the nineties, the band were good children of the eighties: “I love Madonna.”

The band was formed on the front porch of beloved Long Branch watering hole Ron’s in 2009 [thanks Obama]. Originally Rainone joined Moyes’ band, but the chemistry was such that “after a couple of months we decided we were going to write songs together.” They looked towards Rainone’s inner circle to fill out the rhythm section. “I’ve been playing with Skippy [Burns, bass player] for a long ass time, I mean I’ve known him since Kindergarten.” The drummer would be one young(er) Dan Rainone. “I’ve known Dan since the day he was born. He wore a little blue knit hat. Sometimes when he’s sleeping I’ll put it on him.”

The band (presumably without Dan’s hat, a missed opportunity) played their first shows shortly after forming. Despite the longstanding connections, it took a while for the sound to really gel. “The first show was summer 2009 at the Brighton Bar. We weren’t great. There was one song where our low strings were tuned to the wrong note, I was Db and he was Dsharp. It was a long song!” (Jacob deGrammar wishes to point out that this could have been avoided had the guitars been identically tuned to the song “Mind Riot,” wherein all of the strings are the same note of E natural. It was good enough for Lou Reed!) There was also a show in Zebu’s short-lived Freehold location “that got shut down the next day.”

The band’s songwriting chops improved the longer they played. “Some of the first songs we played were songs I wrote when I was fifteen. Or riffs we had for years. But half the time it’s Brian; it will be me sitting here in this old apartment on one couch and him sitting on the other, and whatever the first thing he plays will be great. I’ll say ‘don’t stop playing that’ and he’ll play it for twenty minutes.” Moyes, for his part, chalks it up to the great unconscious: “I come up with riffs all the time, I just shit them out for no reason. But I’m too ADD about them and if it were left to me they’d never finish it … half the time he’ll give me credit for a song and I don’t know why.”

This activity culminates in the band’s first, self-titled full-length (released the old-fashioned way: Compact Disc). The album yielded a video for the contemplative “Deranged,” which is a good example of a bad idea gone right. “The whole thing with the leaves was because we kept trying to get this effect of the leaves going into the camera, but the wind blew it in our faces in one take” they say, and the underwhelming effect is captured for posterity. The band wisely played it for laughs, as where a PA plucks a leaf from Dan Rainone’s shoulder. (This writer is particularly tickled by the sight of a pile of leaves on a floor tom drum.)

This dovetails into the band’s reluctance to self-promote, no surprise for a hardworking band of New Jerseyans and the self-bubble-bursting that seems to be in the water (which isn’t to say that modesty couldn’t veer into self-sabotage: at one point Rainone is asked what things he fears, and his brother puts a finer point on it: “Are you afraid of STDs?” Mike doesn’t blink: “not when you’ve had as many as I’ve had,” a hilarious rejoinder that nonetheless makes “Mike Rainone has had so many STDs” a permanent result on Google). Fittingly it was the band’s friends that got their record into the ears of Point Pleasant’s WRAT. “Our friends were at the Racetrack in summer 2015 and they were blasting our first demo. Gotts from the Rat just wandered over. He listened to the whole thing with them, then he got our phone number and called me. I had no idea it was happening!”

The band is eager to get to work on the next full length, which they hope to release “as soon as we aren’t broke.” Their recent songs have strayed a bit from the Buzz Bin dynamics of the first releases, featuring more democratic writing, enthusing about a song of Burns’ in particular. “I grew up listening to a lot of music,” reflects Moyes. “It’s an artform and I respect all kinds of art. It (the nineties) was definitely a big part of my life, but I appreciate all kinds of music.” One can see this more universal approach to music this Friday at the Saint. The best Soundgarden song is still “Limo Wreck,” though.

Catch Mind Riot Saturday April 15 with The Mason Ray, Accidental Seabirds, and more!  Doors are at 7:30 and admission is $10.  For More Check out www.facebook.com/MindRiotNJ and www.MindRiotBand.com

Photo Gallery By Steve Steinhauser

Jacob deGrammar


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