Mina Moore | 7th St Entry | Tuesday, December 16
Yasmina "Mina" Moore-Foster is already a familiar name for plenty of City Pages readers. Last year, we ran a story about her collaboration with BBGUN's Al Church called Dear Data, which included experimentation hitting all over the genre map. Also, there was a tumultuous situation in September involving a fact-check mistake on our part, which sparked a healthy dialogue about black women in music.
Now, Moore is taking a crack at fronting her own band for the first time under her own name, and has released the single "Amanhã" from the as-yet untitled project. Gimme Noise spoke to Moore for the first time since our back-and-forth in September, and discussed the direction of her new material, her time touring with Caroline Smith, and the difficulty of writing a love song.
Unlike Dear Data's Wait Until You See EP, which Moore calls a sample platter of styles, her new solo work is a continuous exploration of soul, R&B, and groove-oriented material. Inspired by the Soulquarians collective that created some of the peak material from D'Angelo, Erykah Badu, and the Roots in the '90s and early aughts, this is a full-band effort. Backing Moore are bassist/musical director Casey O'Brien, Joe Strachan on Rhodes and keyboards, and drummer Graham O'Brien (No Bird Sing).
Moore spent much of 2014 touring with Caroline Smith as a backing vocalist, which was her first time hitting the road for music. She quietly observed Smith and bandmates Jesse Schuster, and Arlen Peiffer as the dates progressed.
"I was like, 'Uh huh, uh huh ... this is how it's done," she recalls. "Those guys are as pro as they come. They taught me that you need to treat everyone with respect and kindness, no matter how tired you are, or how nasty the green room is, or how shitty the sound guy treats you. Treating everyone like a human being goes a long way in this business."
A personal and creative friendship blossomed between Moore and Smith, and they collaborated on "Amanhã," an evocative tale of running into an old acquaintance and noticing the changes.
"I had become so accustomed to women looking to cut each other down," Moore says. "Especially singers! Caroline has been nothing but a source of support and encouragement -- she's always checking up on me... I respect Caroline as a songwriter, and she was more than happy to work with me on refining my lyrics, which is something I struggle with."
"Amanhã" was entered into the demo contest held by Humans Win! Studio this past February, and is a peek into the writing process for Moore that has been going on for nearly a year now. When touring with Smith quieted down a bit this summer and late fall, Moore and Strachan got together once a week to write.
What has emerged so far echoes soul founders like Sly and the Family Stone, but also newer pioneers in the genre like James Blake. "His first record is one that I listen to in its entirety -- several times in a row, in fact -- at least once a month," she says of Blake. "The art of making a full song out of one or two lyrics is incredible. And the fearlessness of using vocal processing on a voice that already has so much soul is an inspiration to me."
The theme of her forthcoming album due in 2015 is the women in her life, in part because writing love songs has never come naturally.
"I've always held a sort of resentment towards [love songs]," she explains. "I've listened to so many wonderfully talented women sing their hearts out for a man! I always think to myself, 'Girl, don't give him any more of your time! He did you wrong and now he doesn't get any more of you!' ... You know what's more fun? Songs that celebrate life and things other than romantic relationships."
The parenthetical title for "Amanhã" is "Helaina," her younger sister's name, and each song is named after someone else in Moore's world. Some of them are about close friends, and others are about depict relationships that have drifted apart.
"I'll have to decide if I'll give them fake names," Moore says of the latter. "If I do, they will have to be ridiculous, like Hingle McCringleberry [from Key & Peele]."
Of course, Moore and I couldn't end this conversation without looking back at being at odds back in September. To quickly recap, a concert review incorrectly put her name in as a performing guest (instead of another talented black vocalist Ashley DuBose) at Tickle Torture's release show at the Entry. Moore voiced her discontent in an open letter on Facebook. Regardless of intent on our part, the facts were incorrect and needed fixing. The mistake and responses opened up valuable discussion about the music industry's propensity to marginalize gender and race.
"As I clicked 'post' after writing that letter, for the first time in my life I truly felt the fear and nervousness that can come with simply saying what you believe in," she says. "There are so many quotes attributed to presidents and civil rights leaders and activists about being brave in your struggle. Publishing that letter gave me the slightest glimpse into what that really means. It's scary! But as you said, at the end of the day, apathy -- and silence -- are our worst enemies. It's my hope that our public conversation made a difference in our community. I think it did."
Mina Moore. With Sophia Eris x Prophis, the Maytags. 18+, $7, 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, December 16 at 7th St Entry. Tickets.
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