Minuit challenge the wasteland

NAOMI ARNOLD
Last updated 05:00 20/12/2012

Minuit singer Ruth talks about creativity, her new sound and the truth about being in a band.

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Minuit's fourth studio album Last Night You Saw This Band will be released a week tomorrow.

To save you hunting for a calendar, that's 21.12.12 - Doomsday, according to that pervasive myth of the Mayans.

Considering that the first single from the new album is called Book of the Dead, you might wonder if Minuit are engaged in a deliberate ploy to produce the last album on earth.

Paul Dodge laughs. ''It wasn't purposeful, that's the crazy thing; but it's worked out brilliantly,'' he says, pointing out that if the myth comes true, New Zealanders, living at the edge of the date line, will at least get a chance to hear it before the world caves in. 

''We thought of releasing it at 12.12am and the digital version available for $12.12; it starts getting ridiculous.'' But they're doing it? ''We are!''Dodge, Ryan Beehre, and Ruth Carr are New Zealand's leading purveyors of electropop, and the band that began in Nelson are pretty much doing whatever they like.

For example, they're flying in the face of a second pervasive myth - that you should never release albums in the middle of Kiwi summer holidays.

''A few years ago, to release an album in the week of Christmas is the biggest no-no in retail possible,'' Dodge says.

That's because you're competing against the lucrative 'Best of' compilations, turning the potential for new stuff into ''a wasteland''.

''This is how it feels in the music industry at the moment. There are so many stories floating around about how the industry's changing and people are downloading everything - which means that all the rules are going out the window. We're actually getting quite a lot of support from retail, which is hilarious.''

At the suggestion of Nelson's Everyman Records' Greg Shaw, the band indulged themselves and got a Nashville company to press 300 vinyl copies of their new album.

To sell it, they launched a PledgeMe site in October, offering various rewards to their fans in return for pledges.

They were humbled by the response; they hit their $2000 target in 11 hours.

Rewards included Dodge offering his lawn-mowing services in the greater Wellington area (no paddocks, must be redeemed on a sunny day); hand-drawn posters from Carr, with your lyric of choice from the album; and copies of Carr's 2011 book i felt like a fight, alright? signed with a lipstick kiss.

That's a fair bit of work for Carr. ''Sometimes you regret things,'' Dodge laughs. ''It was a random idea that snowballed. It was a really fun thing to do, and once again people really got onboard.

''In the decade-plus that they've been performing, they've become very good marketers. Like a Christmas advent calendar, they've been posting video tidbits on their website each week to tempt fans, including snips of Carr's album making-of doco. The promotion keeps them extremely busy, but it connects with people in a way a marketing department simply can't.

''There's a lot of talk on the internet about the concept that if you can generate enough people who are keen in your little posse that can be a sustainable thing,'' Dodge says.

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''I reckon most of the people who ended up buying that vinyl off the PledgeMe site were people who have followed Minuit for quite a long time, and they've said 'Yip, I'm a part of this thing - I feel like I'm part of the family'. We get the biggest kick out of people being included.''

This was, of course, the band that created the largest audience participation project in New Zealand with single Aotearoa, which was accompanied by a video of more than 1000 fans' pics representing who they were as New Zealanders.

Dodge says their new album is a new sound for people who know Minuit as purely electronica. There's rain on a corrugated iron roof, from when Carr spent three months in Rarotonga, singing song ideas into her dictaphone.

Last Night You Saw This Band is also littered with Nelsonians, including Pete Rainey on trumpet and piano, Jason Erskine, and Jules Vine, who Beehre bailed up outside the post office and asked to come and play. 

There's also the sounds of Haiti children singing, gathered while on a trip with their friend, Nelson woman Emily Sanson-Rejouis, to make a documentary. Her Kenbe La Foundation is the the band's official charity.

One last Nelson surprise is in store - Minuit will be playing New Year's Eve this summer at the Maitai Motor Camp. ''Unless the Mayans are right,'' Dodge laughs.

- Stuff

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