Norman poppers, the Starlight Mints, have crisp, new outlook 

Never let it be said that the Starlight Mints don't have goals.

Years after the release of 2006's "Drowaton," the Mints " singer/guitarist Allan Vest, drummer Andy Nunez, keyboard player Marian Nunez, bassist Javier Gonzales and keyboardist/guitarist Ryan Lindsey " are booking a spring tour in support of the band's new record.


There is, however, one potentially serious caveat to this ambition: The album's not done yet.

"The tour is in the making. We're forcing this deadline on ourselves," Vest said. "I hope to hell we can have it done within the next month."

Among the obstructions is the Mints' approach to the album " a markedly different methodology from what the musicians have done in the past.

"This is the first time we've ever started from scratch with all-new ideas," Vest said. "We usually take song ideas from the enormous vault of unfinished material we have, and rework a few that we feel will fit in with the newer songs. The approach this time is all fresh-cooked, for better or for worse. It's been the biggest challenge for me. I've never felt so up and down about anything. In doing this, a majority of the songs have had multiple melodies and re-workings, and probably will until the deadline. At this point, I'm just trying to have fun with it."

"Have fun with it" seems an unofficial mantra for the Norman act. The Mints' live shows have long been accentuated by lighting tricks and stages festooned with projection screens, and previous performances have included intricate video montages timed to sync with the songs.

"We're constantly thinking how to mix up our live show, and the last few tours, we experimented with using less projector-oriented stuff and more this and that," Vest said. "I'm not much of a showboater or talker, so maybe we're trying to make up for something."

He said the Mints were still tweaking ideas for the live show, and how the group might stage performances with its simplified, "music first" attitude.

"It's neat to have the technology to sync anything with the music," he said. "But until the songs are packed away officially, my duty is writing and arranging the material. That is always the bigger battle."

A pair of looming shows " a Friday show in Denton, Texas, and a 9 p.m. Saturday performance with Crocodile at Norman's Opolis " has helped impel the Mints to reacquaint themselves with the stage and each other, Vest said.

"It's already motivating the songs still in progress, just all of us being in the same room again," he said.

"Drowaton" and its predecessors, 2003's "Built on Squares" and 2000's "The Dream That Stuff Was Made Of," share the Mints' trademark songwriting style, where layer upon layer of kooky bells, whistles and synthesizers crowd otherwise poppy melodies, filling every inch of sonic space to the brim.

"Every song is different," Vest said. "Many times, because I'm always writing and coming up with new ideas, I can't even recall what came first "¦ like a bass line, or just a simple drum beat. We are definitely constructors. We take our time in changing parts, sounds, tempos and keys. But we do record everything along the way and many times revert back a few sessions, proceed, work, proceed, etc. Truthfully, all the reworking can screw with your head when you play it live. I sometimes catch myself singing thrown-away lyrics or forgetting last-minute additions on the guitar."

These mishaps, along with whatever the band has in the works visually, guarantee an utter lack of predictability at Saturday's show. Those fans and listeners apt to memorize every riff and lyric from the upcoming album have surprises in store, although that elite group of ears doesn't include the Mints themselves.

"By the end, it's exhausting, but hopefully worth the effort," Vest said. "No reason to ever listen to the album after it's done. Heard it a zillion times." "Becky Carman

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Becky Carman

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