Starlight Mints, an indie pop band from Norman, Oklahoma, formed in 1997 and released four albums during the 2000s, after which they disbanded. Their last lineup consisted of Allan Vest (vocals, guitar, cello, keyboards), Andy Nunez (drums, backup vocals), Marian Love Nunez (keyboards, flute, backup vocals), Ryan Lindsey (keyboards, guitar, backup vocals) and Javier Gonzales (bass).
In 1997, Vest and Andy Nunez recruited local musicians to begin rehearsing demo material Vest had previously written and recorded under the name Bronze Organ. Seven members united, including Marian Love, James Payne (bass), James Honderich (violin), Mary Beth Leigh (cello), and Scott Mason (drums). They started rehearsing and then performing many of Vest's songs from the Bronze Organ demos, including Submarine No. 3, Blinded By You, and Pulling Out My Hair. After months of rehearsals and the addition of improvisations that led to new songs such as Valerie Flames and Prince Augustus, the band began to play a few local shows and opening for national acts including Guided by Voices, Low, and Palace Brothers. Kevin McElhaney and Kure St. John were briefly part of the line-up during this period.
Within a few years, the band had generated several high-quality demo recordings, recorded and mixed at Bell Labs. These demos and efforts by then-manager Scott Booker helped gain the attention of several major and independent labels including Atlantic, RCA, and SubPop.
After playing a showcase in New York City for Atlantic Records, Vest was enthusiastically approached by producer Dave Sardy asking for demos and contact information. In 1999, while the group was on hiatus, Sardy contacted Vest and asked if he was interested in signing on to his new label See-Thru Broadcasting. Vest headed to Brooklyn for a quick visit to meet with Sardy, label manager Kevin Wortis, and John Schmersal (former guitarist of Braniac), who also recently signed with the label and finished recording the first Enon album. All parties agreed to a deal and a few months later Vest took all of the master demo reels up to Sardy's Brooklyn studio to convert to Pro Tools digital format. The two recorded one additional song, Crackerjack, with Toby Dammit (Iggy Pop, The Residents) on drums and Sardy adding the bass line.
On August 22, 2000, The Dream that Stuff was Made Of was released, and Vest recruited Nunez and Love-Nunez (recently married) to form a new lineup, adding Javier Gonzales on bass and Matt Goad as lead guitarist, soon replaced due to scheduling issues by Charlie Land. The album found success on college radio, peaking at number two on the CMJ charts. In addition to the debut of the album, the single Popsickle was released along with a video produced by Vest's longtime friend Dan Brown and featuring puppeteering by director Mike Mitchell (Shrek 3D, Deuce Bigalow.) The song and video, an admitted novelty tune by the group, was a success, airing numerous times on MTV's 120 Minutes and appearing in many of the network's reality series such as Cribs and Pimp my Ride. The band promoted the album by touring the U.S. several times with highlights including opening up for Frank Black and David Lovering at the Crystal Ballroom in Portland and playing multiple shows with The White Stripes, Blake Babies, and Chainsaw Kittens.
Built on Squares was released May 20, 2003 on PIAS America Records with critical acclaim again landing the band near the top of the CMJ charts. The album featured many different musicians including new member Derek Brown (Crocodile, future Flaming Lips) on piano, Mike Dillon on vibraphone and several local string and brass players. The new live lineup began with Brown handling keyboard and rhythm guitar duties and Blaine Nelson playing bass. The band kicked off promotion of the album by opening for The Flaming Lips on their Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots tour, including multiple shows with singer-songwriter Liz Phair. Later in the year, they toured with national acts including Polyphonic Spree, Grandaddy and The Toadies, culminating with Vest playing cello onstage with Violent Femmes during the classic song Good Feeling during the Q101 Block Party in Chicago.
The band signed on with Barsuk Records in December of 2005 and released their third record Drowaton on April 25, 2006. The album marked a change in sound as Vest took over most of the production at his home studio after recording drums with Trent Bell at Bell Labs studio. New member Ryan Lindsey (Broncho) was featured playing piano on the songs Inside of Me and Rosemarie. John Schact of allmusic.com said "Despite their relative brevity, Mints' songs are expansive affairs, chock-full of soulful horn sections and lush string, keyboard, and synth arrangements, multiple tempo and time changes, and Allan Vest's shape-shifting vocals."
Their fourth and final album Change Remains was released July 21, 2009, introducing a drastic shift to a more upbeat and synth-oriented sound while keeping some of the orchestral elements of the earlier albums. Marielle Evangelista of tastemakers magazine said "Change Remains was the album I've been searching for but never quite found. It is everything music should be. Change Remains takes the listener of a musical rollercoaster; transitioning smoothly from 70s disco-beats to sounds reminiscent of The Beatles circa Sergeant Pepper, with some sprinkling of 80s pop and soft 90s indie rock in-between. But what's great about Change Remains is that despite the clear influences, Starlight Mints manage to put together an album that still seems fresh and all their own."
Starlight Mints' music has been featured in several movies and television shows, with "Eyes of the Night" featured as the theme song for the 2009 BBC mini-series Demons. The band's songs have also been heard in episodes of Malcolm in the Middle, One Tree Hill, Californication, and Gossip Girl, and in movies including Barnyard, Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj, Smiley Face, and The Art of Getting By.
Starlight Mints played their last show on December 23, 2009 at Opolis. All of the former members are continuing to pursue creative projects, with Vest furthering his work as a music producer and film and television score composer and starting doubleVee, a project with his partner Barb [Hendrickson] Vest in 2012, with the pair marrying in October of 2015. doubleVee's debut album The Moonlit Fables of Jack the Rider is available via iTunes, Amazon.com, Bandcamp, Spotify and other outlets. They released an EP, Songs for Birds and Bats in 2019, with a limited edition CD available via doubleVee.net. The pair released new album Treat Her Strangely in July of 2022.
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