2006_06_Allan_Vest.jpgHailing from Oklahoma City, Starlight Mints are an Orchestral Pop band that aims to please with a childish smirk and a mature musical arrangement. Unlike some of rock's other orchestral blunders, The Starlight Mints can be digested over and over again, without fear of oncoming diabetes. Vocalist and guitarist Allan Vest shares with Gothamist musings on the new album and the band.

With less than 24 hours to go before the tour begins, how are things at Starlight Mints' HQ?
Great, we've been home for about four days from the west coast portion of the tour. We're finally rested and ready for more.

What have you got planned for this tour?
Just supporting the album, making new friends, and staying alive.

Should we expect to see live strings?
No live strings for a while. Maybe in the fall when we're better prepared with them.

How did the recording process for the new album compare to the previous two?
A lot more time, and for me, a lot more space. Recorded 3/4 of it at my house, so I felt much more comfortable and not so pressed for time. I recorded all the vocals alone, and that was a first for me. I'm not sure I'll do it again like that, but I had only myself to answer to.

The song "Drowaton" itself is the saddest, longest, song you've ever released. It's the most indicative of a changed style, from orchestral and jovial to more guitar-heavy. What prompted the dramatic change?
It was just an idea I had from about five years ago. Andy convinced me it was a gem. I'm still not sure I believe him. It's one of those songs that seems to be growing through absorption. I felt the same way about "Pages" on the last album, and now that song is a staple of our live show. Both the songs are personal, and maybe I'm learning to give that up more in writing. In the past, I've had a fear of self-absorption; maybe I'm losing that.

How has the birth of Andy and Marian's child affected the band?
It's great having Penny around and watching her grow and communicate. I'm sure she'll inspire a song or two.

Your lineup is changing constantly. Do these changes feel constraining or do they open up new creative outlets?
It really hasn't changed that much. Ryan Lindsey is our new auxiliary piano/guitar/vox player. He's playing a key role in our live show, but we're only now realizing how super-creative he really is.

What artists would you cite as influences of your music?
I think songs more than artists. I'm constantly making mix CD's on the road of new stuff I find. Currently I'm really into early Randy Newman and the Andrews Sisters. It's always certain songs though. I think most musicians and most serious music lovers are like that though.

How do you feel about your music being downloaded on file sharing networks?
Whatever, we have no control over it. I have used sharing networks myself. I think the era is coming to an end soon, and some artists will be luckier than others.

What role do you think music critics should play in people's consumption of music?
I really am the last person to ask. How can you trust one person's opinion with music? We're all different, us humans. We have different upbringings, things that affect us, things pushing our buttons. The majority of people like mediocre music, or are only exposed to that. There are others who seek music that is unique. Then there are those "special cases" who have no clue what they like but are merely trying to blend in with the "cool crowd". I think few of us just want something to call our own, for a while at least. I've always felt that way. But some music is just too powerful to avoid.

What sort of role did music play in your life growing up?
I grew up in a very non-musical family. My father had me tutored in mathematics throughout all of junior high and high school. He is an accountant by the way. I was in my junior year of college taking Engineering Calculus 2 when I finally broke and just one day stopped going to classes. I got a job and bought a four track cassette recorder and I now consider that my education.

When did you quit school?
My junior year of college at the University of Oklahoma. I had changed my major six times and was extremely bored. I realized I could get a job, work on writing, and come back and finish when I knew it was the right time.

What were you like in school?
Up until I quit school, I was miserable. I was a decent student, and blended in as your typical middle-upper class prep. I had some younger friends who were more of the smart, stoner types that really inspired me at the time. Funny thing is that I never did drugs.

Did you take part in any talent shows or theater in school?
Not really. I was in the orchestra from sixth to ninth grade. I quit, but continued to take private cello lessons until my eighty-year-old teacher suffered a stroke. My parents bought me a guitar that same year, so I focused on that for a while.

Were you active in the high school band or local garage bands?
Yeah, a little bit. I could never commit to anything until I started writing and formed my first band "Burnwagon". I was about twenty-one and I learned a lot about how hard it was to sing.

Can you pin point, perhaps, the moment when you knew that you were going to be a musician?
I think at an early age really. It consumed me as a child and into my teens. At fourteen, I went on a trip to the U.K. with my family and came back with all of these crazy records that really blew my mind at the time. I think music was the only thing I ever gave a chance in learning, so it was default.

How long was it after Burnwagon that you formed what would become The Starlight Mints and what was that period of your life like?
Five years, maybe. Just being poor and not caring about money.

How would you describe your musical output during this time?
Quantity over quality. A few gems here and there.

What were you doing at the time to support yourself financially?
Managing a health food restaurant.

Are there any stories of hell gigs or adventures on the road that you can share?

Jesus, adventures...too many. Hell gigs? One in Memphis during our first tour. There were two people in the crowd plus the opening band in a five hundred capacity venue. I'm sure there are others, but I always sit on that one as the toughest. As for bad performances, I think we're cutting even these days.

I read that there was a possibility of an EP being released this year.
Yes, we have leftover material from the album. I really hope we can release it soon. Some of my personal favs didn't make the cut.

Do you see yourself scoring films anywhere down the line?
Definitely, thanks for asking. Opportunity is slowly drifting towards us. I have done a little this year with some animation projects, and honestly, movie scoring is something I'm (we're) always thinking about even when producing our records.

Should we expect to see a music video for Inside of Me?
Yes, it's finished .

Do you know what the other singles for Drowaton will be and if we should expect to see music videos for them as well?
I really don't know right now. I never expect us to have too many singles. As for videos, that's up to others.

What do you and the rest of the band like to do after a performance?
Watch bad cable T.V. at the hotel. Maybe have a beer.

Do you have any under appreciated albums that you'd like to recommend to readers?
Tom Heinl - With or Without Me. It's a beautiful tragic comedy. Joeanna Newsom -She deserves a Grammy in originality. (Is that even a category these days?)

The Starlight Mints will be performing at the Bowery Ballroom on June 12th with Dios (Malos) and The Octopus Project . Visit the Starlight Mints' Myspace to make them your buddy, watch a music video, and to sample some songs.