Ella Minnow Keeps It Casual For Their Triumphant Return

Almost a decade ago, Denton alternative rock band Ella Minnow came together. Like most artists, they came from humble beginnings, forming exclusively as a one-time band for a friend’s birthday party. Upon performing the show, the band quickly learned that they enjoyed playing together as a unit. They had been in bands with each other in the past but never had they all been in one place. “Basically, this was the culmination of all the projects we had worked on together in the past,” says bassist Josh Kitchens.

It went surprisingly well.  Through hard work and practice, they garnered quite a following in the Denton music scene. Throughout their tenure as a band, they released a handful of albums and EPs, each one representing a unique point in time for the band. The music evolved with the band, hardly a surprise, considering the wide range of influences each member brings to the songwriting process.

“I’d say the deal with us is we all draw from different influences. I don’t think anyone listened to the same music the entire time we played together,” Kitchens says on the diversity of their songwriting. This diversity came together perfectly when the band built songs from the ground up as a unit, which happened fairly often. Kitchens explains: “Different people would come in with ideas, and we would really start to unpack it and add to it.” Keyboard player and saxophonist Trey Price also says, “There will be other times when someone like Conor [Wallace] would come in with almost a fully fleshed out idea, so it goes either way.”

Despite their success, after seven years they made the decision to quietly break up, shortly after the release of we/Them. The transition didn’t come easily; some members had issues owning up to an official breakup. “When people continued to solicit us to book shows, I tried to be subtle, and would just say, uh...we’re on hiatus,” Price says. After three years, it slowly became something that felt permanent (not for lack of trying on Price’s part, though.) “I started to float the idea of getting back together maybe a year ago, and we all kind of agreed, but it never turned into anything,” he explains.

But they saw a perfect opportunity when Band Together Denton opened up applications. This time they packed an overhauled line-up, and a fresh outlook on performance. The new line-up consists of Kitchens and Price in their traditional roles, Conor Wallace at the helm on vocals, Stephen Reynolds on drums, Corbin Childs on guitar, and both Adrien Wallace and Courtney Marie on backing vocals.

Something they didn’t account for, though, was the changing venue landscape in the city of Denton. With the closure of so many venues, the band will have to return its roots of playing houses. Kitchens says, “We always functioned really well as a house show band, I think we got a lot of our fans that way.”  At the time of their inception, there wasn’t a niche that had been carved out for more traditional alternative rock music in the city. Price posits briefly on their elevated status: “When we started we basically had to create our own scene, it was really interesting.” Kitchens adds, “I think we drew in a lot of misfit children that weren’t involved in any other scenes.”

In the time that the band wasn't performing, the members had the freedom to branch out and begin to network within the many subcultures that exist in Denton. In a way, this has allowed a transition back into relevance to be made easier. “We’re more involved in the Denton music scene now as individuals, than we ever were as a band,” Kitchens says. Price notes the fact that now that most of Ella Minnow's members are involved with their own lives. Whether this means members' new children, new projects, or the demands of careers, the return of Ella Minnow can be a casual return to form for the band.

“It finally feels like we can have fun now, so I’m just focused on having fun. I don’t even care if we record another album,” Price says simply. At the moment they’re just worried about remembering their songs. “We’re probably practicing once a month now, which has been more productive than when we were practicing two to three times a week,” Price explains. He adds: “Just trying to remember what chords go well is the hardest part.” Kitchens is far less worried though, now that he’s had three years to really refine his skills. “We’re all better musicians now, so if anything, we’re going to be tighter. I mean, we’ve always been a good party band, and to a lesser extent, a better live band.”

Make sure to catch Ella Minnow's triumphant return at Band Together Denton, which runs January 20-21st.

Photo by Jess Elysse Kornacki
Header Image Design by Brittany Keeton