With Kody Neilson’s former band, Mint Chicks, pushing a violent and chaotic energy both through their music and through performance, Neilson himself is hesitant to the point of complete nervousness when we chat. Maybe he’s having a bad day, but he chooses his words with absolute trepidation and stutters his way through most sentences. His new project, Opossom, may be a more accurate representation of his personality than the bedlam of Mint Chicks.
“It’s been more free,” Neilson says of the new project. “I didn’t really have a picture of what I wanted to do with the music. It was more that I would keep the recordings that I liked. I think Mint Chicks wrote a lot together and this style isn’t really what we would’ve done. I just went with what I felt like doing and it was good to not have to work everything out with someone else, you know? There are pros and cons to doing it on your own but because I was just going with the flow it was all easier.”
Producing and co-writing such diverse projects as King Kapisi, The Adults and He Will Have His Way (the Finn brothers tribute), Neilson was also busy writing and playing with Bic Runga (who has now lent her skills to the Opossom project) while creating the Opossom sound. Ex-Mint Chicks bassist, Michael Logie (who was also in Runga’s live band) rounds out the lineup. “I showed the record to Bic and Michael,” he explains. “I was already playing music with both of them in Bic’s band. I just started taking the songs to them and we just started rehearsing during sound checks.”
For someone who has so many different creative outlets and musical pursuits, it would be easy to assume that Opossom will take on the identity of the lazy side-project. Neilson seems unsure, at this stage, about how far he would like to take these new songs. “I just want to go with the flow with it,” he says. “I’ve been focusing a little bit more on getting by. It’s more just a chance to do what I want without having to sign off to anyone. I take it seriously but it’s not as serious as when I am producing or collaborating with other people.”
With Opossom marking the beginning of a new musical era for Neilson, it is hard to ignore that he has taken Logie with him for the ride. Were there any hard feelings at the end of Mint Chicks? “No, everyone just needed their own space to do their own thing and just chill out,” he says. “We were so busy doing that for about eight years and everyone was, kind of, just a bit spent. I think after we finished the last record we knew it was time to have a break. There were no hard feelings though. I have been working with Ruben lately doing some producing for Unknown Mortal Orchestra. It’s still all good.”
Lyrically, Neilson wrote the album swiftly but says he was far more specific in his content than he has been in the past. He does add that for a lot of the songs, he really didn’t know exactly what they were about until after they were recorded. “It’s mostly about drug experiences and falling in love and things like that,” he explains stumbling a little on his words. “A lot from knowing addicts and, yeah, that. I’m not championing drugs or anything but it’s hard to avoid knowing people who have been affected by it in a big way. I guess when I was writing about relationships ending, I was writing a lot about what happened at the end of The Mint Chicks as well and the way I was feeling. It wasn’t all bad or anything; I was actually trying to write really quickly and not think about it too much. It’s only when I look back on it now that I can figure out exactly what everything was about. At the time, I was just getting it done; now it makes more sense.”
BY KRISSI WEISS
OPOSSOM will play at Phoenix Public House on Thursday May 17. Electric Hawaii is out on Friday June 1 through Create/Control.