Ahead of a weekend that sees his music-meets-drama brainchild, Waiting Room, an ambitious two-day theatrical showcase of some of his favourite new acts (plus himself…), in Cardiff’s Cultvr Lab venue, James Minas tells Buzz’s Teresa Delfino about it all.
Hey Minas! Last time you spoke with Buzz, you discussed your 2022 release, All My Love Has Failed Me. Has anything changed for you since your debut album?
Yeah, was a good chat! Lots has changed though, yeah. we’ve been on two tours and played festivals we’ve never played before. Also grown quite a bit as performers and people, I’d say. But mainly, it’s been ace to be able to say we have an actual fanbase now.
Having listened to Grazes – your upcoming EP, out early next year – it’s definitively Minas. Politically charged and fuelled with an anger about the political, economic, and sociocultural issues that are rife in the UK, without overcomplicating it. Were there any specific experiences that led you to write your newest work?
Well, it’d been an ace time after the album but as cathartic as the experience was, it didn’t heal me or my disillusionment with everything. As I got more intertwined with the music scene, lots of people’s actions wound me up. I struggle with ego a hell of a lot, and disingenuous behavior, and I experienced a fair bit of it in the scene locally and nationally. So I still didn’t feel ready to sit down with a ukulele and sing “everything’s OK now”.
Aside from that, though, it was a chance to push the sound I’d built forward more. It’s definitely darker and noisier than the album, however I see it as a step in a new direction – not fully reinvented, but stepping towards it.
You’ve said previously how hopeless everything can feel as an individual stuck in a system that doesn’t serve you. Is there a ‘call to action’ you hope your lyrics would inspire among listeners?
We’ve had people approach us at shows saying that our stuff moves them, has helped them through things; people find it hard to believe when someone says “that’s what it’s about” but it really is for me. I don’t know how much power our music has – whether it works as a call to action I have no idea, but I wouldn’t be sad if it shook more people up enough to do something to better their lives.
While your lyrics and delivery are raw and authentic to the real experiences you’ve endured, there’s a vulnerability that underlies your music. Have you learned anything from writing the songs on Grazes?
Well, there’s one track in particular where I lost all the aggression and just spoke/sang about a time where I felt things were actually good in my life. While I won’t lose the raw side, it’s just as important to me as the vulnerability – if not more important. Being an EP rather than an album, it’s allowed me to try some things differently, and yeah, I’ve learnt more about writing and experimenting within a sound, which is wild to me.
Who or what is inspiring you right now?
To be honest nowadays, aside from a load of local artists I’m lucky enough to work with, it’s the random people who work their way through the negative bullshit to spread some kindness. I’ve fallen victim to the negative mindset on Twitter – I’m not gonna call it fucking X, Elon Musk is a muppet – where I’ve stuck some negativity online, so seeing people turn another cheek to it and do something genuine is amazing to me right now. With all the shit going on in the world right now it’s harder than ever to do that. I try to be more like those people every day. Kindness is more needed than ever right now.
Your event over the coming weekend has an impressive roster of performances. Where did you get the idea for this immersive show?
I’ve worked in theatre and circus before, and was brought up around circus performance so it’s always been in me to write a show – I’ve just never had the confidence to give it a shot until now. I was asked to put a weekend event on, and initially thought of just booking some artists and having a mad one but then thought, why not try something mad – using the Cultvr space to it’s fullest potential.
So I wrote a show with one of my best mates, Shanique – Niques is her artist name – about a dystopian world where two people from very different backgrounds find themselves stuck in a waiting room. The show is essentially the conversations that could come from that in the dystopian world, which is called Wyrm. There’s other characters that come in; the backstory of Wyrm is told through various medias. The artists performing, who are all phenomenal, are worked into the story.
And on top of all that there’s phenomenal food being served from The Real Ting and exhibitions by local artists Beanhead and Itsamood. It’s gonna be an amazing event and I’m just thankful I had the talent around me who were up for helping. It’s a proper Cardiff vibe and I can’t wait.
Waiting Room is at Cultvr Lab, Cardiff on Fri 17 + Sat 18 Nov.
Tickets: £15 both days/£10 per day/£5 concessions. Info: here
Minas’ Grazes EP is released on Fri 9 Feb.
words TERESA DELFINO