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Daniel Huang, Ronnica and Tiffany Sammy of Mint Green. (OJ Slaughter for WBUR)
Daniel Huang, Ronnica and Tiffany Sammy of Mint Green. (OJ Slaughter for WBUR)

Bubblegrunge band Mint Green refreshes heartache anthems

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Music and memory are intimately intertwined for Mint Green singer and guitarist Ronnica. She remembers the furry seats of her father’s jeep when he would pick her up from school, and how he always blasted music out of custom speakers from his home island of Anguilla. At home, she grew up listening to Lauryn Hill and Billie Holiday, but gravitated to rock. Her mother, who is also a singer, shared different tastes.

“She was definitely more of a fan of the soft rock variety,” Ronnica, who uses just her first name, said. “I just remember my brother and [I] listening to Korn and Linkin Park and things that were just slightly edgy, and it was like the worst thing in the world. She was like, ‘Why do they have to scream? Why can’t they just sing?’”

Now as an adult and professional musician, Ronnica finds herself nostalgic, searching for those songs and working island rhythms into her band’s new album. She’s the frontwoman of the Somerville-based “bubblegrunge” band Mint Green (which happens to be her favorite color) alongside drummer Daniel Huang and Bassist Tiffany Sammy.

Earlier this month, the band debuted their first full-length LP, “All Girls Go to Heaven.” It follows two prior EPs and blends beloved influences from pop to funk, to swirling vocals that sound like gospel music. Guitarist Brandon Shaw was part of the most recent album, but is no longer with the band.

“When we first started out, I wanted to be more in the box, easier to define, especially coming into these spaces in Allston and Cambridge and Somerville,” said Ronnica. “I wanted to be like, ‘Oh, we're just punk,’ or ‘we're just math rock,’ or ‘we're just indie.’ But we were always somewhere in between. And now I think that's an asset and something that I'm proud of.”

Mint Green. (OJ Slaughter for WBUR)
Mint Green. (OJ Slaughter for WBUR)

Ronnica started Mint Green in 2015 with Huang after they met on Craigslist. Sammy joined in late 2019. They draw inspiration from alt/rock bands like Paramore and other bubblegrunge bands like Beach Bunny.

They aspire to a refresh button in a world that tends to rehash traditional heartache anthems. Their music is ethereal and upbeat and makes you sink into the sound. It makes me want to dance and move — even when the chorus bends a bit toward melancholy. Their music often navigates opposing emotions. It can be light and airy, while the lyrics are vulnerable and deep, dealing with devastating loss. This is the ethos of the song “Trying,” in which Ronnica sings about the demise of a relationship. “I’m so sober and I’m so free./ I’m sure it’s over. I'm not sure how to be,” she sings.

On a recent afternoon, I met the members of Mint Green in Ronnica’s Somerville apartment. They were sprawled out in her living room listening to a Doja Cat cover of “Celebrity Skin” by Hole. It was a few days before their concert at Brighton Music Hall, and we talked about what drew them to music.

Sammy grew up in California before moving to Massachusetts when she was 15. She remembers listening to punk music with her sister like The Clash and The Ramones and her parents hated it. She ended up studying music business and electric bass at UMass Lowell and is a member of various bands including her own called “Tiffy.” She also teaches music. For her, music has always been about connection and, at times, coping.

“I want to feel something. I want to feel excited, I want to feel sad,” Sammy said. “Ultimately, what makes playing music and being in a band really special is you get that feeling when you’re at rehearsal or shows like, ‘Holy s---, we’re doing this.’ It’s the best feeling ever, just a rush of serotonin to the head. It’s euphoric.”

Daniel Huang, Ronnica and Tiffany Sammy. (OJ Slaughter for WBUR)
Daniel Huang, Ronnica and Tiffany Sammy. (OJ Slaughter for WBUR)

Daniel Huang grew up in California before moving to China when he was 11. He studied biomedical engineering, later moved to Massachusetts for medical school, and finished last year. He remembers certain songs in relation to stressful times. On rotation through internal medicine, he listened to Lana Del Rey’s “Norman F---ing Rockwell!” on repeat, while in college the soundtrack to his studying was Miles Davis’ “Kind of Blue.”

“Music has been a passion for longer [than medicine],” he admitted. “My parents wouldn't like it if I told them that I wanted to do music as my career. I think that they're okay with me doing music partly because I'm pursuing medicine as well. It's always been kind of hard to balance those two, but I think I found a good balance now.”

As a band, Mint Green is booked and busy, making some money from gigs and album sales, but not enough to focus solely on the music. For Ronnica, that is the dream. She didn’t go to college. There is no backup plan, she said. Music is her life and sometimes, she stumbles upon lyrics just going about her day.

“Back when we would go out to concerts, I would get inspired in the moment and just take out my notepad on my phone and just write down random phrases,” Ronnica said. “And so then when I have to sit down to make a song, I just pull something from different times and then put it together. Because I feel subconsciously, the song is already inside you, you've just got to find it.”

Mint Green. (OJ Slaughter for WBUR)
Mint Green. (OJ Slaughter for WBUR)

The last track on the new album, “Ringtone,” was unexpected. Ronnica and Daniel say it was just a cute song they were experimenting with, but they liked the end result so much, they included it on the album. It adds playfulness then angst to a song about hoping a lover will call and linger a little longer. “Wish I could be there when the morning comes/ Wish I could feel the fresh air from your lungs./ I hope we never ever come undone./ I’ll still be waiting for your call to come,” the song goes.

“There are a lot of magical moments when we’re writing songs,” Huang said. “When things just click out of nowhere. And those are always the best moments because everyone is really into it, and you’re almost surprised by what you just did.”

The last few years gave Mint Green time to solidify its sound. Mint Green is music for a rough day or even a rough couple years, music that’s nostalgic for simpler times and first loves. The songs acknowledge that sometimes we’re awkward, sometimes we doubt, sometimes it doesn’t work out. But still we hold on and wait for that phone call.

This segment aired on June 30, 2022.

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Cristela Guerra Twitter Reporter
Cristela Guerra is an arts and culture reporter for WBUR.

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