NIGHTTIME, A SUNDAY. We met in a blurred haze of bourbon and sauntered through a web of streets before arriving at 1734 Snyder Avenue. A November wind whisked us to the threshold of the Republican, an esteemed after-hours club buried deep in South Philly. “Dick” rang the bell and we were buzzed into the place that inspired the latest EP from his band, Minka.
We sat and knocked back a couple before he hit the road at midnight. He had to drive up to New York to prepare for a financial accounting exam at an esteemed business school which shall remain nameless.
DICK: (speaking into intercom) Hey Rich, it’s Dick, man. Hey we’re at the Republican. Alright, man. (Door opens to dog barking.)
RICH: (yelling at dog then turning to greet us) How are ya? Is this the girl you said you were gonna leave me? You promised one. A girl and an album.
DICK: I got some in my car. Thanks so much for having us. You guys like whiskey on the rocks?
RICH: First round’s on me.
DICK: Thanks, Rich. A scholar and a gentleman. Definitely make the interview a little spicier.
JENNIFER: You should know I’m not functional after 10pm. This should be interesting.
DICK: So I’ll do the interview as Dick, by the way.
JENNIFER: I’ll have to explain why I’m calling you that.
DICK: No, I think no explanation would be way better. Just please don’t mention that I’m in the MBA. Fucking square as fuck.
JENNIFER: This whole interview is off the record. So, let’s get down to business. You decided to name your latest EP the Republican. Is this a place you often think of while composing, while performing? Or is it just this constant through-line in your work you’re not totally conscious of?
DICK: I’m going to answer your question with another question. When you think of heaven, what do you imagine?
JENNIFER: I’m going to interpret that as a rhetorical question since this is an interview about Minka.
DICK: Interpret it how you like. That’s my answer.
JENNIFER: Ok, I dig it. At what point in the creation of your latest EP did you decide to name it the Republican?
DICK: It definitely wasn’t the original vision. But we thought about the content of our songs, the vibe, the lyrics, and the message we wanted to put forth, and we were looking for some sort of unifying construct. And it ended up being a physical construct, The Republican, that brought it all together.
JENNIFER: What makes The Republican realer than other places?
DICK: A lot of strip clubs try to create an ambience with all the lights, and the runways, it’s just very artificial. Whereas this you just walk in. It’s a neighborhood bar that just happens to have beautiful women.
JENNIFER: And happens to feel like home.
DICK: I’m coming to realizations myself in this interview.
JENNIFER: You can feel free to start interviewing me if that’s where this is going.
DICK: So would you ever consider getting up on the pole?
JENNIFER: I think we’ve danced in enough bars together for you to know the answer to that question.
DICK: Right on.
JENNIFER: It’s an understatement to say that you give a very physical performance on stage. Have you taken any cues from the performances that you’ve seen here?
DICK: Certainly. I mean if you’ve ever seen the ladies on the pole, quite athletic. Really something to aspire to. So you know, I take some cues from that. Take some notes. Bring the notepad.
JENNIFER: Have you converted any Republican regulars into Minka fans?
DICK: Definitely. I have a couple people in my phone that sometimes before a show I’ll hit up via text message one by one. Very tedious but I think effective.
JENNIFER: All about the personal touch, as they know here.
DICK: I like touching. So I have a couple people saved as their first name, and then “Republican.” So I must have met them here. I don’t remember it! But I must have.
JENNIFER: I’m assuming you don’t interact with many politicians so that’s probably a safe bet.
DICK: Well it’s funny. I actually have Rich’s number saved as Rich Republican in my phone. Like one of my fundraisers or something? That’s the one thing about naming the album that. I think people get this weird connotation, understandably so, that we are politically affiliated or making some sort of commentary on that, which we’re not whatsoever.
JENNIFER: If you were, what would it be?
DICK: I don’t know. Maybe the vibe of the guy who’s part of the moral majority. Sort of the strong faith background who’s anti-vice and is actually doing coke off of strippers’ tits, all the things he’s advocating against. Which is a very common occurrence.
JENNIFER: This is going pretty deep. Too deep for me to handle at this hour.
DICK: We’re just getting started. You’re getting on the pole next. And Lendl’s not far off.
JENNIFER: So can you tell me a little bit about the origins of Minka and how you all got together?
DICK: The origins? Well Ian and I met on a cross-country reggae tour. I was playing keys. He was playing guitar. Must have been about 2 years ago. And then we found this drummer and bassist who’d been abandoned by their band. We picked them up in the van, and the rest is history.
JENNIFER: Where are they right now?
DICK: They chose not to be here today. They’d rather me speak for them. For their mothers’ sake.
JENNIFER: Taking one for the team, I see. What’s your drink of choice here?
DICK: Usually I do... uhh...what do I do. I’m usually pretty fucked up by the time I get here. Anything really. Anything that walks.
JENNIFER: And do they serve food here?
DICK: Not that I’m aware of. Well...
JENNIFER: Let’s not go there. How did you guys evolve your sound together?
DICK: Well, Ian and I started off in the basement just sequencing on the computer, trying to create songs, but I had never sung before in my life so he actually took a pretty big leap of faith. But I was in a period when — I’m a jazz pianist originally — I had gotten tendonitis and couldn’t play.
JENNIFER: So it was kind of a fantastic accident?
DICK: Well the point is that we don’t put any limits on ourselves in terms of allowing ourselves to try something.
Nothing’s too stupid of an idea. So we might write a song where the idea is, imagine a bass part where it’s just a dolphin swimming, what does that sound like, and just go. And most of the time it fucking sucks. But once in every 10 times we come up with something cool. Sometimes I’ll jump on the bass and Ian will jump on the drums and Max will jump on the guitar, instruments we don’t really play. Just try to get the sense of what a child would do.
JENNIFER: How much of Minka’s energy would you say is youthful childlike energy?
DICK: All of it. Everything. We’re just children.
JENNIFER: Maybe children who’ve grown up a little too fast?
DICK: Nah, we haven’t grown up yet. This is still a playground.
JENNIFER: I think we should maybe shy away from any children metaphors. So is there a typical Minka fan?
DICK: No. We pretty much span the gamut. Older people tend to like our shit.
JENNIFER: What do you think it reminds them of?
DICK: When they were young and virile or sexy and they were getting it in. I’d like to think it reminds them of a Talking Heads concert where maybe they met someone who really rocked their world or something like that.
JENNIFER: If you had to describe your sound using purely adjectives, no musical references, what would it be?
DICK: Red. Silk. (Pauses.) Wood.
JENNIFER: Are you just describing this room?
DICK: Well, synergy.
JENNIFER: Is that what you learned in business school?
DICK: Mhm, actually they eschew the use of that word. But I think it’s very appropriate. Nah, they don’t like synergy cus they think it’s misapplied.
JENNIFER: And its too 90s or something? Too retro? But you’re pretty good at bringing back the retro.
DICK: Yeah and you know it’s funny, that was never our intention. But maybe sometimes old ways are the best ways. How long has the Kama Sutra been around right? A while. A hot minute. But I feel like there’s a whole world I haven’t explored.
JENNIFER: Hopefully you can explore it not here.
DICK: Not here, ya know. Well let me ask you something.
JENNIFER: Go for it.
DICK: Why Minka? What about Minka is something that hylo looked at and was like, that’s what we want. We want these sex-crazed maniacs. We want to feature them. And celebrate them.
JENNIFER: I just have an image of you burned in my brain. In front of—
DICK: I thought I deleted that video.
JENNIFER: It’s of you dancing in front of a building that’s now burnt down, which is Hawthorne’s on 11th and Fitzwater.
DICK: Yeah, I remember that show.
JENNIFER: I just remember you losing your shit in a good way in front of maybe a couple seven year olds.
DICK: Yeah, that was awesome. That got them dancing.
JENNIFER: They were seriously digging you. And who knows where their parents were. Didn’t matter, obviously. But the fact that these kids just enjoyed you with such pure unbridled enthusiasm, on the same level that I as a 26-year-old could, was just so rad. That was the ultimate equalizer.
DICK: Exactly. There is structure and there are some rules, but ultimately it’s in service of this greater goal of complete chaos. So it’s an interesting duality to everything.
JENNIFER: Is your hope that the listener will feel comfortable in complete chaos?
DICK: Well they already are in complete chaos – what is existence, if not that? So yeah.
JENNIFER: Is chaos the extent to which you’re aware of it?
DICK: Yeah, certainly. I mean I think that everybody wants to be me. In the sense that everybody wants to be the person that I am on stage, which is a person that doesn’t give a fuck about anything. But I think that there’s a part of everyone who wants to do that. Let loose. And I just happen to be in the position where I get to indulge that once a week in a show, for instance. And I get to get as weird as I fucking wanna get.
DICK: We care about not caring and that’s something worth caring about. That’s us, right there.
ARI "DICK" RUBIN IS THE LEAD SINGER AND FRONTMAN OF THE PHILADELPHIA-BASED BAND MINKA.