By Raymond Simon
Nate Van Name is psyched. It’s evident in his voice when we speak by phone to discuss The Mint, the five-piece indie rock band where he plays keyboards.
The Mint, which hails from Lancaster, PA, got its start in 2003. Van Name and his bandmates, guitarist Gabriel Kienzle and drummer Chris Narcisi, achieved a measure of success that many working musicians would envy: not only did The Mint have a solid fan-base in central Pennsylvania, it also got national exposure. WXPN, a well respected public radio station known for giving indie and alternative acts air time, included a track by The Mint, “Blurred Vision,” on its compilation, XPN Local, Volume 2. And its song, “Pen to Paper,” was featured in an episode of MTV’s The Real World: Hollywood in 2008.
But with the departure of lead singer Jonathan Decker last fall, Van Name and his colleagues found themselves confronted by one of those mundane but consequential changes that could have derailed a less secure group.
Fortunately for music lovers, the three weren’t ready to call it quits, and their perseverance has been amply rewarded. The Mint has been reinvigorated by the addition of new members Nate Jones, who’d played with York-area band Torn From Red, and singer and guitarist Adam Kowalczyk, who toured worldwide and recorded with LIVE since 1999.
“How I feel about it now is extremely excited,” Van Name says enthusiastically when asked about the new lineup. “The work and the effort that Adam and the other guys have put in here after the change has definitely made it something that has rekindled a desire to play with this band, and with the guys, and to move forward in a way that I haven’t had since about five or six years ago.”
Van Name isn’t alone in his enthusiasm. Kowalczyk, who’s also on the line, is equally passionate. “I’m honored to be a part of it and excited to see where it goes,” he says. “I really believe in the material and I look forward to writing together and getting something moving forward with The Mint.”
This new musical partnership developed out of the two men’s friendship. “Nate and I have been friends for quite a few years now and I knew that he was in a band,” Kowalczyk says. “And what I really liked about Nate was that we were friends before this musical venture.” He recounts how he’d seen The Mint perform occasionally and had even offered some constructive criticism. But it wasn’t until The Mint’s former singer left that the remaining members of the band approached him to propose getting involved more deeply. For his part, the road-tested sideman recognized a good opportunity.
“While I’d done some incredible things with LIVE, and also with my brother and his solo project that got off the ground last year,” Kowalczyk recounts, “this gives me a chance to showcase what my voice is capable of, kind of giving me the front, lead spot to show what I haven’t been able to show people.”
Songwriting subject matter is also on Kowalczyk’s mind. In the past, he explains, he’d focused on relationships, but he is looking forward to expanding his subject matter. As he puts it, “Lyrically I’d like to venture on to territory that encompasses more people. Whether it be in a religious fashion or whether it be politically, I’m not quite sure. You know, the older I get these are the things that are important to me, and with the birth of my daughter also, just in October, I’m hoping that the subject matter will grow in an effort to encompass more people and bring more people into The Mint experience.”
That positive outlook is typical of the tone both men take throughout the conversation. Their open-mindedness, combined with the musicians’ experience and professionalism, bodes well for The Mint. According to Kowalczyk and Van Name, the band is focused on the future, so their talk of recording can’t be dismissed as idle speculation.
“Personally, what I can envision for The Mint is probably more of a live rock record but something that has flavor from each of our avenues, from our musical backgrounds, and something with a modern twist to it,” Kowalczyk says.
“We’re not really reinventing the wheel,” he continues. “It’s four chords and the truth, really.”