Lira Mondal and Caufield Schnug, who make up two-thirds of the dream pop band Mini Dresses, are a couple—though you wouldn’t know it, listening to their songs.
The Somerville-based lo-fi act met in college in Arkansas and did a stint in Austin (Schnug’s hometown) as Silkies before forming Mini Dresses, a side project that quickly became the duo’s main focus once they moved to the Boston area. But while the pair have been dating for more than six years, their relationship doesn’t make an appearance— lyrically or otherwise—in their music. We sat down with the collaborative couple to talk first impressions, making art with your partner and the separation of music and love life.
Scout Somerville: How did you two meet?
Lira Mondal: We met in the basement of the music building on our college campus. I was in a band (and I use the term “band” ever so loosely!) with some fellow music major mates and we were practicing late one night. Caufield was lurking about, making music of his own in one of the other rooms. He heard us, poked his head in the window, and immediately demanded of us, “Are you guys in band? Can I join you?” And the rest is history.
Caufield Schnug: All I remember is hearing Lira singing and playing bass from the other side of a paper thin wall. Before having seen her, I was already thinking, “This is somebody I want to get to know.”
SS: What were your first impressions of each other?
LM: When I first met Caufield, I thought he was the coolest guy around. He used to longboard around campus, and whenever I saw him I’d go, “Whoa. He’s so dreamy.”
CS: I was 18 when I met Lira; I thought she was super smart and perhaps a bit mysterious! She had the best music taste in college (she would share her dark post-punk and goth mix tapes with me, which warped my nervous system. In return I only had meeker offerings: ‘60s folk tunes, French pop, light electronica and shoegaze).
SS: When did you decide to make music together?
LM: Shortly after we first met, it somehow came up in conversation that we both really loved the Mazzy Star song “Give You My Lovin’.” Once we figured out we were into the same stuff, we were both like, “Hell yeah, let’s write our own songs together!” I’ve learned a lot about music from Caufield over the years. He got me into a lot of great stuff … he got me into Broadcast, and for that I am eternally grateful.
CS: We have a long history of making music together. We played in bands before we started dating over six years ago. To be sure, there are a lot of really unspeakable projects in our shared catalogue—maximalist indie pop quintets, ill-advised college rock side projects, bad drone-psych adventures—but truly we can only look back in fondness!
SS: Besides making music together, do you share other hobbies?
LM: We both love to travel, and we want to do more of it. We went to Iceland over the summer, which was indescribable.
CS: And we are both cinephiles! We share taste in international art films, avant-garde cinema, and bad TV. Interesting film references are scattered everywhere in Lira’s lyrics. And sometimes we read together (this is my favorite).
SS: Do you guys write about your relationship?
LM: Nope. We like to completely downplay, if not outright exclude, that part of our lives from our musical life. When I write lyrics, they’re pretty much never autobiographical. They’re always about some made-up character, from her point of view.
CS: Our relationship is anathema to our songwriting process, it’s true! Being in a band allows us to explore different dimensions— not necessarily amorous ones!—of working together and being with each other.
SS: Do you have songs about crushes, real or imaginary?
LM: Well, we wrote this new song about someone who falls in love with a manicure … not even the person to whom the manicure belongs, but the manicure itself. It’s called “Fantasy Nails.” It’s incredibly romantic, actually!
SS: What are your star signs?
LM: Caufield is a Virgo, and I’m a Libra.
SS: Do you believe in horoscope relationship compatibility?
LM: You know, the funny thing about horoscopes and astrology is that, a lot of the time, the personality traits of each sign are described so generally that they could really be applied to anyone. There’s a lot of reading your own unspoken desires and inclinations into horoscopes, so that you bend them around you to suit your bidding. As fun as it is to think about star signs and how they predetermine our personalities and relationships, I don’t put too much stock into them; traditionally, Virgos and Libras shouldn’t be compatible because we’re “too different.” But we seem to be making it happen, so … there you have it!
CS: I don’t know anything about horoscopes, so I was not aware that Virgos and Libras are symbolically warring factions in the cosmos. But perhaps there’s interesting matter here to explore between us, our astral signs. Surely love has to do with star-crossed stuff like blind luck, chance and utter chaos, right?