Photo by Danielle Parsons
For Lexi Vega, who performs as Mini Trees, music has been a tool for self-discovery. With a Cuban-born father and Japanese American mother, finding her identity has not been as straightforward of a process as it might be for many. Following two EPs, her debut album, “Always in Motion,” is the latest and most fully realized chapter in that journey.
After finishing a run of U.S. dates, Vega chatted with us via email about her transition from drummer to singer-songwriter, the intention behind the new album and how she approaches her must-see music videos.
After being a drummer in bands, what made you decide to step out and start writing and singing?
I’ve written my own music for as long as I’ve been playing drums but I just lacked the self-confidence to pursue it up until this project. When a few of the other bands I was drumming in had hit a lull in activity, I figured it was finally time to try taking a couple demos into the studio with my friend and producer Jon Joseph, but even then I didn’t really know what would come of it or if I’d even enjoy the process of sharing my own music. Working on those first couple of tracks kinda just lit a fire and set everything else in motion.
Tell me about the first time you performed as a singer and how it felt to be out front rather than in more of a supporting role on the drums.
Our first Mini Trees show was intentionally booked for the midnight time slot (after the headliner) at this tiny venue outside of LA so I could test out singing in front of other people with fairly low stakes. I was surprised at how natural it felt and how little stagefright I had, particularly with having to make stage banter. I think having a guitar on me helped to ground me with something familiar. To this day I still have no idea what to do with my hands if I’m not playing guitar …
What instruments do you use while composing music?
I primarily write on guitar but at times I’ll write a song on keys or start by programming a beat to write to. Lately I’ve been collecting more synths for my home studio setup to help unlock new ideas and explore some different directions.
After releasing the two EPs, what was your intention when it came time to make your first LP?
Covid played a big role in deciding to write the LP when I did because all of sudden I had all this extra time to write and plenty of material to write about. There was so much time to be alone with my thoughts and reflect, it really helped to have somewhere to channel all of that.
Tell me a little bit about the recording process for “Always in Motion.” Did you work alone? Were there other musicians or a producer/engineer? Did you work in a studio or at home?
I wrote and recorded “Always in Motion” with Jon Joseph at his home studio. It was just the two of us working on it (with the exception of a couple other players who tracked their instruments remotely). For the most part I’d bring in a demo of a fully written or partially written song that I tracked at home and we’d hash out the rest of the song in the studio.
Your videos are really enjoyable and interesting. Tell me a bit about your approach to making videos, specifically the ones for the new album.
The music videos are always highly collaborative and I really enjoy bringing friends into the process. Each of the videos we’ve made for this album cycle have been under the direction of a different creative friend of mine. I like to open up the concept ideation to people who are more visually creative than me, so usually I’ll just walk them through what the song is about and what inspired it, and let them take that and run with an idea. We have one additional video that has yet to be released as well… hopefully there will be more news on that soon. 😉
Growing up, were there any videos you really liked?
I used to watch a lot of MTV and Fuse as a kid specifically because I loved watching music videos. Avril Lavigne’s “Sk8r Boi” video is definitely one that stands out as being very iconic at that age, haha.
What type of music did you grow up listening to?
I explored a lot of different genres as I was growing up and learning how to play music. Since I started on guitar, bands like Blink-182 were influential because they were accessible enough to learn but also felt badass, haha. Eventually I made my way towards classic rock, screamo and hardcore, folk, hip hop… kind of everything to be honest.
What impact did the fact that both of your parents were musicians have on you? Did they encourage you to be a professional musician and/or warn you about what a tough life and business it can be?
Having musical parents was definitely inspiring to me as a kid because I got to see and experience the many ways that music brings people together in a really unique way. My mom had quit her music career by the time she had me, and my dad passed away when I was 5, so there wasn’t a lot of direct instruction or guidance from them once I started actually learning how to play. I knew I’d always be fully supported in pursuing music however, but I also knew that’d be the case for any type of career I’d be passionate about. There wasn’t any pressure either way.
What type of bands did you play in as a drummer?
As a teen I played in a few screamo bands, but as I grew up I gravitated more towards alternative, pop, and indie music.
How would you describe your live show?
Depending on the tour or the location of the show the live band has taken a few different forms. Sometimes I’ll play solo or as a duo with some extra synths and drum machine tracks, or sometimes I’ll put together a 5-piece band if we’re playing locally. Either way we try to stay fairly true to the record, but we also look for ways to tweak the arrangements just enough to add some extra intrigue for those who have taken time out of their schedules to come hear us in person.
What type of lineup are you using on this tour (solo. with a band, etc.)?
On this tour we’ve been touring as a trio with drums, bass, guitar, and some backing tracks to help fill in some of the textures. I’m playing with two musicians who I met up with in Nashville since it was an east coast tour, but despite this being our first time playing together I think we’ve really dialed it in.
What are your plans for 2022? More music to release, more touring, etc.?
We have a bunch of different tour dates scheduled for 2022, some in the US and some in EU/UK, so I’m definitely excited to continue traveling and playing these songs for new people. In the downtime between tours I’m hoping to start writing for the next album, but no official plans have been made to get back into the studio just yet.
What are some of your favorite musical moments of 2021? Best concerts and/or albums you’ve experienced this year.
Getting to watch Julien Baker’s set while we were out supporting her and her band was incredibly inspiring — they are SO good. Some favorite albums from this year have been from Dijon, Indigo de Souza, the Marias.