Mind Bath's Year of Firsts

Mind Bath's Year of Firsts

by Daniel Reale-Chin

Mind Bath and I listen to the hiss of a kettle as we settle into the leather loveseat at his studio. We’re only a block up from Bloor and Lansdowne — a busy intersection in Toronto — where the train is rumbling, car horns are honking and pedestrians are scurrying between rush-hour traffic. They wait to cross the street; we wait to drink our licorice tea.

It's been a year of firsts for Mind Bath (real name: Michael Brock). He purchased his first car, bought his first recording studio, is moving in alone for the first time, and now the producer and songwriter is releasing his new EP, Must Come Spring, out everywhere now.

Must Come Spring is a triumphant saga of tender poetry, transcendent melodies and textured R&B packaged into a seven-track, 27-minute and six-second love letter from the singer to himself. “This is why [the EP] came out so fast,” Mind Bath says, pointing around the studio. He’s been inhabiting this space for nine months now; dreaming, singing and crafting his music since February.

Instruments around his studio play necessary hosts to trinkets and tokens he’s collected; the bust of a blue mannequin sits beside his piano, a ceramic lamp bathes the space in red light, and the woodsy smell of burning incense swaddles the piano, keyboard and two computer screens that lay idle on Mind Bath’s Spotify profile. “I call it the Zen Den,” he says.

Mind Bath describes his process as “Scorpionic,” using the gifts of emotion, intuition, and the psychic powers bestowed upon his astral sign to make music and guide his spirituality. This year, he released Transcendental Meditation on the Ocean of Reality Is Love, a three-part guided meditation and amalgamation of the spiritual learning he’s done.

“Before [the studio] there was a lot of waiting time. Waiting to save up for recording, for your roommates to not be home, for a time that your neighbors will allow you to be loud. Now, I have this space and I can make noise until 6 AM,” he says of his studio, which has given him the space to connect with that Scorpionic intuition.

The studio’s a collaboration between him and fellow queer Toronto musician Jaiden Davis Jones, whom Mind Bath met through long-time friend and collaborator, Ouri. “When I first came to Toronto, we were both doing the bedroom thing. We’d be sitting on my bed working and at one point we were literally like, ‘Fuck this,’” Mind Bath says.

Jones is one part of the chosen LGBTQ+ family that Mind Bath has cultivated in Toronto. Since moving here two years ago, Mind Bath’s found solace in Toronto’s queer community and the massive talent this city has to offer. “There’s a group of artists and raw talents here that are really authentically, genuinely, fiercely, fucking doing it,” he says, from Ceréna to James Bailey and Quarterback. “It’s an honor to be acquainted with them.”

One such artist is Myst Milano, whom Mind Bath met four years ago, leading up to an early DJ set he played in Toronto at a party by the Rude Collective (a group that throws queer parties in the city). “When I first met Myst I found them so evocative and sexy and powerful,” Mind Bath says, echoing their work on “No Atlas,” one of the singles Milano’s featured on in Must Come Spring. The track is complex — a mix of aggressive bass strung with wispy background vocals and polished off with a vigorous siren that demands attention.

Milano’s lyrics are fitting against the heavy beat: “You smudged all the make-up, messed up the outfit/ Shifted the shape-up, can’t live without it.” And Mind Bath’s verse is equally raw: “I’m so into everything about you/ Fucking sick and tired of living my truth/ Give it all away just to fuck you.”

Mind Bath says he “sent the beat to Myst, and within a couple days they sent me this voice memo of long-ass, amazing lyrics. They came in here, recorded in one take, and I changed everything I wanted to write to match their energy.”

Must Come Spring feels like a departure from Mind Bath’s 2016 I Was Young EP, with its soft melodies and sombre lyrics; and from his first full-length LP, Baby You Can Free Your Mind, which came out in 2019, with stirring, sensual sounds that gained Mind Bath more than a million Spotify streams in its first month.

“I wanted to give myself the freedom to have fun and be light-hearted on a lot of these songs,” Mind Bath says. “We’re all trying to be our best, to meditate, to grow, to read, to eat well. And sometimes, I just want to fuck it all up, and do drugs, and not sleep, smoke cigarettes, and I want to fuck the shit out of you.”

This feeling is largely the same throughout Mind Bath’s EP, like on “Hot Bliss Energy” and title track “Must Come Spring,” whose music video features the singer existing beautifully with his friend and dancer, Kris Grzella, and was shot on a 16mm Kodak film camera by friend and Toronto director, Emma Cosgrove.

“My LP was such a soul excavating thing; this project feels more joyful and triumphant,” Mind Bath says. “It’s funny, most of the songs are sexy, but I was pretty much celibate for a year during the pandemic.”

A lot of the songs, like “Laced,” paint hot, dripping fantasies about what, or who, Mind Bath wished he could do during a time he was stuck in the studio or bound, by the pandemic, to his bedroom. “I got to slow down for a minute during the pandemic, and dream, be bored and allow my imagination to flourish,” he says.

Besides fantasies, this down time gave Mind Bath a chance to imagine what he wants for his future. He made the move to Toronto a few months before the pandemic to be with his closest friends Veronika Sztopa and Sean (who’s known more widely by his Drag name, Beardoncé) after a turbulent break-up with his ex in Montreal. “When I finally got the guts to leave this guy, Veronika said to me, ‘You should just move to Toronto, live with us and we’ll deal with this as a family,’” Mind Bath says.

Since then, the artist has been building a queer network that supports each other, while pruning the emotional thorns left from his past relationship. Mind Bath says the final song on the EP, “Jaded,” is where he’s at now — a triumphant ballad of growth that came once he learned to deal with his breakup through the help of his friends. “What is done in the dark will come out in the light. Moonlight. Sunlight. Strobe light. I feel the love of the rays,” he says.

As for the future, “I think I’ll put down roots here, in Toronto,” Mind Bath says, explaining how he received a grant in April for a major project that involves writing his first novel. “I’m very excited to get into it. I’m incredibly inspired by projects like this, where I get to dig deep into something for a few years and research and conceptualize and learn new things.”

It’s another first for Mind Bath.

Photography: Kirk Lisaj
Styling: Michele Arismandez
Hair and makeup: Dariush Zadeh