Although it’s been over a year since their highly successful third album was released, Friend and Foe, Menomena is still very relevant in the independent music scene and with good reason. Last year was particularly nice to the Portland trio, with appearances at Pitchfork Music Festival, a popular national tour, and appearances on several Top 50 of 2007 lists. It doesn’t hurt when Pitchfork calls you their favorite band, as they did early on in 2007. So, that’s why we’re so excited that staff writer Phillip Roffman had a chance to catch up with their drummer, Danny Seim, and see what the three have been doing since.
CoS: Will Menomena jump from their label record solo? I ask this because literally every band is doing it and I completely understand but for bands like The Faint to jump on the bandwagon, where their record label was founded by their close friend Conor Oberst, who once used to be the lead singer of The Faint, it seems, dare I say, arrogant. They pretty much have all control of Saddle Creek.
Seim: Our agreement with Barsuk is for three records and Friend And Foe was the first, so we have two more left to make for them. After that, all bets are off… But judging by the length of time it usually takes us to record an album, we’ll probably be 80 years old before we fulfill our contract. That could be scary. I never knew Conor was in The Faint. Interesting stuff! I hope we never do anything to upset Barsuk. We love those folks. They’ve been very supportive of our cause.
CoS: And speaking of recording, you guys working on any new material?
Seim: Yes, we are. Very, very, very slowly.
CoS: With a band like yours, How do you possibly jam and come up with new material?
Seim: It’s hard… Every time we try to jam, we end up playing Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots, or Dave Matthews songs for hours. So we try not to do that very often because it’s so depressing. Thankfully, Brent invented this little recording software program that allows us to write and record music spontaneously, so that helps us rein it in a little.
CoS: With the saxophone, bass, guitar, keyboard, drums- all of this out of a three piece band, you guys thinking of any new instrument?
Seim: We’re always open to learning new instruments. When we were recording our second record, Brent sent out a mass email asking people in Portland if he could come to their homes with his laptop and record himself playing any crappy old instrument they had lying around the house. It turned out really nice because he got such a wide variety of sounds. That’s pretty much how we see ourselves… We’re jacks of all trades, masters of none. Quantity over quality, that sort of thing.
CoS: Will you ever do another Under an Hour (the odd “experimental soundtrack”, according to fans) , and how did you guys feel about that?
Seim: That was the record I was talking about, where Brent played a bunch of weird instruments in people’s homes. I feel really good about that one. Especially the first song… I think it might be the best thing we’ll ever release as Menomena. But unfortunately, it would take an orchestra to perform it live, so we can’t exactly play those songs on tour. And plus, it’s really hard to get an 18-minute instrumental song on the radio, so it’s hard to promote. I don’t know if we’ll ever record another record like it, unfortunately.
CoS: Last but not least, out of all your songs what would you call the perfect ” Setlist”?
Seim: Hmm. To be honest, my perfect “setlist” would probably be a bunch of other peoples’ songs, not ours. I love the idea of covering songs. But like I said, all we know is Pearl Jam, STP, and DMB… So that might be a little rough on the listener!
That’s it, folks! Be sure to stick around while we stay on target with everything and anything that this band’s been working on. Until then, I hope this whets your appetite…