Photo credit: Alicia J. Rose
Portland duo Menomena stop in Minneapolis tomorrow! Menomena, over a decade after its inception, has been slightly revamped after original member Brent Knopf (Ramona Falls) left the band nearly two years ago. Much to our delight the remaining members, Justin Harris and Danny Seim, decided they were not quite finished and presented us with Moms, an album deeply rooted in family and other personal themes.
MFR caught up with Danny Seim to chat about translating Moms to the stage, past experiences in Minneapolis, and the music he listened to when he was eighteen. Read the full interview below.
How has the Moms tour progressed thus far?
I’ve really enjoyed myself. Going into this I guess I would consider myself skeptical to pull all this off but I really like the guys that we’ve been playing with, they’re old friends of ours. The shows have been really good and I’m cautiously optimistic.
You have three touring members with you, correct?
Yeah, Holcombe [Waller] is playing keyboards and helping out with saxophone and singing backup; actually everyone is kind of doing triple and quadruple duty. We have a guy named Matt [Dabrowiak] who is playing guitar and singing and Paul [Alcott] who is handling most of the keyboard responsibilities.
There have been a lot of changes with Menomena over the past couple years and the new album, Moms, shows us a different approach to instrumentation, a different pace to putting it out, all that jazz. Out of all the things that have been different with this album, was there a favorite part for you during the process or with the end result?
That’s a good question. I guess I just like the fact that I still really love and am happy to be around Justin. That was a big one. You now, when the album happened…we were just really kind of bummed out with the overall Menomena dynamic. I mean, I think it would have been a good time to call it a day. I think this was kind of a way to see if we could still make it work; not necessarily just with the band (I’ve known the dudes forever). I’d hate to let all the old quarrels associate with making a record like we have in the past by destroying our friendship; I don’t think it would be worth it. I guess I’m just happy with the fact that we pulled it together really quickly (well, quickly for us) and relatively painlessly. I’ve never known, I guess, painlessness, in the context of making a record. This was kind of a breathe of fresh air.
The end result? I’m really proud and just happy with the fact that we released something. I mean, that’s what it all leads to.
You have toured with two of your three touring members in the past— was it a pretty easy translation to go on tour for this record or did you find it more difficult to translate that to the live show?
It’s never been easy. I mean, the way we record and play live, it’s simultaneous. In, whatever, our twelve years as a band, we’ve never really have one guy bring in a song and the rest of us just learn the parts. So it’s always kind of a struggle because we don’t really think about what we can pull off live. Really we just kind of make songs with a million different parts and instruments and just hope that somehow we can get it together and make the songs translate. That’s always a struggle but it keeps things interesting now, the challenge of knowing that a set number of limbs will have to pull of this music live— and now there are ten limbs (well, ten hands I should say) so it’s a little easier. I think it was always more of which parts aren’t going to make it to the stage because it’s just kind of finite what we can pull off. There are times where there is a few more people involved so a few more of the idiosyncrasies can be represented live, so that can be tough.
It has been twelve years for you guys. Wow. Twelve years is awesome.
Yeah isn’t that crazy? Can you believe that’s like, a third of my life?
You’ll be in Minneapolis soon and you’ve certainly spent some time here in the past— in your experience touring do you have any memorable moments here?
I’d consider Minneapolis probably one of our…Minneapolis is kind of like the one city we always try to get to from Portland. If we’re heading directly east (this time we headed south to San Francisco and Los Angeles so we’re kind of wrapping around); in the past we’ll head from Portland across these..barren..country roads through Montana and everything. Finally we’ll get to Minneapolis and it’s always kind of a treat. I think there are a lot of similarities between Portland and Minneapolis; especially with the punk roots from the late 70s and 80s. I really like the culture, and the record store, the Electric Fetus, right?
Yeah we played, I think at the Varsity— is that the one that is super decked out?
Yup, with the crazy cool bathrooms.
Yeah! The crazy bathrooms. Then there is an Italian restaurant nearby owned by the same people?
The Loring Pasta Bar.
Yeah, that was a treat, to pile out of this sweaty bus and instantly it’s this kind of bizarre..it’s a great stop when we’re headed that way. Wrapping around the other way we’ll probably be a little more disheveled and whatnot. It’s a great destination regardless. I’ve always had friends there, and really supportive people.
I don’t see this same interview going “So what do you think of Chicago?” and going, “Well..” (I do love Chicago too, for the record). Minneapolis is a nice little second (or third) home.
In twelve years of recording and touring and writing— is there a spot that you haven’t hit that you have always wanted to?
When Friends and Foe came out we were on this European label and they brought us over there like 7 times in a year or something like that, playing festivals, etc. Back when we started this whole band I never really thought I would ever quit my Kinkos job let alone travel outside of Portland. With this tour and getting around and stuff it was just really bizarre that people would still come out and see us. That being said, I feel like any new place we go it exceeds my goals as a band and I like to remember that. You remember playing somewhere like Houston, but there are these little pockets of, any city in the world I guess, and a handful of people will come out and say “we like your band and have forever” and it’s just always this bizarre.. I couldn’t have predicted any of this. I guess it’s a modest level of success. As far as places we haven’t been, I’d love to go to Portugal some day. I think there is about 6 or 7 states that we haven’t played yet and it would be nice to hit all of them at some point. I guess that means getting a massive cult following in like, Fargo, or something. I don’t know if we’re quite there yet.
Fargo is a fun place to play. You should definitely try and play there.
Oh really? I mean I know they have a movie made about them but I don’t know about the music culture.
For fun, are there any bands that you still actively listen to now that you listened to when you were 18?
(laughs) Wow, 18..so 1957.
I don’t know. I mean, there are always the obvious ones, The [Rolling] Stones and The Beatles, but..
When I was 18, what was I doing? I was just graduating from a Christian high school with Justin in my graduating class. I was rather selective about my musical and artistic and lifestyle intake. Ruling out such things as premarital sex, marijuana, drinking, secular music, shorts that came above my knees, non-long john underwear. No, I’m exaggerating. It was definitely a different time in my life. I remember when I first started to like these things, there was a time where like, I belonged to Columbia house and got 16 CDs for a penny. I would get Weezer, and Rage Against The Machine, and all these secular bands. Then I would get so guilty and sell them back to the bookstore months later. Then, you know, I’d go buy Amy Grant to make up for it. Then, I’d go buy it again. I think I bought that first Rage Against The Machine album four times (buying and selling). I would fluctuate. So… I hit the grunge scene pretty hard back in the day. I guess I still like those bands; I’ve always had a soft spot for Soundgarden and Nirvana. 18 though…that’s about all I remember. Kind of dark years.
It’s even weirder when people come up to us at shows and say like “I’ve been listening to your albums since high school.” It’s like, “Holy shit. How long has it been?” Then they’ll go “At least 7 months” and your like “Oh, ok, so you were a lot cooler than I was in high school.”
Interview by Laura Yurich
Varsity Theater, MFR, and Vita.mn present Menomena
Saturday, October 20 2012
8pm // 18+ // $15
Triple Rock Social Club
Posted 7 months ago