By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Steve Brennan
By Joseph Hess
By Allsion Babka
By Kelsey McClure
By RFT Music
By Christian Schaeffer
By Gabriel San Roman
We've gone through wow, geez, several different lineup changes over the last few years. There's so many musicians here in Portland, and they're in so many other bands. And a band with our kind of modest level, it's kind of impossible to keep people. We can't pay them when they're not touring with us, so we've just been going through whoever is available. Matt's still in the band. Paul has moved on to one of his other five bands. The other guy, Holcombe [Waller], who was on our last tour, is working on his own thing right now, so we hired another guy named Dave [Depper]. So it's just going to be Matt and Dave and Justin and I. Back to a four piece.
How does it work, as far as teaching touring members songs? Do you make them stick to the script, or do you want them to bring their character to the music?
Ideally, it'd be a combination of both. I don't know the first thing about reading or writing notes on a page. I can't read music. I'm just the most half-assed composer. I just kind of play things by ear and record it and hope I can make it sound good in the mix. It's difficult for me to train new people or show them the parts. Like, "Well, count to the seventh fret on the guitar and put your pointer finger here and then put your pinkie on whatever string that is..." It's really great when people like Matt and Dave can pick things up quickly, and they can also learn things by ear by just listening to the albums and trying to replicate it live. We always hope to be a little more loose or a little more "live" sounding. I get sometimes a little frustrated when bands are playing to prerecorded track things, 'cause I like a sloppy live rock show, you know? We try not to be sloppy, but we also try to be live.
Menomena generally tackles depressing subjects in its lyrics, yet you and Justin come off a lot more lighthearted in interviews/Twitter/stage banter. Is there a reason you two keep your sense of humor out of your music?
I blame Radiohead. Radiohead is, I'm sure for all of us, is one of our most formative influential bands that we both kind of grew up with and had all these amazing nineteen, twenties — well depending on your age — experiences band. Back in... the late '90s, early 2000s, I couldn't believe that music was this good. I just thought the music was amazing. But I don't think it's necessarily the face, but looking at the music video and trying to pick out, "Oh, that grumpy guy in the front, looking mad, he must be the singer. He's probably putting some dark stock in a lot of his dark lyrics. Looking with his bangs in his eyes, he just looks like the brooding guitarist." I mean, I hate to sound like an asshole picking on Radiohead. But I always just kind of thought it would be funny to have more depressing or serious music, and these guys that just look like idiots. I like that kind of contrast. I don't know. Let's see who else I can get on. [With a pompous vocal affectation] The Beatles are horrible, the Rolling Stones. No. I love all these people. I just thought it was just kind of funny how brooding everyone looked in the late '90s/early 2000s. I guess from early on we kind of wanted to maybe be what people don't expect us to look like. If there was a more interesting way to phrase it, I'd say it, obviously. But, no, it's not like some big professional conspiracy where I'm trying my best to be as stupid as I can. That's how I'm writing my mysterious music. It's more just our personalities coming out.