Menomena serves up one part guitar, one part hammering keyboards, one part rocket launcher, one part synthesizer, one part emotional sincerity, one part sexual innuendo, and one part flowing blond hair.
The first syncopated hand claps of Menomena's "Plumage," the first track on 2012's Moms, are entirely misleading. The simple start is in direct opposition to the eruption of instrumentals (horns, shredding guitars, hammering keys, and rollicking drums) that define the majority of the album and the rest of Menomena's catalogue.
Menomena's specialty is the quick switcheroo, from cacophonous to simplistic in one bar. The band's spectacularly strange aesthetic, and a complex and stacked sound have been perfected in the group's decade-long tenure in Portland. The music feels like running on an elliptical, smooth transitions and builds stuck in infinite loops.
Danny Seim—one half of the songwriting team of Menomena, along with Justin Harris—responds to the Source's questions about recording, his decaying vigor for the Portland "scene" and some less than savory adolescent memories of Central Oregon.
On the Portland music scene...
Danny Seim: When we first started touring a decade ago, journalists would interview us with something like, "I'm starting to hear a lot about Portland these days. What makes that place so special?"
I'd respond with three feverish paragraphs about how amazing the bands are and how nice everyone is and how I'd never live anywhere else and how you should check out this new place called Voodoo Doughnuts.
And then we'd return from tour and there would be a million new shops, restaurants, bands and venues. Not to mention a traffic jam of people in minivans with stick figure family stickers on the back window, fighting over parking spaces at Voodoo Doughnuts. It became impossible to keep up.
I've started to realize that themore time you spend in Portland, the more you want to distance yourself from The Scene. And the more you distance yourself from The Scene, the more archaic you sound when trying to answer questions like this. Fortunately, this place is still brimming with young blood and beauty, and can afford to lose a few aging curmudgeons like myself. Hopefully it will still take me back when I'm miserable in LA or somewhere in a few years. Two pink boxes of Bacon Maple Bars, please.
Recording at home vs. recording in the studio...
DS: Speaking for myself, I never developed the confidence to perform decently in a studio. I've always been much more comfortable working at my own pace and at my own budget, with my own standards of fidelity in my bedroom. Basically, we're both control freaks.
On translating complex recordings into live performances...
DS: Translating those detailed recordings to live performances can be a challenge.
It's always a little tricky when we first start learning songs to play live. We're not always concerning ourselves with singing and playing other instruments simultaneously while recording these things, so there's definitely a lot of muscle memories to make. I think our next album should be called Making Muscle Memories.
On the tandem bike in Menomena's press photos...
DS: That bike—or as I like to call it, The Album Cycle—has been rusting in my neighbor's backyard for the past decade, so I asked to borrow it for a day. Justin and I practiced a little on my street first, then shoved off to embarrass ourselves around town. It worked best when I was in the front so I didn't have to eat a mouthful of flowing blond hair.
On coming to Bend...
DS: This upcoming show in Bend is the last concert we have booked for the Moms album cycle. We've spent the last two years touring, trying to be humans at home for a few months, then touring again. It will be nice to return to our human forms just in time for spring this year.
Our touring band for the past couple years has been four of us, including Matt Dabrowiak and Dave Depper. Dave grew up in Bend, so he's looking forward to showing us around. I still have emotional scars from attending the teen dance at Sunriver, so I'm looking forward to having my opinion of your fair city changed for the better. I should clarify that I attended said dance many moons ago as an actual teenager, not last week. Yikes.
9:30 pm. Sat. Feb. 15
Mt. Bachelor Main stage at WinterFest
Free with WinterFest pass.
$10 day-of for full WinterFest weekend pass, $6 advance entry passes available at OnPoint Community Credit Union.