Portland's Menomena on time and the creative process
The release of Mines in July capped a long creative process for Menomena.
Two years ago, members of the Portland-based trio had hinted that they'd release their fourth full-length album at the beginning of 2009. After a year spent between the studio and on the road, they again hinted at an imminent release, and again stalled for several months.
According to Menomena drummer Danny Seim, the long gestation was tied to the group's creative process, a collaborative effort that involves all three members taking turns as songwriters, engineers and multi-instrumentalists. With support from Seattle-based Barsuk Records, the bandmembers had ample freedom to take their time. We spoke with Seim about the new album and what went into making it.
Westword: Why did the band decide to add Joe Haege from 31Knots for the upcoming Mines tour?
Danny Seim: It's our first taste of having another person in the band, and it's worked really well. Joe is one of the most talented guitarists and vocalists that I know. It's really nice to have him involved because it's kind of become a juggling act. Otherwise, I don't think we would be able to perform, really, on stage, because when we were recording this album, we weren't thinking too much really about how we were going to pull it off [live], just the three of us [laughs]. It became kind of physically impossible unless we started playing to pre-recorded tracks. We wanted to stay away from that.
The new album does feature a lot of multi-track song structures. How are you going to keep that feel in a live environment?
We have some little effects that we do. Brent [Knopf] has a sample of all of his instruments through the piano and the microphone. He's just running through his laptop, everything up with MIDI samples on his little keyboard. But as far as playing for a click track or just doing the karaoke thing, we've always tried to steer around it as much as possible.... It's not going to be an exact replication of the album.
Why did the new album take a longer time to finish?
The way we all think is that now we have more to finesse. It's just going to take longer. We're trying not to repeat ourselves, and we're trying to keep things fresh. I think there's more added pressure now that this is our fourth album. It also tends to take longer because we don't have any studio budgets or record labels hovering over us, trying to get us to hurry up. It's just in our homes and our little cheap recording software. It just takes longer that way because we're allowed to take longer.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene with music features, additional online music listings and show picks. We'll also send special ticket offers and music promotions available only to our Music Newsletter subscribers.