With the departure of Brent Knopf, one-third of the songwriting for Portland progressive rock band Menomena was missing. The remaining Danny Seim and Justin Harris were scared to begin anew, but Seim found that writing about his mother, who died 17 years ago, when he was 17, was invigorating and cathartic. Harris, who'd relied on his mother because his father hadn't been around, took a contrasting approach. The sum is Moms, a dynamic shift that produced another meaningful record. Menomena plays The Bishop on Valentine's Day.
We phoned Seim as he prepared to tour the new album.
NUVO: Was songwriting easier or tougher on this new album?
Danny Seim: It was easier in the sense that it went faster, it seemed like. It was a lot quicker to write after discussing these themes and stuff in advance. It was definitely faster than we've ever been able to work in the past. Once we went to work on the record we just played really well and it went along really well. I guess emotionally it might be tougher. It was definitely more personal lyrically than the stuff we've done in the past. When we released this we were thinking, 'Should we release this like this? Or should we be a little more... I don't know... cloaked in mystery?' But now I realized that we should try and just be honest with ourselves. Once we got over that little psychological hurdle it all came together pretty quickly.
NUVO: How do you balance personal lyrics and connections in a song with creating relevant music?
Seim: That's a good question. I don't know about making music relevant to the times. We just try pretty hard not to repeat ourselves. I guess we're at that point where the band is getting older and the people involved are getting a little older - and we just shut out the relevant music a lot. There's a point where a lot of bands and artists take a turn for the kind of predictable route. I want to write music that's not really aware of whatever else is going on. I'd like to think that we won't get too far down that road, but we do try hard not to repeat ourselves. I hope its still relevant. As far as balancing the lyrics... I don't know. Maybe it's a way to do something that we haven't done before and make things more conceptual with this Moms record. Put a little more emphasis on the words and the meaning behind them, rather than writing based off of melodies and symbols, like we've done in the past without too much concern for the overall theme.
NUVO: If you could play some romantic songs what would they be?
Seim: I wish I would have done research. Okay, two love jams that we're going to cover, huh? Well I just was told about this Fleetwood Mac re-release and it's one of my favorite albums of all-time. So I've been reading a lot about the recording of that. So how about two Fleetwood Mac songs? How about 'Dreams?' If we could play or sing or do what they did, I probably should do 'Dreams,' then. I guess 'Second Hand News' is about laying down in the tall grass and letting me do my stuff. That's kind of molesty, actually. We'll just pick any two random Fleetwood Mac songs and I'm sure they're probably about love. I'll just make sure to do as much cocaine as possible to replicate the era in which they were played.
Menomena, Guards at The Bishop, February 14. Doors at 8:30 p.m. $12-$14, 18+.