Menace Beach’s second album ‘Lemon Memory’ is a step up in maturity for the Leeds band. The reverb-drenched guitars of debut ‘Ratworld’ have been scaled back, with Liza Violet’s writing and vocals taking a more prominent position.
The tunes are still there in spades though, and this week they head out on a tour around the UK. We spoke to frontman Ryan Needham about the new album.
Lemon Memory is out, congratulations. How’s the reception been?
Ryan Needham: Yeah, we finished it three or four months ago, and I’d kind of forgotten that actually people are going to hear it! The feedback’s been good. Obviously there’s been a change in tone and the way that we recorded it, so some of that came up. We read through a few of the reviews, some good, some pretty odd ones. That probably means you’re doing something worthwhile. It’s interesting – with this one, I though there’s no way people could call it 90s grunge, but it’s still there, haha.
Obviously one of the changes is that Liza is a lot more present on the record. Was that planned or did it happen naturally?
Ryan: It was fairly natural. She wrote a lot of this stuff, whereas the first record was just me staying up at night writing stuff, which she would add to. This one, she’s been there from the start. We got a couple of new synths, including a Roland Juno, and she found a particular sound and said “I’m gonna use that loads”. So she wrote a load of stuff from there. It’s the first time she’s been in a band where she’s written stuff, so these are the first songs she’s ever written, and she’s jumped right into it.
There is less feedback coating the songs this time around. What led to that decision, and does that reflect greater confidence in the writing?
Ryan: I think it’s come with working with a different producer. Ross (Orton) has quite a different approach to MJ (from Hookworms) in the studio. We’d kind of done the feedback thing on everything so far, and I do love it but we wanted to create a bit more space in the arrangements. The things we’ve started writing for the third one are pushing that even further. If I listen to Kurt Vile or something, the outro will go on for four minutes and I think to myself, “there’s not been any vocal here and I’m not bored, why don’t we do stuff like that?”
Is there any part of you that feels loyal to the sound that people fell in love with in the first place?
Ryan: I don’t really worry about that much. We were really happy with the first one, but I think it’s about not overthinking it. It’s not like we’ve just done a dub album! The leap isn’t that great, and if it was, someone would speak up. We’re still just following our own tastes.
Your record happened to come out on the day of Trump’s inauguration. I wouldn’t describe you as an expressly political band, but do you feel like you cover social issues in your songs?
Ryan: With everything that happened last year, it’s hard to ignore it. I don’t really look to musicians to answer my questions, but I think the record has a lot of self-reflection and compassion. I think that stuff’s political. But it’s not a case of us saying, “this is what we think should happen in US politics”. It’s a tough one. I do respect other artists who use their platform to say something though.
And you’re heading out on a pretty hefty UK tour. I read you were doing dry January to get yourself in the right frame of mind. How did that go?
Ryan: Yeah, we pretty much did it. Last week I had a little reward, but it was good to replenish the immune system. It actually feels pretty good. I have definitely cut down.
What can we expect from the tour, and who have you got in the band now?
Ryan: Well MJ is just too busy, we can’t really get hold of him, he doing a Hookworms record. Nestor (Matthews, from Sky Larkin) is still drumming, and Nick (Chantler, from Seize the Chair) is still here, he wrote some bits on this record too. As for the tour, we done a bit of pre-production this time. We’ve got a soundman coming on tour with us for the first time, who’s just come off the back of doing the Wild Beasts tour. So, an element of professionalism! It’ll be pretty much the same, but it might be slightly louder.
And festival wise, will you be busy this summer?
Ryan: Yeah, we’ve got a couple, especially in Europe. And we’re doing South By Southwest. I’ve never even been to America before. SXSW sounds like one of the most stressful experiences. It’s like when people tell you acid stories, and it’s never good, that’s the vibe I get from it – you should definitely do it, but it’s gonna be fucked up.
Sounds good to me. Thanks Ryan, and good luck with the tour.
Ryan: Cool, thanks very much!