Menace Beach: "What if someone cursed our house?"
Menace Beach's new album started with a mysterious bag of lemons left on their doorstep. No, really...
Published: 11:56 am, January 25, 2017
Bands often complain about album recording sessions being cursed and bad luck befalling their every move. In the case of Leeds scuzz rock heroes Menace Beach, their own peculiar curse provided the inspiration for ‘Lemon Memory', a superb second effort that sees the band spreading their wings and taking their brand of heavy grunge pop in some weirder directions.
As singer and guitarist Ryan Needham explains, Menace Beach's relationship with the dreaded lemony hex goes back a long way. "When we went to Ibiza on holiday we took a few books with us, and one was called mysterious cults," he begins. "There's a bit about curses and to wish someone bad luck you can chop a lemon up fill it with some of this stuff, tie it in a bag and bury it on the property of the person you want to curse. I was going to Liza, I remember when we found at the house we used to live in in Derby a bag of 15-20 lemons on the doorstep. It was probably some kids, but I was like, ‘What if someone cursed our house?’ Loads of bad shit happened there. That was a bit of a jumping off point for the album, and I got a bit carried away with it."
Strange lemon-based activity was not the only difference in the making of their second album which was a world away from their night time recording sessions in Ryan's flat in Sheffield. This time the band wanted to do something different and in many ways, ‘Lemon Memory' is a reaction to their instant hit debut ‘Ratworld' rather than a mere consolidation. "After the last tour, me and Liza were like, 'Shall we just fuck off somewhere and have a bit of a break?' So we found a cheap holiday in Ibiza, took the iPad and stuff and then we found a guy who could get us a couple of guitars," explains Ryan. "We had a beach holiday and wrote four or five songs. That was the start of it. It doesn’t sound particularly Ibiza inspired, but that’s where it started, and we just came back to even sunnier Sheffield to finish it off."
Writing in a drastically different location proved inspiring to the band who are now firmly established under the core songwriting partnership of Ryan and Liza. Travel and discovery informed the band's creative direction. "We went to this little island underneath Ibiza. I’m a real geek, and I get obsessed with local history," says Ryan. "We found out that this island back in the 60s was part of the hippie trail where people would come from Morocco. Pink Floyd lived there in the late 60s, and Bob Dylan lived in a windmill there. We went and found these landmarks and just got into that. Once knowing that I was like, 'Yeah! There’s good energy here.' There was something pretty magical about the place. Once you learn about all this stuff you’re like, yeah, I can get into this. It’s probably a load of hocus pocus, but once you get that in your mind, you just run with it."
The driving force behind the album and their desire to shake things up was Liza. “She’s got stuck in on this one and realised that she wanted to have a bit more influence," explains Ryan. "It’s more her record, both in the songwriting and the production. Once we got in the studio with Ross Orton, the producer, she just had an idea, right from the start. She was switched on and pretty firm about her ideas." Liza's love of synthesisers and a more experimental take on pop provides the perfect counterpoint to Ryan's pure pop chops. Or, as he laughs, "She probably got sick of playing my pop songs and wanted to do some weird stuff."
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The Menace Beach who have returned so confidently are a band who are finally settled and focused 100% on what they're doing. In the early days and on the last album they were often in a state of flux with members coming and going. "It got to the stage where we were asked to do so much, and people got on board with the label and a lot of people get a bit nervous when things are run like that," says Ryan. "It gets a bit stressful to do a week tour around Europe, and I don’t know who’s going to play bass.”
Now with a settled line up and a sustained creative period of writing, experimenting and recording, the band are thriving. For Ryan, the last two years have been liberating for Menace Beach as they have created something special that's more than, "just a nineties grunge record." "A lot of people, including myself in the past were so bothered about being cool, dark and mysterious," he reveals. "Once you let go of that fear and go, look, I don’t have to hide behind this thing or try and be cool. This is it. You can hear it in a lot of artists when the fear’s gone and they do whatever they want.”
After embracing their weirdness and allowing it to colour their own special knack for a willing pop hook Menace Beach have shown that there's plenty directions in which their brand of scuzzy rock can travel. Let's just hope that any citrus curses don't befall the band on tour and ruin their summer plans. "I love festivals," says Ryan excitedly. I hope we just do a load of them and get back into Europe before it becomes a lot more difficult. I want to get my shorts on and play somewhere where you legitimately wear sunglasses on stage," he laughs. Maybe he should buy that mysterious cult inspired crystal ball he was pondering? "I got into reading about occult stuff and ways to reverse it. It was good for inspiring lyrics. You have to be careful, though. I find myself going; maybe I should buy a crystal ball? I’m getting a bit too far in.“
Despite the fear of losing himself down the rabbit hole of magic and mystery, Menace Beach are ready to face 2017 head on, just don't bring any of the demon lemons to their gigs, please.
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