Losing a band member is always an upsetting experience; when that member has been a part of a band for a decade, hearing the news that they have decided to focus on other projects can sometimes be a crippling blow. Not so for Menomena, who have gone from strength to strength since debut album I Am the Fun Blame Monster! was released in 2003.

Having hit what was regarded by quite a few people as their high point with 2010's Mines, many wondered how, or even if, the band would recover after the departure of Brent Knopf in January 2011, but they picked themselves up and dusted themselves off surprisingly quickly. Fast forward 18 months, and the band released their latest album, Moms. We wanted to hear what Justin Harris and Danny Seim, the two remaining members of the band, had to say about making it, as well as their forthcoming tour, and of course, Knopf's departure, so emails were exchanged, and all this happened...


Hello guys. How has your summer been treating you? I imagine you've been busy since announcing the new record a few months back.

Hello! Yeah, it's been a wild summer. I'm currently in the middle of the Arizona desert typing this with my thumb, so I apologize in advance for any LOL's or emoticons that might slip in here.

There's an elephant in the room, and it's not going away, so let's deal with it: just how different has it been for the band as a duo? You had Paul Alcott filling in for some shows last year, after Brent left, but was there any talk of returning Menomena to its three-piece format on a more permanent basis?

Paul's sleeping about two feet away from me in the van at the moment. Next to him playing Xbox is Tim, our US soundguy. Behind Tim is Justin, who is nerding out over recording software with our newest member Holcombe. I'm riding shotgun up here next to our guitarist Matt, who is driving. So that's six of us. If we were Talking Heads, we'd be in our expanded Stop Making Sense era, which is just fine by me. I'm having fun playing shows for once!

Do the two of you remain on good terms with him? At the time, I got the impression it was an amicable split, so was this actually the case?

I guess it was as about as amicable as him quitting via video message can be. it was very weird at the time, but that was years ago. Justin and I have done our best to move on.

When did you two sow the seeds for what would eventually become Moms? Are you one of those bands who can easily write on tour, or do you wait until you get off the road for that?

As soon as we were a duo, Justin and I agreed we needed to write and release the best album of our career in record time. Moms took about a year to create from start to finish, which is a miracle for us. Now we're both really happy with it, which is an even bigger miracle.

And we've never written anything on tour, unfortunately. Wait, I'm writing these answers right now!

Your sound remains as difficult to pin down as ever, but there's a distinctly poppy feel to some of the new material. I've seen you guys described as 'art-rock' in the past, so did you make a conscious effort to shake off a label like that, or was that just something that came naturally?

Well, we've never discussed the intended sound of a record before we write it in this band. The songs just sort of start happening and we start building off each other's drafts, and they slowly begin taking shape. The term 'art-rock' sounds a whole lot better to me than 'psychobilly', 'chillwave', 'dubstep' or 'trip-hop', so I'm fine with it.

Which song off the new record are you most pleased with? And which one do you enjoy playing live the most?

That's hard to say! I guess I probably worked the hardest on 'One Horse' with the string arrangements and all. My friend Yvonne recorded the cello parts in Hawaii and emailed them to me, so it was a bit of an effort to get them to work properly in the mix. If you listen carefully, you can still hear the tropical Hawaiian birds chirping in the background at her house!

As far as playing these songs live goes, I'd probably say we rock Capsule the hardest. I'm secretly a heavy metal guy at heart.

I know the tour 'proper' doesn't start for a little while yet [25th September in Santa Cruz, California], but I'm curious: what did you think of playing Musicfest NW [in Portland, Oregon] recently?

It's taken me so long to answer these questions (sorry!) that we're now about 5 shows in to the tour and it's been a lot of fun. MFNW was interesting because it was outdoors on the hottest day of Portland's summer. It went ok, but I think we're more of a night band.

What three albums have you been listening to recently, when not rehearsing? Is there anything due out this year that you're particularly excited to hear?

Just three? Wow. Well, for starters I've never really been a fan of Bob Dylan (I know, just shoot me) but a friend recommended his Nashville Skyline record to me and I absolutely love it. Also Tame Impala's Innerspeaker and ABBA's The Visitors.

I've sorta lost track of everything new coming out this year. I need to diversify!

Finally, on a scale of 1 to 10, how much are you looking forward to playing ATP in December?

On a 10-point scale? I dunno, but I'd probably give it a 'Best New Music'. Can't wait to see those National boys again, I'll tell you that much.

Catch Menomena live throughout November and December in the following venues:

  • 11/26/12 London at Cargo (SOLD OUT)
  • 11/28/12 Paris at Point Ephemere
  • 11/29/12 Strasbourg at Laiterie
  • 11/30/12 Munich at Atomic Cafe
  • 12/01/12 Berlin at Postbahnhof
  • 12/03/12 Hamburg at Uebel & Gehahrlich
  • 12/04/12 Koln at Gebaude 9
  • 12/05/12 Amsterdam at Paradiso
  • 12/06/12 Brussels at Botanique
  • 12/08/12 Minehead, UK at ATP Festival (SOLD OUT)