Strand and De­liver

Hot Press - - Music World 4104 -

Indie waifs MEN­ACE BEACH dis­cuss the cit­rus-de­rived curse be­hind their new al­bum, go­ing to Bob Dy­lan’s old stomp­ing ground for in­spi­ra­tion and how they started a crit­i­cally-ac­claimed band with­out quite in­tend­ing to. In­ter­view: Ed Power

As Men­ace Beach, Ryan Need­ham and Liza Vi­o­let have re­leased two col­lec­tions of howl­ing and omi­nous ex­per­i­men­tal rock. So it is per­haps a sur­prise the project be­gan not as a shriek into the void by a pair of dis­af­fected souls but as an ex­tra cur­ric­u­lar lark by indie vet­er­ans look­ing to keep busy.

"We both have day jobs," says Vi­o­let, from a ho­tel in the English mid­lands where Men­ace Beach are halfway through their lat­est tour (you will join us in qui­etly pray­ing they book a date this side of the Ir­ish sea sooner rather than later).

"That's how it is for a lot of mu­si­cians," says the singer, who pays the rent work­ing as a seam­stress (Need­ham for his part is in cater­ing). "You have to have an­other means of sup­port­ing your­self."

"The pos­i­tive side is that you aren't re­ly­ing on suc­cess," adds Need­ham. "It's not like you're wor­ry­ing, 'oh god – I hope this song gets on the ra­dio'. It takes the pres­sure off. You don't get side­tracked."

That the duo are not be­holden to out­side in­flu­ences is made plain by sec­ond al­bum,

Le­mon Mem­ory. Where 2015 de­but, Rat­world was claus­tro­pho­bic and dusted in feed­back, the fol­low-up over­hauls the for­mula, with a more ex­pan­sive and ap­proach­able de­port­ment.

On Rat­world, Vi­o­let was happy to stay in the back­ground. She con­trib­uted ideas – but left the heavy lift­ing to her band­mate. Sec­ond time out, she is front and cen­tre. Be­ing front­woman did not nec­es­sar­ily come nat­u­rally. How­ever, she has grown into the task. Oc­ca­sion­ally she even en­joys it.

"It's a lot more gui­tar-y I guess," says Vi­o­let. "Early on, we didn't do a lot of tour­ing. We've since got a bit more set­tled and fixed on a lineup. We think of our­selves as a nor­mal band now. It's nice."

"Le­mon Mem­ory" comes from a book about old curses that Need­ham stum­bled upon. There was, re­calls Vi­o­let, a "bit about be­ing able to put a curse on your en­e­mies by leav­ing a bag of lemons in their front gar­den".

This chimed a bell: sev­eral years ear­lier, Need­ham and Vi­o­let had dis­cov­ered a car­rier bag of lemons in the gar­den of the "pretty dis­gust­ing" house they were renting. Ev­i­dently the rub­bish ac­com­mo­da­tion could be blamed on Sa­tanic sor­cery.

They wrote Le­mon Mem­ory on hol­i­day in the Balearics – though are quick to point out it isn't an "Ibiza al­bum" (to be fair, it is un­likely any­one would mis­take it for such). They weren't hang­ing out in clubs or avail­ing of three-for-two cock­tail nights.

In­stead, Vi­o­let and Need­ham went to For­mentera, just off the coast of Ibiza. The place has a rich rock lin­eage. Bob Dy­lan once lived here – in a wind­mill ob­vi­ously – and Pink Floyd spent a lot of time on the is­land dur­ing their Syd Bar­rett pe­riod.

"There's a hippy-ish side," says Need­ham. "It was very re­laxed. There are loads of artists out there. Ev­ery­one was re­ally lovely and chilled out."

Vi­o­let and Need­ham have passed through nu­mer­ous bands. The orig­i­nal line-up of Men­ace Beach in­cluded for­mer mem­bers of Hook­worms, You An­i­mals, Sky Larkin and Pulled Apart By Horses Ini­tially the group was just a bunch of pals muck­ing about – Need­ham fondly re­calls an early jam­ming ses­sion where they the mu­si­cians stayed up un­til 6am eat­ing pizza, guz­zling beer and work­ing through ideas. It came as a shock when lo­cal pro­mot­ers started of­fer­ing gigs.

"We didn't have a plan at the start," says Vi­o­let. "When it came to the sec­ond al­bum we knew we wanted it to be a bit more con­trolled – to have more space."

They are based in Leeds, though both started out fur­ther south. The city is af­ford­able, with a lively mu­sic scene. How­ever, un­like other north of Eng­land ur­ban cen­ters it isn't de­fined by, or pris­oner to, a glo­ri­ous past. Leeds has given the world The Sis­ters of Mercy, Kaiser Chiefs and Spice Girl Mel B. What­ever else, you can't ac­cuse it of paint­ing it­self into a box.

"It's a re­ally good place, " says Need­ham.

"Nice size – a re­ally nice mu­sic com­mu­nity.

Lots of great venues and it's great to tour from. It's in­ter­est­ing that Leeds doesn't have this alldefin­ing her­itage. The Kaiser Chiefs were the last ones to come up I think. You don't feel you have to live up to any­one else. You're free to do your own thing – to be who you want to be."

Le­mon Mem­ory is out now

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