Menomena’s Justin Harris on New Band Dynamics and ‘Moms’
Published: Friday, September 28, 2012
Updated: Monday, October 1, 2012 11:10
Menomena has been through a lot since the release of Mines in 2010. Founding member Brent Knopf quit the band, but Justin Harris and Danny Seim decided to carry on as a duo and crafted the amazing new album Moms. It’s personal in nature and has maternal themes running through it. The band has a renewed energy and is going full steam ahead.
College Timesrecently chatted with Harris about the album, his Hula-Hooping mother and dark past as a Dave Matthews Band fan.
College Times: Excited for the tour?
Justin Harris: Yeah, I am. Excited and stressed. We leave town in a few days. I’ve just got a lot to do and not much time to do it, but it’s okay.
You and Danny wrote the songs individually, right?
Uh, yeah, more or less. That’s typically how we start the process. We start writing songs we like and eventually start cross pollinating with each other. It kind of gives us new perspective on something we might have been sitting on for a while. Lyrically, we don’t add to each other’s songs in that regard unless one of us is saying a phrase wrong. Musically, it’s where we start influencing each other. This time around we got a little bit more personal with each other as far as talking about our songs and letting each other know kind of what they’re about. Where in the past we’ve sort of deflected that question, “Oh what’s this song about? Oh, you figure it out.” This time around it was more kind of heart-on-our-sleeve kind of mentality to it.
Did you ever question continuing after Brent left?
I think we both just assumed that the band is still intact minus a founding member. It wasn’t a big shock to us when Brent quit. It was kind of a long time coming. His contributions and interest in the role had decreased so when he actually quit we thought, “Well, there’s now two of us.”
Your new album is called Moms. So what is your mother like?
My mom? My mom is a very interesting woman. She’s awesome, very youthful, very opinionated. She’s into Hula-Hooping. She can Hula-Hoop like you’ve never seen. She does all sorts of tricks and stuff. She probably won’t read this but she’s 65, soon to be 66, and yeah she can Hula-Hoop like crazy. She’s a very good mom. I think once she had children she made a choice like, “Well, I’m a mother. This is what I do now.”
What were you listening to when you were 18, and how does it differ from what you listen to now?
[laughs] Uh, thankfully it differs quite a bit. When I was 18 I was really into…let’s see…that would have been the year 1995. I’ve always been really into classic rock. That’s my first love. Anything Led Zeppelin-y or T-Rex-y or David Bowie-y I’m totally into, I was then and I still am now. But I also had dipped into the realm of Dave Matthews Band. He’s got a new record out, doesn’t he? Might as well. I was really into Dave Matthews Band namely because at that time in my life I was really into jazz and stuff so I liked their musicality and their musical skill was very impressive to me. I got lured into and trapped by that.
I remember distinctly in 1997 when [Radiohead’s] OK Computer came out in the same era that I think Crash came out. I remember thinking, “Wow, how different are these two albums?” And, yeah, from that point on I never went back to Dave Matthews Band. I still respect them immensely as musicians, it’s just, y’know, nobody is Under the Table and Dreaming anymore. But I’m grateful for all those past years of influences. I may not play the saxophone had Dave Matthews Band never been around.
Menomena w/Pvt, Crescent Ballroom, September 29, 8:30 p.m., $13 adv, $15 dos