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Entering Ratworld

8 September 2015
Entering Ratworld
With their album Ratworld only released in January and a new EP out this month, Menace Beach are the kind of band that feel too big not be at least vaguely aware of but you will still catch fairly unobtrusively hanging out in Belgrave on a Friday. We chat with Liza and Ryan about their move to Leeds and how they found their place in the City, plus their September gig at The Brudenell.

Menace Beach - Article 1Photography by Mick Backhouse

So how did the move to Leeds affect your being musicians?

L: It started out not very serious until the move to Leeds.

R: Yeah, there was nothing going on in Derby.

L: Leeds makes it a lot easier to be musicians because everyone is there; you can put on a show and have people come.

R: Leeds is also not insanely big like Manchester; you just go and hang out at the Brudenell and make friends.

What do you make of people labelling you a ‘Superband’?

R: Yeah, we don’t really like the term - the bands that the respective members are in aren’t super in size in any way; obviously super in sound though. I guess there’s always an element of ‘what is the story?’ behind the band. It side-steps our fairly boring ‘yeah we met at uni’ origin story because it’s a point of interest. It’s nice then because we get overlooked a little bit. It needed a lot of that.

So what were you wanting to achieve with the EP in September?

L: It’s still kind of ‘us’ as a record. We haven’t really thought about it too much; we just like to see what comes out. It’s best not to worry too much I think.

R: We’ve made a bit more effort in the studio making the sound, not more polished necessarily but a bit more hi-fi. That’s not to say it’s going to sound pop-y in any way, cause I hate that…

L interjects: You don’t hate it…

R: No, well I don’t hate it but I don’t wanna do that. Some radio plays, when you hear your song played on the radio, you want it to match up to the sort of quality you’re hearing in other songs. It only started crossing my mind recently…it could be really quiet or really loud but we’re still with MJ (Hookworms, also chief at Suburban Home studios, where he records and produces Menace Beach records amongst an impressive bill), and he’s just got a load of new equipment; just slightly more hi-fi.

L: I think when we started a lot of the vocals and stuff were muffled and drenched in reverb and fuzz.

R: There’s a lot less guitar songs on there just to keep everything a bit more open, room to breath. We write and record everything as demoswhen we make them up so you’re sat hunched over a guitar at night and then you go to record something properly and you’re standing up and it sounds like a completely different song, and you’ve written a stupid guitar thing where the rhythm’s totally different to the drum beat and it’s all off so it’s impossible to sing and play at the same time…I get that quite a lot.

Liza’s first solo track Blue Eye also features on the record, a point of interest in a Rookie Mag interview (and a favourite of Liza’s). On there was a reader’s comment about the song’s likeness to a Sofia Coppola soundtrack (specifically Marie Antoinette). If you could choose what film your music soundtracked, what would it be?

R: I love anything like the songs that you get at the end of a film.

L: Like something apocalyptic?

R: I was thinking something like Ghostbusters II, the bit where the statue of liberty is walking too... Something like a Rocky training montage. My tastes are really bland and basic [laughs] Liza would choose something a bit crazier; you love Harold and Maude…

L: I do love Harold and Maude…(weird cult classic from the 70’s about a taboo love a©air between a 20 year old and an 80 year old woman). What song would you choose? (Ryan shrugs, implying any of them).

So tell me about the tour…

L: We’ve got some tour dates for European shows; Paris, Belgium, Berlin, Hamburg, Amsterdam and then back to Liverpool Psych Fest.

R: We’ve got quite a few yeah, oh and End of The Road too, that’s the next festival. Then a little run of headliners in the UK, like Leeds and Manchester.

How do the Europe shows differ from those closer to home?

L: I would say we’re not really that well known yet in Europe but they’re generally really good crowds.

R: We’ve played a lot in Holland now and it does seem to get bigger every time. But, and it’s a sweeping generalisation, a lot of European countries, they’re less scene-y than in the UK and less kind of faddy. Matt, our bass player, is the management assistant for The Editors and they’re f*ing massive in Belgium of all places. Their recording went to number one;, they play arenas there; there’s no hard and fast rule to what people like. We agree that people in the UK often get hung up on definitions and scenes, relating what someone listens to with their own personal aesthetic which can often go to hand in hand but also seem unnecessarily coupled.

L: Yeah it means you’ve already got an idea of whether they’re gonna like it or not before you’ve even played.

R: I remember when the Arctic Monkeys first came out there was this whole thing where, if you were older than 18 then people weren’t interested; it was a weird thing for a while where you had to be really young.

Where are your favourite spots in Leeds?

R: The steps outside the Corn Exchange with all the goths.

I interject that the goths have sadly long since upped and left

R: You don’t see that many groups of skater kids anywhere anymore either… But we go to Belgrave quite a lot…

L: Yeah and Outlaw’s (Yacht Club), a hairdressers stroke bar…they do really good coffee there. R: They have a lot of talks on there like the guy that did all the Super Furry Animals artwork, Pete Fowler, spoken words things…. we go to a lot of coffee places as well. I really wish there were late night coffee places. It seems to be more of a European/ international thing.

L: Yeah if you order a coffee here after, like, 8 they just scowl at you…

R: ‘We’ve switched the machine off!”. It does sometimes bum me out, I mean I love getting drunk but the whole British drinking culture thing is just… I like it when you go to London and you see all the city boys drinking in the pubs after work. That’s cool. I like old fashioned boozers but you walk through Leeds on a Saturday night and it’s just insane. They have to put a mobile f*ing hospital up down Call lane; it’s a bad sign.. So sometimes I just think it’d be nice to have a coffee instead…

Who are you listening to at the moment?

R: I’ve been listening to the new Cribs record (For all My Sisters). I like that a lot. A band called Royal Headache, they’re good, and Thee Oh Sees records. Since we met MJ and the guy that plays the drums for us - Nick - they’re into that whole West Coast psych rock, Ty Segall and all that - I’ve spent the last few years catching up to all that. What about you? (turns to Liza) Taylor Swift?

L: Yeah...no I’m kind of into it. (When I question if it was said with any irony or not). She seems so powerful! [laughs]

R: You tend to just stick 6 Music on though really.

Let’s move on to the artwork for the records etc. I’ve read it’s all yours!

R: We do it ourselves don’t we...

L: I tend to do all the drawing and Ryan does all the bits outside of it.

R: Yeah I chuck it into the computer and see what I can do with it.

L: It’s probably one of my favourite parts of the process. I really hate the idea of getting anyone else to do it actually…

R: We’ve got Jonny from Hookworms to do that t-shirt for us (Jonny Wilkinson, guitarist of Hookworms and illustrator under the pseudonym Idiot’s Pasture). He’s really great, but we did everything else.

L: Yeah you sometimes mention, ‘oh one day we could get someone else in to do stuff’ and I’m always like… [sighs]

R: It’s weird; we got sent the EP through when it was finished and we had them all lined up. on the table, just looking at them and they do all look really cool together. Our label is always going ‘we need the artwork, we need the artwork’ and then the night before we take like 14 hours to finish it…it’s weird that they turn out so coherent, but I guess that’s your drawing style though Liza. I hate doing all the boring shit though, putting them into templates for packaging and stuff, which I know is completely necessary.

Menace Beach - Article 2Imagery provided by Menace Beach

We briefly talk about the fact that they both still maintain day jobs in

Leeds, meaning that their work with the band is almost like a hobby that they’re itching to take full time.

R: Yeah, I mean the times that we have off, we spend doing band stuff so you never really get a day off but that does mean that I always look forward to the days that I do get to spend making music. I don’t know that if you only had your band work to do you’d get really complacent, because I see it as a real treat when I do get to do it on my days off.

L: Yeah, sometimes we look at the diary and its just like ‘blergh’.

R: I don’t mind it though. We drive back from a gig at like 5am and then go to work the next morning at 9am. Sometimes people like my dad are like ‘oh you just spend your time doing gigs and getting drunk but physically there’s a lot more to it, back and forth, and a lot of sitting around.

And herein lie the aches and pains of the artists who haven’t quite conquered the world enough yet to employ their own roadies, spending their days and nights off humping gear up and down the three stories of their flat, playing a gig which still demands the passion of a full time band, plus the late nights, and then rock up to work the next day bright eyed and bushy tailed.

L: I think its quite knackering always being a new place as well. You never know where you’re going; there’s no familiarity. Unless you’re playing the same venue again, of course.

And where is your favourite venue?

L: Probably The Brudenell; it’s so, so great.

R: And I also like King Tut’s in Scotland. They have an awesome menu and they look after bands like European promoters do, give you a hot meal and stuff and it makes a really big difference.

Thanks Menace Beach!

Check out their new EP Super Transporterreum

And catch them at The Brudenell on the 27th September for a bumper pack show alongside KXP, Trust Fund, Man Made, Seize The Chair and Racetrack Gospel for less than a fiver! (£4 Adv)

Buy tickets from Crash Records or Jumbo Records


Emma is a Freelance Writer for Leeds Living. She has a degree in English literature from the University of Leeds and specialises in writing cultural editorials.