Leeds has produced countless bands that have been listed as ones to watch. The likes of Pulled Apart By Horses, Eagulls, the Pigeon Detectives, and dozens of others rose to prominence after starting out by treading the boards in the city’s clubs and bars. Menace Beach is the newest addition to Leeds’s thriving music scene.
nitially co-created by Derby singer Ryan Needham of the band Komakino, and Liza Violet, currently of Leeds band Department M, which was formed by Owen Brinley of Grammatics, their first album is set for release on Monday.
Speaking to him last week, Needham described the formation of Menace Beach from the very beginning. In his friendly, laid-back voice, he says that it was a very organic convening.
“I lived in Derby at the time, and I had just started demoing some songs on my own. I knew Liza back then, went around to her house and we kind of stayed up for a couple of days, messing around. It started off just two of us, and then we moved up to Leeds.
“I sort of knew MJ, who recorded the album, and I bumped into him at the Brudenell on the third day we were up here. I knew he was in Hookworms and stuff, and he was asking what we were doing. It was kind of just a haphazard thing, really. We just went in and sort of bashed through it, and hung out and ate loads of pizza. It was just something to do really, I suppose. Kind of a happy coincidence, really.”
With Menace Beach consisting of musicians who are from different known bands, their collective new project has been described as an indie ‘supergroup’, with musicians in the band such as Nestor Matthews of Sky Larkin, Matt Spalding of You Animals and MJ of Hookworms. However, Needham insists that this was not the intention behind the collaboration. “I guess because they’re my friends, I didn’t really expect it. It’s weird, because we didn’t really set out to do it in that way. I didn’t really have that much expectation of it, and it didn’t really cross my mind at the time, but it seems obvious that people would pick up on that. I guess it’s a point of interest, isn’t it?”
Despite not having much expectation, this new group have received considerable attention as a result of who is involved, even before their first record is out. Was Needham surprised his new group received so much interest so early? “Yeah, I really was, especially having been in bands before. It was pretty weird. We recorded the stuff and then MJ was talking about it online, and I guess because Hookworms are pretty influential in those circles; they’d just done a session with Marc Riley, and within a couple of months, we’d got asked to do a BBC 6 Music session. That started it all, really.”
Their debut album, Ratworld, was recorded and produced by MJ of Hookworms. You could be forgiven for thinking that, by combining different musicians from different bands and mindsets, there may be a clash of egos in the studio. Needham thankfully declares that the recording process was a smooth one. “We were all sort of on the same page. MJ played guitar on the record, he’s not been playing live with us much lately because Hookworms have been really busy. But in terms of writing, he’s kind of behind the desk a lot, so we all have input and stuff. Because we go in with quite fully formed songs, we just get in a room, then everyone will listen to it and then we’ll just kind of play it. The people that currently play in the band, they’re really great musicians, and I’ve never once disagreed with any changes that people want to make. It sounds really dumb but I really like listening to the record, because it doesn’t feel like something I could write.”
Despite a few shows here and there, Menace Beach’s upcoming UK tour will be their first taste of gigging seriously as a unit. “It’s our first headline shows, which still feels pretty weird to me now, because we’re barely known, but I guess with an album out you’ve got to do it. They’re probably not going to all be packed. They’re pretty small venues, though, so it should be good fun. I’m really looking forward to it. We’ve done a bit of touring, we just did a tour with Pulled Apart By Horses, who are from Leeds, that are our mates. That was really good fun; it’s pretty much the same cities we’re going back to, so, hopefully, maybe a few of the people who watched us there might come back.”
Menace Beach launch their album with an in-store performance at Jumbo Records in the St John’s Centre, Leeds on Monday at 5.30pm. They also play at the Brudenell Social Club on February 1. http://www.brudenellsocialclub.co.uk/whats-on/menace-beach/