Photo courtesy of Alicia J. Rose
When faced with creative differences, the musicians in Menomena turn to a computer.
‘Deeler’ acts as the band’s sonic archive. Originally conceived by guitarist/singer/keyboardist Brent Knopf as a way for a solo artist to perform dozens of parts at the same time, Digital Looping Recorder (DLR/Deeler) became integral to the band’s songwriting.
“The problem I wanted to solve was how do you perform 20 layers onstage when there’s only one (person),” said Knopf. “The first songs we did were hilarious — just us acting really silly, singing anti-odes to people who were driving us crazy.”
After that initial honeymoon, Deeler was inaugurated into the Portland-based band. Knopf explained how by removing the pressure to record perfect-sounding parts for a finished track, the tool allows for unexpected turns of sound and fully collaborative songwriting.
“In one Deeler session, we’ll record three dozen audio files on the hard-drive, each of which is a potential part of a song,” he said. “Once the songs are arranged, each one of us feels included.”
When writing songs, the three members take turns playing improvised parts into Deeler. Members then download to Pro-Tools, each tinkering hip-hop drums, piano, baritone saxophone, whistles, vocals or other instruments into a track. Once completed, the band sits down and learns to perform the song live.
“We’re not following any rules I know of — besides how to rock,” Knopf said with a laugh.
Performing a few months ago in support of their third album, the critically acclaimed Friend And Foe, Menomena had a great time at Pat’s Pub in Vancouver, though things were dicey at first.
“When we walked in ... we saw two-dozen 60-year-old men watching hockey — it was like a bowling alley without bowling,” he said. “We were like ‘uh-oh, are we supposed to be playing here?’… (But) it turned out great.”