Menomena

Menom­ena are an exper­i­men­tal rock band from Port­land, Ore­gon, made up of Brent Knopf on gui­tar, key­boards, and glock­en­spiel; Justin Har­ris on bass, gui­tar, bari­tone sax and alto sax; and Danny Seim on per­cus­sion. All mem­bers of the band share singing duties.

The band formed in late 2000, when Knopf grad­u­ated from Dart­mouth Col­lege and returned to Port­land to col­lab­o­rate with Har­ris and Seim. They played their first show in July 2001, at The Meow Meow, a now-defunct all ages venue in Portland.

They self-released their debut album, I Am the Fun Blame Mon­ster!, on May 20, 2003. The album was elab­o­rately pack­aged in an 80-page flip­book that Seim designed and indi­vid­u­ally hand-assembled. It later received nation­wide dis­tri­b­u­tion through FILMguer­rero in 2004. The title is an ana­gram for The First Menom­ena Album.

In 2005, Under an Hour was released as a three-track album of instru­men­tal music writ­ten for and per­formed with Mon­ster Squad, an exper­i­men­tal dance com­pany based in Portland.

In August of 2006, Menom­ena signed with Bar­suk Records although the band still main­tains a rela­tion­ship with their old label, FILMguer­rero. It was stated that FILMguer­rero would still be involved in their old cat­a­log and future vinyl releases.

Menom­ena released their next album in 2007, titled Friend and Foe. It received rel­a­tive crit­i­cal acclaim — while some web­sites like Pitch­fork Media praised the album for its effec­tive mod­u­lar pop, oth­ers like Pop­Mat­ters crit­i­cized it for pre­sent­ing a sense of feigned matu­rity. Their record release show was held in their home town of Port­land, Ore­gon. The pack­ag­ing was designed by Knopf and fea­tures art­work by graphic novelist/cartoonist Craig Thomp­son, con­sist­ing of die-cut shapes, decoder rings, and hid­den mes­sages. It was nom­i­nated for “Best Record­ing Pack­age” at The Grammy Awards.

The band’s name was cho­sen for “the way it rolls off the tongue, sex­u­ally, or some­thing” and has no spe­cific mean­ing, although it is often assumed to refer to the Piero Umil­iani song “Mah Nà Mah Nà”, a sta­ple of The Mup­pet Show. A recent audio­clip from SpotDJ had Brent stat­ing that the band name was a con­trac­tion of the words “Men” and “Phe­nom­ena”. This is most likely a joke.

The band uses a com­puter pro­gram called the Dig­i­tal Loop­ing Recorder, or Deeler for short, in the song writ­ing process — it was pro­grammed by band mem­ber Brent Knopf. Drum­mer Danny Seim explains the process, “First, we set the tempo of the click, which is played through a pair of head­phones. We then take turns pass­ing a sin­gle mic around the room. One of us will hold the mic in front of an instru­ment, while another one of us will lay down a short impro­vised riff over the click track. We usu­ally start with the drums. Once the drums begin loop­ing, we throw on some bass, piano, gui­tar, bells, sax, or what­ever other sort of noise­maker hap­pens to be in the room. Deeler keeps the process demo­c­ra­tic, which is the only way we can operate”.