THE S/T INTERVIEW: Danny Seim of Menomena/Lackthereof

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  • [Photos by Alicia J. Rose]

    By Arye Dworken

    The following Danny Seim interview was conducted two months ago. We decided to hold it until now, however, because the Menomena drummer’s latest LP as Lackthereof, Your Anchor (Barsuk), is a fitting fall listen–at once melancholic and moody, hard-hitting and heartfelt.

    Or as Seim puts it, it’s his version of a pop record. If you’re wondering what that could possibly mean, be sure to check out the following MP3 before cueing up our extensive Q&A.

    “Choir Practice”

    self-titled: After releasing so many records yourself as a self-released solo project, why go the proper release route with this one?
    I felt pretty confident with releasing a record of original material finally, and I was really happy with the work Barsuk did with Menomena so releasing it through them was a no-brainer.

    Between Lackthereof and Menomena, you must be constantly writing.
    Well, I’ve been touring a lot so I don’t have as much time as you think, but when we have downtime from touring, I’m usually writing. The past couple of years have way surpassed our expectations as a band, though, so it was a pleasant surprise but I expected to have more time on my hands.

    Your band mates aren’t on the record. Is there a conscious decision to keep the two projects separate?
    This record turned into a really personal record for me and I thought since the songs were complete, I wanted to get them out there. Releasing an album as a solo musician is a lot easier than releasing it as a band because you don’t have to meet up with anyone and work around schedules.

    It would seem that since the Lackthereof songs are so personal that you’re not so comfortable giving your personal songs to Menomena.
    I don’t know. Those songs are also pretty personal. But Menomena songs get chopped up, reworked, switched up a bit–so the songs I wanted the most personal ownership over : those are the songs I’m inclined to keep to myself.

    Speaking of, what’s the game plan for the band?
    In a perfect world, we would have been done with a new record. Fall ’08 would have been great. But then that’s moved to January ’09 : we hadn’t seen one another in awhile and we’re seeing each other for some European dates, and a festival date here and there. We’re moving on a U2 time frame.

    It sounds like you guys are maybe detoxing from having spent soooo much time together.
    We all love each other dearly, but yeah, we spent a lot of time together on the road.

    So realistically, when can we expect to hear a new Menomena album?
    We have a ton of material to use and we have to structure the stuff, pick up instruments and find songs. I’d love to say January ’09 but maybe I just like the way those words sound.

    You cover the National’s “Fake Empire” on the last record. Why?
    We toured with those guys and they’re the nicest. I love it when you love the guys in a band as much as you love their music. It works out so nicely. That song truly resonates with me.

    Is there anything inspiring you these days musically aside from the National?
    I had a rebirth of my interest in Stone Temple Pilots. They were knocked around for being Pearl Jam Lite and I was one of those people who ridiculed them awhile back, but, my god, they’re really solid records. They wrote garage rock in the latter years. Unconventional stuff.

    How do you feel about having released a proper record on your own?
    [Laughs] Nervous. I feel like when I’m doing interviews, I realize, wow, this is my own record. Everything stops on me, and it’s all my productivity and there’s no one else to blame things on. But this outlet is so important to me. I always knew that I would continue doing Lackthereof records for as long as I can, or could. I would even do it if I had to burn 20 CD-Rs and give them out to friends.

    Are you going to tour as Lackthereof?
    I don’t think so. I don’t have plans as of now. I got the new record out finally and I’m content to play locally.

    Are you going to play with a band?
    I’ve only played four Lackthereof shows in my lifetime. Now it’s a different lineup–I play with two guys from this band Dat’r, I guess they’re like the Daft Punk of Portland. They play instruments along with Jim Fairchild, who used to be in Grandaddy. We’ve known one another for quite some time.

    How do you go about asking people to play your music in your band for a few shows?
    Portland is such a small city that we’re all pretty much in the same band. Ha. But they’re shows near their homes so why not come out and play a show?

    What’s your ambition for Lackthereof?
    I’m okay with keeping it as a small time thing.

    I know packaging is very important to you. Tell me about this one.
    Yeah, it’s all screen-printed with soy ink. It’s foldable cardstock that looks like an organic digipak.

    You recorded the whole record yourself. When did you find the time to do all the instruments? How do you find the discipline?
    It’s the lack of discipline that pushes me to Lackthereof actually. I should be focusing on Menomena but Lackthereof is my pajamas band. Like playing video games for hours. There are some nights when I completely lose track of time and come upstairs and its like, 6 in the morning.

    Would you consider this album more commercial than the Menomena records?
    Yeah, I wanted Your Anchor to be my big pop moment, even though thematically the record is pretty heavy.

    Since you brought it up, what inspired the record thematically?
    Yeah, well, that’s tough to answer. I don’t want to discuss the inspiration so much because I feel like it takes away from other people’s opportunity to connect to the songs in their own ways. Also, when I discuss things, I feel like the songs become a little less personal to me. Does that make sense? When you talk about what the songs mean, they kinda lose their meaning a bit.

    Understood. That’s actually a satisfactory response. If you were just being a snobby rock star, I would call you on it.
    You know that’s not my style. I’m working on it though.

    You need to pay more attention to Scott Weiland.
    [Laughs] Totally. My new role model.