Ryan Needham of Menace Beach, Leeds’ fine creators of sweet, scuzzy noise, talks 90’s Nintendo games, Nando’s and life in the Ratworld.
Menace Beach are making waves as a ‘hot new band’, but their members are far from newbies on the UK indie-rock scene, having surfaced previously under several guises. As a result, they’ve found themselves repeatedly referred to as a “supergroup.” Frontman Ryan Needham of Komakino is joined by Liza Violet, Matt “MJ” Johnson of Hookworms, Nestor Matthews of Sky Larkin and Matt Spalding of You Animals.
Musically, Menace Beach are gleefully messy, saccharinely rambunctious and grungy, in a celestial sort of way. They’re an energetic fusion of 90’s indie, My Bloody Valentine-esque psychedelia and Britpop, amongst many other possible descriptions. On January 19th they released their fizzy, fuzzy debut album Ratworld on Memphis Industries. I wondered if the band was born from a coalescence of the musical influences brought by each of its experienced members, or a shared vision, and Ryan tells me they had “no preconceived idea of being in a band.” Menace Beach just happened, through pizza, beer, and the web-like connections which had formed between the members as they crossed paths when playing in other bands. They haven’t always seen eye to eye over music, however, as MJ apparently was not a fan of Ryan’s old bands and he laughs as he tells me how they aired their sharply clashing tastes on a local music forum in their teens.
Hailed after a 90’s Nintendo game, the name Menace Beach was one which Ryan had often proposed, to the rejection of his bandmates: “So when I got my own band I used it” he says with an audible smile. This coupled with their video for ‘Fortune Teller’, which features a fortune telling fish and languidly spinning Martian head against a bright psychedelic backdrop seems to reveal a fascination with the tacky, defunct detritus of childhood. Ryan tells me that Liza’s apartment is full of this stuff, and it inspires the band’s imagery.
Very cohesive in their musical and visual projections; both burst with colour and quirkiness, a kind of grotesque psychedelic pop art. I admire the band for their DIY style, as Ryan and Liza create all the album art work themselves, patching together collages of Liza’s own illustrations. He tells me that they desire to have an active role in the visual side of their art, finding it odd when bands detachedly employ an artist to create an independent visual accompaniment.
The initial idea for Ratworld originated from the visit of an old friend, who complained that the band were “living like rats.” Ryan is disarming in his completely unpretentious approach to being in a band, laughing about being broke and working part-time in a Nando’s in Leeds and saying while life in Menace’s Beach’s Ratworld sure isn’t glamorous, he “wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
You can catch Menace Beach supporting The Cribs’ comeback shows this month. However, don’t expect that they will be doing “anything normally associated with being a band” on the tour: you’ll be most likely to catch them cycling or sipping tea in a tea house “like loads of little old ladies.”
Menace Beach will support The Cribs at Manchester Ritz on the 25th February. Their debut album ‘Ratworld’ is out now via Memphis Industries.
By Sophie Brear