By ERIC SCHELKOPF
Chicago band Menacerno is a band that grabs your attention from the very first listen.
The band will likely gain even more fans with the release of its debut EP, "In No Place." To celebrate the release of "In No Place," Menacerno will perform July 9 at Metro, 3730 N. Clark St., Chicago.
Red Jr., Hard Kiss and Hyperlane also are part of the bill. The show starts at 8:30 p.m., and tickets are available by going to www.etix.com.
I had the chance to talk to lead vocalist Maggie O'Keefe about the upcoming show.
Q - Great talking to you. "In No Place" is your debut EP. In sitting down to make the record, what were your goals and do you think you accomplished them? Is there a story behind the album's title?
At the time of the recording, we'd written close to a dozen songs. The EP contains both the first song we wrote together and the most recent.
Our goal, then, was to showcase the full spectrum of our sound. Each member of the band has different musical tastes and influences and each of these songs signifies a personal favorite.
The album title is the final track of the EP. In a thematic sense, the lyrics, co-written by myself and Adam Ziemkiewicz (we also happen to love each other), stem from the personal (in)experience and seeming search for identity that I went through during my early 20s.
The album's name, "In No Place," speaks to my attempt to understand and maintain connections between myself and the world around me. I guess I never felt like I had a place to call "home" and so I was floating along, landing every once in a while to make a new friend or a new mistake.
Collectively, these five songs are the tale of those moments.
Q - How did the band come together?
Pete, Brian and Matt are the original members of Menacerno. They were playing together for over a year until they decided to look for a singer.
They turned to the Internet to find Joe (bassist) and me (vocalist). For my part, I came into the audition with "Up In Arms" fully written. Almost all the words sung today were what I auditioned with, except for a few when I lost the original lyrics only to be found month's later underneath my bed.
A few days later, they asked me to join them. The band's name grew out of the desire to be original.
Q - Your two guitarists, Pete Neumer and Brian Matson, have known each other since they were 9 years old. Has that helped to strengthen the band's chemistry? What do you think each member brings to the table?
Pete and Brian are the core composers for the band. Either one of them will come in with a riff or chord progression and we build upon that.
They don't speak in music theory, their instruments speak for them. Their long history benefits the songwriting process - complimenting each other not through words but through melodic lines of music.
It is that much easier to write a song as a band because of the ease with which they compliment one another. I know any fragment we work on will become a song when either one of them can hear the melodic line the first few times we go over a section.
Our chemistry stems from this songwriting process. Pete creates the head-nodding music which makes the songs memorable.
Joe has this way on stage that draws your focus. Matt keeps us together - we've never had a single show where we were not connected and that's because he keeps us together rhythmically. Brian writes songs from the heart, usually heart wrenching (Gemini is a good reference) whether he believes that or not.
And I, well, um... I am the ring leader. I book the shows, the accountant, get the John Hancock's like a leader of a band.
We talk everyday (almost) through email, text or in-person, but we all live our individual lives and include each other where we see fit. Rarely do we disagree, sometimes we hug and mostly we create.
Q - Is the songwriting process a collaborative effort? Does the band enjoy being in the studio as much as being on stage?
We're very open to hearing each other's sounds and build upon them. Even if a song is written and never played, it's important for us to finish a song we have started.
We have what we call "art school" in place where we can constructively talk to each other about how to make a part better, never putting each other down or directly writing a part for someone.
The studio is the place where we can really push each other to be better musicians. This EP really set the tone for our future shows and working together as a band.
Ben Arguelles of DZ Records, who recorded our EP, said we were the nicest bandmates he has ever worked with. We really encouraged one another when it came to recording our individual parts, because it really can be a grueling process.
I think it's safe to say that Matt and I are ones that can really come down on ourselves when we don't get our parts right. Luckily, we had Pete, Brian and Joe to say, "It's okay, try again."
Q - What do you think of the Chicago music scene and how do you think the band fits into it?
The Chicago music scene is vast and diverse, but it lacks women-fronted musicians. They're out there, but the shows we've played, I am one of the only women on the bill, especially with lead vocals.
I'd personally like to play with more women-led bands in the future.
The shows are out there because the Chicago music community is so tight-knit. I can email any venue in the hopes to jump on a bill with a touring band.
Even if it's a "no," they still get back to me without an attitude. The promoters actually care about what goes up on their stages. I have a lot of respect for that.
In terms of fitting in, we're playing rock and roll, but can't seem to find our specific sound anywhere, which is great yet has made it difficult to book cohesive shows. That being said, I constantly hear positive reactions from people who came to see the other bands on the lineup.
Playing shows isn't about who's the best, it's a learning experience. If I find myself enjoying a band that is on the bill with us, I will watch and connect with the band, find ways to play with them again, push them to people in my circles and hopefully find them shows that we are not fit for or can't play.
It's a community, not a race.
Q - What are the band's short-term and long-term goals?
Short term - Play more shows with bands we like and learn from and/or open for national acts.
Long term - Have fun together and push ourselves the furthest we can go!