Words by Ed King / Lead pic by Jennifer Stone – live pics courtesy of MeMe Detroit
On Saturday 17th November, MeMe Detroit will be supporting REWS at The Flapper in Birmingham – alongside Marshall Records’ recent signed nu metal/alt rockers, Thousand Thoughts. For gig tickets and direct info, click here.
MeMe Detroit is ‘…effortlessly cool’, it says so on her biog. And talking to her over the phone, outside the ‘sleazy grunge and power indie’ that she may kick off stage, this is someone fully comfortable in their own skin. I could spend four hours in a sensory deprived meditative state and would still be the game show host in this conversation, and I’m not the one with a new record to sell.
“It’s not out until 23rd November,” explains Detroit – introducing her 5 track Life in the Now EP, which is currently getting toured across the country. “It’s going to be available everywhere – online, to stream. It’s being pressed up onto CD and there’s going to be a limited edition vinyl, just 300, coming out. But that’s not until the beginning of next year.” Always good to have some plastic with your name on it, but why the collector’s press?
“I’ve always loved vinyl, and it’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” tells Detroit, “have a record pressed up onto vinyl, So I thought, let’s just do it with this EP. I’m really looking forward to it… It nearly became a really rare limited edition because we found a tiny, tiny spelling mistake after they’d gone to press and we rushed through to get in and fixed it. Who knows, in 20 years it might be a really rare edition… we should have kept ten of them.”
It worked for Hendrix – urban myths have it that his third studio album was originally pressed up as Electric Landlady, adding a few noughts onto the end of an already expensive first edition if you’re lucky enough to own the typo. And I’ve heard of worse business models; EMI must be kicking themselves.
“It opens with ‘Churchside Inn’,” continues Detroit – walking us through the Life in the Now track listing, “an ode to my favourite pub, the Actress & Bishop. It’s not like… I don’t ‘owe’ the place anything, but it helped shape me quite a bit, and without really realising it. That’s where I met Neil (frontman of Blue Nation), my other half. It got me into DJing, and I met lots of people to do my music with there. So, the track came from that.”
And this worked for Lou Reed. But there’s a track that has already been released from Life in the Now that’s a very current observation, one that pokes astute and acerbic fingers at the contemporary culture of social media. “’Churchside Inn’ is followed by ‘Soc Med Junkies’,” adds Detroit. “I’ve heard it called ‘soc med’ before, but then I realised it sounds like ‘meds’ – like your taking your meds. We’re on our social media and that’s us taking our medicine… it’s just a play on words. I’m trying to say, don’t let your life be consumed with it.”
I could write a dissertation on this, given a time machine, a pen and some paper. But what compelled MeMe Detroit to turn her pen to the subject? “I was sat on a train one day and I looked up and saw like a sea of people on their phones, not conversing – even people that knew each other. Then I realised that I had been doing that too; I had looked up from my phone. And I just thought this is really weird, everyone in this carriage are just staring into the little square things and not interacting with each other. It felt really fake, and weird.”
“It’s like they can’t wait to have these conversations with people they don’t know, when there are people they could be doing that with then and there in the carriage. I just thought this is all wrong… (laughs) you just go ‘arrgghh’. When you take a step back you just go ‘what??’.”
A scene that, sadly, most of us will be familiar with – and sometime a part of. But social media can be a great asset, especially when you’ve got a gig or a record to promote. Or an interview to publish. How does MeMe Detroit tackle this double-edged sword, as an artist in the commercial world? “I’ve made a conscious decision; I have to go on social media for my job, but I try to not sit there scrolling aimlessly – I go on to do my work… and I might take 5 minutes to see what my mates are up to, and then I’m like ‘right, switch it off’. Back to the real world.”
Life in the Now carries a constant theme of self-honesty and empowerment, with the four remaining tracks addressing issues from fidelity to social constraints. The latter of which is surmised in the EP’s final track, ‘Run Riot’ – “written not long after the election,” laughs Detroit, “it’s like, don’t just stand in line and do what you’re told to do. Run free, go wild. Have fun and be true to yourself.”
Even the cover sticks a friendly two fingers up at society’s clandestine shackles, with a collage of pics from a baby making faces pressed up against glass. Honestly, I thought it was MeMe Detroit, but “it’s actually my photographer’s child. She had these photos done, and when I saw them I had to ask if we could use them for the cover because they look brilliant.”
“They really fit with the title,” continues Detroit, “how when you’re growing up you can get a little bit suppressed by society, from being a child you’re told not to do this not to do that, to be quiet. But I just loved these images, they’re like ‘just be yourself, don’t care what people think – pull faces, do what you want.’ It sums it up perfectly.”
I write ‘pull faces, do what you want’ on my notepad, committing it as my new mental mantra to be repeated over breakfast. And perhaps it’s the catharsis that MeMe Detroit’s live performances bring that give her such a firm grip on freedom and calm demeanour off stage.
Whatever it is, it’s a little infectious, with Life in the Now set to be an intelligent observation as well as some kick ass new music. Although that’s for an audience to work out in their own way, I guess. But how do these new tracks make the artist behind them feel?
“We played them for the first time not long ago…” laughs Detroit, “oh God, I was really scared. But they’re good; they sounded good. We’ve played ‘De Moe’ out a couple of times, but then we did all of them at the last show. It was a good gig, and we got really good feedback… I think it went down well.” As the first hint of self-doubt creeps into the conversation… perhaps there’s hope for us all.
‘Soc Med Junkies’ – MeMe Detroit
Life in the Now EP by MeMe Detroit is out on 23rd November, released through Me Me Detroit’s own SoulRock Central Records. For more on MeMe Detroit, visit www.memedetroit.com/
MeMe Detroit will be supporting REWS at The Flapper on Saturday 17th November, alongside Thousand Thoughts. For direct event information and online ticket sales, visit www.rewsmusic.com/events/2018-11-17-rews-the-flapper
For more on REWS, visit https://www.rewsmusic.com/
For more on Thousand Thoughts, visit www.facebook.com/TThoughtsMusic
For from The Flapper, including venue details and further event listings, visit www.theflapper.co.uk
NOT NORMAL – NOT OK is a campaign to encourage safety and respect within live music venues, and to combat the culture of sexual assault and aggression – from dance floor to dressing room.
To learn more about the NOT NORMAL – NOT OK campaign, click here. To sign up and join the NOT NORMAL – NOT OK campaign, click here.
If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this feature – or if you want to report an act of sexual aggression, abuse, or assault – click here for information via the ‘Help & Support’ page on the NOT NORMAL – NOT OK website.