(N.B. The press release from the MeMe Detroit media machine is very clearly presenting this gig as a ‘triple headline bill’, but for the sake of focus and word counts – in this BPREVIEW we’ve opted to put her more front and centreo offence meant to any artists, egos, or eager PRs.)
Seemingly ‘National Single Release Day’ (…trademark, Ed King), Friday 29th November will see a new addition to the cultural fabric from virtually every band on this bill. But on the top of our playlist pile is MeMe Detroit, who’s ‘Can’t Get You Out of My Mind’ will be released into the world this weekend – marking the first major release from Ms Detroit with here all new line up.
Rawer, tougher, and perhaps even a little angrier/more defiant than Detroit’s already bolshy back catalogue, ‘Can’t Get You Out of My Mind’ is a very exciting new prospect. Or as the queen of ‘Motor City’ describes it, ‘this latest work would be if Trent Reznor had a baby with Joan Jet whose grandmother was Debbie Harry. A full throttle scuzzy, dirty bass driven force with gritty yet rapturous vocals.’ Erm, yeah… sold-please-and-thank-you.
But produced by Thomas ‘Mitch’ Mitchener, who already has his thumbprints on releases from Asylums, Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes, The Futureheads, Hello Operator, Naked Six, Kid Kapichi, Luna Bay, Young Guns, and Gallows, this new release form one of Birmingham’s more innovative rock acts could be the start of something… we’re keen for an album, let’s just leave it at that.
Also touting new stocking fillers on Friday 29th will be West Brom’s own The Pagans S.O.H, with ‘Black Jesus’ – and from a little further north (Wolverhampton) HÜDs are releasing their latest single, ‘Copicat’.
But don’t worry if this is all a little overwhelming, all you need to do is head over to The Sunflower Lounge on Saturday 30th November and you’ll get to see this live for under a tenner. Plus you get a bonus set from The Great Malarkey to sweeten the deal, an eight piece London ensemble who wil be squeezing themselves and their fun fueled frenzy of punk folk’ on to The Sunflower’s stage – all brought to you courtesy of MeMe Detroit’s own imprint, Soul Rock Records.
Blimey, there has to be a joke in here somewhere about a religious festival arriving sooner than expected…
Words & interview by Ed King / Live pic by Callum Lees
“I called it an EP of uplift angst – it’s in your face, but it’s got a nice positive message underneath it as well… fuck the negative, put a positive spin on it and write about the good stuff. The happy stuff, the stuff that makes you feel good.”
Described as ‘Silently observational’, ‘fearlessly immersed’, the ‘Queen of grunge’ and our personal favourite, ‘effortlessly cool’, MeMe Detroit crosses the boundaries from blues to indie rock.
Storming onto the Birmingham music scene with her debut album, Live to Love You’ll Love to Live, in 2016, MeMe Detroit has been a regular fixture on listings in the Midlands and beyond ever since. ‘Hard working’ could certainly be added to the list.
MeMe Detroit’s latest single, ‘Will You Be My Lie?’, was released in May 2019 – exploring the complications and computations when a wondering eye turns into a divisive secret. Hence the title. But narrative is strong across all MeMe Detroit’s portfolio, with tracks from her latest EP exploring themes of social restraint (and a healthy push the other way), identity, love, betrayal, and our obsession with social media. There’s even a happy homage to one of Birmingham’s prominent live music venues, but you’ll have to listen to Life in the Now and work that out for yourself.
Interview with MeMe Detroit – includes acoustic performance of ‘Will You Be My Lie?’ @ Cherry Reds 19.07.19
MeMe Detroit will be playing a full band set at the Hare & Hounds on Thursday 25th July, alongside Hollows and Namsakē. For direct event details and online tickets, visit www.bit.ly/2y9gpd6
MeMe Detroit will be playing an acoustic set as part of the Female Voices Night at Tower of Song on Sunday 28th July – with Ellie Gowers & Chloe Mogg. For direct event details and online ticket sales, visit www.facebook.com/events/711942659235581
NOT NORMAL NOT OK was launched in June 2018, set up ‘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.’
For the past year, NOT NORMAL NOT OK has been distributing campaign stickers at live music events across the region – with both the gig going public and the artists performing donning the black and yellow NOT NORMAL NOT OK logos at the gigs they attend.
A second fundraising gig is being held at Centrala on Friday 25th October, with electro-rockers Flight Brigade coming to Birmingham for the penultimate date on their Chased by Wolves album tour – Flight Brigade‘s new single, ‘Tinderbox’, will be played on BBC Introducing Solent on Saturday 25th May between 8 and 9pm.
All money raised from the NOT NORMAL NOT OK live gig fundraisers will go directly back into the campaign – supporting continued outreach work with live music venues, alongside bespoke counselling/advocacy training for NOT NORMAL NOT OK campaign staff with R.S.V.P.
“NOT NORMAL NOT OK was born out of a reaction to stories of sexual assault, intimidation and violence within our local music scene,” explains NOT NORMAL NOT OK Campaign Director, Ed King. “It began with one person’s story, a singer in a band who had been sexually assaulted by the promoter who was putting their gig on. But as we started to talk to people about sexual violence in the music scene, towards those both on stage and off stage, we were told about a frightening number of cases – from people being sexually assaulted in a crowd, to rape.
It was a horrible realisation and one that I, both personally and professionally, had been naively unaware of. But many people want to see change and with the help of both the music community and our campaign partners – including West Midlands Police and the Rape & Sexual Violence Project – we are now shinning a light on the issue, talking about the ‘elephant in the room’ and exposing a culture of sexual violence that is disturbingly commonplace in the music scene.”
Now it’s no secret that both Birmingham and Birmingham Review love REWS, with the alt-rock duo having had some stellar sell out shows in this city over the past year; needless to say we were a little ‘Christmas come early’. But this evening was another step up, with REWS playing to their biggest headline crowd in the city to date – packing the rafters at the iconic canal side music venue, with barely enough room left to swing/swig a shot of rum. Or see, if you’re a under 6ft…
We also had a new reporter in the crowd, to give you a fresh narrative thread to hold on to whilst you peruse THE GALLERY – so dust off your best Meryl Streep internal monologue, sit back, reminisce or relive, and welcome Emma Curzon to Casa Review de la Brummagem. Ah, those misty water coloured memories… come back and see us soon REWS.
In an atrocious betrayal of student-kind, I must admit I’m not overly acquainted with the world of alt-rock. I was given, however, a very promising introduction into it on Saturday 17th November. The gig was headlined by London/Belfast duo REWS and hosted by Birmingham Review/Metropolis Music, at the cosy-yet-mysterious canal side pub The Flapper.
The line-up held solid performances throughout the night – although I was never quite enraptured by Thousand Thoughts, who opened the evening. They were good, but not spectacular. Still, I was genuinely touched by ‘Be Frank’ – a more tender, sedate number pleading to the addressee to open up about their mental health struggles.
The recently renamed four piece are a new signing to Marshall Records – becoming label mates and tour support for the night’s headliners – and are arguably still finding their feet. No doubt we’ll get to see them again next time they pass through the city. Plus, as mentioned, I’m not the biggest devotee of alt-rock… so mix these words well before baking and add just a pinch of salt.
Next up, local support MeMe Detroit (plus her band) gave the room a huge energy boost – at one point, we are ordered to “sing your fucking hearts out”. Amen to that.
On the cusp of releasing her Life in the Now EP, MeMe Detroit gave a commendable performance – one both heartfelt and dynamic (my personal highlight was the refrain of ‘Love Transcends All Again’) – and threw herself into it with much head-banging and dancing, at one point taking her guitar for a quick dash through the audience.
However, the best was definitely saved for last. With their slick onstage outfits, REWS’ would not have looked out of place alongside the cast of a Disney Channel musical – but once they started it became obvious: Shauna Tohill and Collette Williams most certainly did not come to just play at being rock stars.
Williams played the drums with the poise and precision of a concert pianist, but still positively exploding with enthusiasm and vigour. Meanwhile Tohill’s skill, and more importantly her passion, shone through in every note – as she threw her whole body into her performance, making it even more of a joy to watch.
Their opening songs probably showed this to the greatest effect and were my favourite part of the entire night. The audience appeared to agree – many were clearly veteran fans and sang along with great enthusiasm, the sudden energy boost as obvious as it was catching. The best was one of their oldest tracks but most recent single, ‘Can You Feel It?’ – a straight and simple rock anthem with frequent repetition, but of joyous, inspiring lyrics telling us to “Dance like no-one’s watching” and creating a rousing crowd-pleaser full of infectious joie-de-vivre.
Other well recognised tracks from the REWS repertoire, such ‘Death Yawn’ and ‘Shake Shake’, got a similarly ferocious response. Although a few of the set’s latter (and possibly newer?) songs didn’t land quite as well, missing some of the intensity that made the more well-versed numbers so enjoyable. REWS did, however, throw in a cover of 4 Non Blonde’s ‘What’s Up?’ that pushed the room to an almost health and safety challenging fever pitch – a new set addition Williams had alluded to in a recent interview with Birmingham Review.
So, my verdict: I’m still wouldn’t call myself an alt-rock aficionado, but if I was ever to have an introduction to the genre this was a good night for it. And I’d love to see REWS perform again, considering the band have ended their last two UK tours in Birmingham there’s a fingers crossed chance we may all get to as well. I’d better brush up, now where’s that’s copy of Kerrang! gone…
REWS – with support from MeMe Detroit + Thousand Thoughts @ The Flapper 17.11.18 / Phil Drury & Callum Lees
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/