It’s all about the potassium with Menjuje, the new three-piece metal band from Brooklyn.
“We have to eat bananas—I mean, fuck, that potassium,” bassist Maria Dale Figeman says. “We’re shredding too hard.” Back in April Menjuje played their second live show and I was able to catch their set and chat with them on the patio steps of Elsewhere.
“No, no—we don’t have to eat bananas, we have to call each other on our banana phones—there’s a difference,” guitarist and vocalist Jackie Verde says while putting the banana in her hand up to her ear. “Actually, right now I think I’m… ‘ring, ring ring, hello, this is the banana phone.’”
You wouldn’t expect such a giggly and playful group of friends to rock out such heavy and looming metal.
Inspired by Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and adolescent diary entries, their music bursts with fuzzed out guitar, dramatic howls and pummeling drums. Though the music suggests a pact with Satan or at least a “this isn’t a phase, mom” kind of vibe, the power trio really just wants everyone to have fun.
“That’s what makes it so punk rock,” drummer Shelby Keller says about Menjuje’s music. “If your parents find out and they’re like, ‘tsk-tsk.’” She adds that they all ended up in a band together by finding each other through different music projects and saying, “oh, I love you, so I wanna work with you.”
BTRtoday (BTR): First things first, what does Menjuje mean?
Maria Dale Figeman (MF): It means like “mélange” in Argentinian Spanish.
Jackie Verde (JV): We were practicing one time and my mom texted me a picture of a bowl of pasta, bow-ties and some random bullshit like some Hershey’s Kisses. It’s [Menjuje] like when you’re looking in your fridge and you don’t have any food and you put everything that’s in there, even if it doesn’t make any sense. It’s like a mish-mosh. So my mom texted me that while we were practicing.
BTR: So how did you guys all meet and decided to make Menjuje?
Shelby Keller (SK): Well, me and Alé (MF) have been friends for a while now, like two years, and have been doing a lot of music.
MF: A mutual person we were making music with and then that didn’t work out, but we [SK & MA] continued making music. And then Shelby met you [JG] and y’all we’re in a project and now we’re all in a project together and it’s fucking beautiful.
SK: it’s just one of those things where it was like we knew someone who knew someone that knew someone and then we picked [each other]—we were like, “oh, I love you, so I wanna work with you.”
JV: We don’t really know how to play instruments, so that’s the key thing.
MF: We can keep time and we know pentatonic, so we’re good.
BTR: So you guys are brand-spanking new. This was only your second show, how do you feel?
MF: Pretty great. That was a really solid second show. We prepared a lot for it.
BTR: Do you have any constructive criticisms for each other?
JV: We sucked. Just kidding …
MF: We need to do more hand yoga—like two to three times a week at least. We’re shredding too hard. And we have to eat bananas, I mean, fuck, that potassium.
JV: No, no. We don’t have to eat bananas, we have to call each other on our banana phones—there’s a difference. Actually, right now I think I’m … ring, ring ring. “Hello, this is the banana phone.”
MF: Hello, yes, thank you for calling the banana phone.
JV: Oh, crap. I was hoping it was just going to go to voicemail.
BTR: Guys, I have a banana phone too …
MF: Oh my god, why didn’t you say so from the beginning?
JV: Okay, now let’s all collectively hang up.
All: Three, two, one, click. [cheers and laughter]
BTR: So, anyways, what are some of your inspirations?
MF: Well, I would say Jackie is definitely a Black Sabbath fiend. Between that and Deep Purple we’re like, “Yeah, let’s go with the three-piece sound and sing at the same time—let’s be more baller than them.” So I feel like we do a pretty effective job of that.
JV: My middle school diary [is a huge inspiration]. I read those and then some things happened. That’s pretty much all of it. That’s where some of the lyrics come from. That’s off the record though…
BTR: Ummm, no it’s not…
JV: Shit, you’re right, nothing’s off the record. The only people I don’t want to know are my parents because I wrote some things in there that I got in trouble for at the time and I would like not to get in trouble with them a second time.
SK: But that’s what makes it so punk rock—if your parents find out and they’re like, “tsk tsk.”
BTR: What do you guys have planned for the future?
SK: We want to play shows, we want to record—we just want to work really hard and be super productive. And we’re all really good friends, so I don’t feel pressure in this band, we just do the things we do because we care about what we do.
JV: We’re productive, but we have fun. It’s like 50 percent productive, 50 percent fun, but 100 percent both of that … does that make sense? It’s a 200 percent thing.