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Dallas, Texas, United States | SELF

Dallas, Texas, United States | SELF
Band Rock Singer/Songwriter




"Menkena: Road-Ready for the New Year"

Local Dallas band Menkena is an ambient/shoegaze beauty. If you haven’t heard them yet, you will. Their strict approach to keeping the songs simple while still building with vast harmonic layering has been getting them alot of attention and alot of love. Their album With You I’ll Travel, released in May 2011, feels like one long song… but in a great way, a consistent way. A way that feels foreign yet familiar and cozy, like a new love’s livingroom that seems so much more comfortable than your own bed.

Though their lead singer and namesake Jimmy Menkena had his roots in punk and hardcore, Menkena is all about a sound that’s at once intimate and colossal. Their sound is perfect for a road trip with your friend, when it’s late at night and your turn to drive. They’ve made it a point to be sprawling and yet still comfortable. They’ve mentioned in their session with DC9 that the plan was to write a record that sounded like a long trip through the desert, “a travelling record”. This is enhanced by the film screens they use to accompany their live shows, mostly of sprawling landscapes or open highways. Check out a sample with their title track “With You I’ll Travel”:

This weekend they’ll join The Burning Hotels, Mon Julien and Air Review, here at the Granada on the 14th. This will also be Mon Julien’s album release show! After this, Menkena will head out to the northwest with Concrete Blonde. - Granada Blog

"Menkena Documents Meditations"

One simple fact about recorded music never ceases to drive me wild. Songs – and specifically, albums – are historical documents. Whatever emotions the musicians experienced, the chosen location, even the time of day – all of that bleeds through, and is captured forever. It's the reason we continue to return to "destination albums" that evoke a time or place in our lives, and especially an artist's.

Knowing the back-story doesn't justify an artifact's existence, but compelling mythos create a richer, more nuanced listening experience. They provide us with perspective on the material we otherwise might never see or seek. They magnify eccentricities and reveal personality. In the case of Dallas acoustic-driven shoegazers Menkena (, 36-year-old singer/guitarist Jimmy Menkena's maturation from hard-partying New York City squatter punk to that of a romantic, meditative solo-songwriter is a Rosetta Stone into his band's sound.

Menkena's debut LP, With You I'll Travel, blooms in slow motion, flush with droning reveries. There's a pervasive sense of isolation, a longing for clarity in Menkena's patient, secret-whispering vocals that makes tracks like "Spiders" sound like midnight prayers. The album represents a brave escape from its author's formative days. For 15 years Menkena lived on and off the New York streets, sometimes sleeping beneath the bridge in Prospect Park. He got to live out his fantasies of taking the stage at CBGB's, playing guitar for punk band INDK. Then one day Menkena was shaken awake.

His band broke up in the studio. Struggling to make rent, he sold off his electric guitar equipment. Attempting to quell anxiety about his future, Menkena revisited a shoebox of demo tapes and began transforming rough drafts into the first complete songs he'd ever written. "I was like, 'OK, out of this 90-minute tape there's three seconds of something good," said Menkena in a recent phone conversation. "I took whatever bits I could find ... I just kind of got thrown into it."

That winter Menkena retreated to a friend's apartment outside of Niagara Falls and recorded the demos for With You I'll Travel in the midst of a blizzard. With no car, and nowhere else to go, the austerity focused his attention on songwriting. He didn't want to make just another shoegaze record. And his conditions assured that. All the songs were written with acoustic guitars, balancing Menkena's lush, ascending sonic builds with cautious optimism and melancholic depth.

After demoing, Menkena moved to Dallas to be closer to his family and force himself to record a proper version of the album. Not long after relocating he met up with drummer Mike Simmons, whom he had worked with, and they began practice the next day. "This whole process has changed my life. It's probably the first thing I can look back at that I've done and say, 'I don't think there's anything I'd change about this.'"
- DFW Quick

"DC9 Live at El Sibil, Ep. 13: Menkena"

Jimmy Menkena knows as well as anyone how satisfying it can be to let loose screaming and just wail on the guitar onstage. By the time he moved to Dallas in 2006, he'd already done that, in a past life in a skate punk band in New York.

As he tells it in the interview above, shot last week out at El Sibil, meeting Mike Simmons at work, and beginning to play with him and Nolan Thies was his opportunity to revisit another side of music, the quieter songs he'd been writing and stashing away even at age 15. Once the three teamed up with guitarist Brent Elrod, they'd hit on the Menkena sound--and just in time to get to work in the studio.

The resulting record makes a quiet progression of "a lot of levels of self-restraint," Thies says, and it's the result of an unhurried approach. The band wants to make sure they have an artifact that'll last--something even more important, Thies says, than putting on a kick-ass live show.

Menkena's got that covered though, too--in large part lately thanks to the addition of video projections by Steve Gaddis, a few of which are showcased with the band in this week's video.

If you like what you see, you can start holding your breath now for the day Menkena wraps work on its album.

And if you're watching that video and just wish you could've been there to see the set yourself, here's your shot at redemption: we'll be taping another live set from a great local act tonight at El Sibil (122 E. 5th St. in Oak Cliff) tonight at 7. Hope you can make it. - Dallas Observer

"Artist Interview Sessions: Menkena"

At the Kessler Theater in Oak Cliff, Dallas-based ambient rockers Menkena sat down with YouPlusDallas to tell us about their love of music. With the help of Radiant, Menkena opened up for Fort Worth band Calhoun at their Heavy Sugar album release party. Lead singer and band namesake Jimmy Menkena tells us how he ditched his Brooklyn roots to play music in a city that - you heard it here - has a better music scene than the big apple.

For more Kessler Theater experience, check out our Acoustic Interview Session with Calhoun and our Menkena concert review

Song: "With You I'll Travel" - youplusdallas

"Forging his own Path: The Making of Menkena"

Three years ago, Jimmy Menkena — an outspoken, tattooed, deep-voiced New York transplant — gave a demo of songs to a colleague he’d overheard booking bands over the phone. As a musician toying with a different kind of sound, Menkena was only hoping to get a few gigs around Dallas, but he got much more than that.

Just three days after handing his disc over to Mike Simmons, Menkena was rehearsing with a full band. With Simmons on drums and Menkena on vocals, Menkena the band was born. The new Menkena album, With You I’ll Travel, is out next month. Each track delicately flows into the next like midnight waves of droning guitars washing over sand-buried toes. The sounds are rich, quiet and powerful enough to pull one into a reflective, almost meditative state. Their dreamy sound is a far cry from the Northeastern hardcore punk Jimmy cut his teeth on back home.

While the band formed in a matter of days, developing their unique, celestial style took much longer. Menkena’s musical career started out in Brooklyn playing with various punk and reggae bands, like cult-favorite INDK. He was teaching communication design at Pratt Institute and struggling to pay an ever-increasing rent as his artists’ community was driven out by those willing to pay more. Eventually, as times got tougher, Menkena was forced to sell all of his electric guitars and equipment in order to make ends meet and was left with only one acoustic guitar. But he didn’t let that stop him from creating music. That was just the beginning of the Menkena sound.

With no equipment and no money to record anything professionally, Menkena had to work with what he had — a tape deck, a stereo and some cassette tapes. He’d record vocals and guitar on one tape, then stick it in the stereo, press play and play along with it while recording the entire thing on another cassette. “I had these ideas and sounds and melodies, and that was the only way I could start recording them,” he says, “so I did.”

His roommate at the time heard him toying with a new style and introduced him to Nick Drake. “How Nick Drake slipped by me all those years, I have no idea, but when I heard that Pink Moon record, it basically changed everything,” Menkena says. “I listened to it nonstop and then said ‘I want to write a record like this.’ Then I wrote ‘Homesick,’ which was the first song that ever came to me in a dream.”

Menkena continued tinkering with his sound and working on his vocals. In addition to Nick Drake, he was inspired by punk, early ’60s rock steady reggae and artists like The Stone Roses, Chapterhouse and My Bloody Valentine. “For this project, I tried to bring that all together and do my own thing, but hidden,” he says. “There are reggae bass lines in some songs. A couple of songs were actually punk rock songs but I just put a droning guitar behind it, quieted my vocals down, whispered it instead of screamed it and then it became what it is now.”

After Menkena moved from New York to Dallas, his new ethereal, ambient sound took shape, and his new outlook is giving our fair city a run for its money. The full album, With You I’ll Travel, will be available on iTunes and at local record stores in January. For an even more intense experience with the Menkena sound, check out one of their live shows, where listeners can also enjoy exclusive videos created by producer Steve Gaddis. “We wanted to visually represent the songs and to draw people in,” Menkena says. “It’s not so much a gig. It’s an experience. We want our shows to provoke thoughts and feelings and emotions through storytelling.” And they do.

In a sea of Dallas bands that only know how to imitate sounds without adding anything unique, Menkena is one of the pirate ships forging ahead into a new realm of performance art. For upcoming shows, check out the Menkena Facebook page. - 944 Magazine

"Bonus MP3: Menkena -- "Red In The Morning (feat. Nikki Cage of True Widow)""

Speaking of records we've been waiting on, seems there's finally news out of Menkena camp on the release of its debut album, With You I'll Travel, which has been finished since, oh, about February and stuck on our personal most-anticipated local releases list ever since. Blame the delay on the label signing process -- or lack thereof -- says drummer Mike Simmons. The band had been in talks with labels local and otherwise about releasing the acoustic shoegaze album for most of 2010, only to decide to go the self-releasing route.

And self-release the album the band will -- on its own, freshly minted label called Jolly Roger Music -- and soon, too. As in, next month. On January 18, the band will release its song "Rocketships" as a single, along with a spiffy new music video for the track. Two days later, it will perform an in-store at Good Records, and, on January 22, it will host its official album release show at La Grange, a venue to which these players are no strangers.

The brainchild of New York City transplant Jimmy Menkena, formerly of the punk outfit INDK, Menkena's music features Menkena's soft vocals are deliberate acoustic guitar play bolstered by the lush contributions of bassist Nolan Thies and Simmons on drums. And, with guest appearances from Toby Pipes (Little Black Dress, Deep Blue Something), Nikki Cage (True Widow) and others, it all adds up to an alluring, intoxicating mix of immediately accessible, introspective shoegaze.

In anticipation of the disc's release, enjoy a free taste of that much after the jump, as the band's been kind enough to pass along a free download of its song "Red in the Morning," which features some choice backing vocals from Cage, for DC9 readers. It's been a favorite of ours here at DC9 HQ for some time already.

An instant classic? Perhaps. We're expecting big things out of this outfit in 2011, for sure. - The Dallas Observer


With You I'll Travel - LP released Jan. 2011 on CD & as digital download and streaming.

"Rocketships" - Single & Music Video released Jan. 2011. Featured on Music Discovery on HDNet.

"I'm One" - Single & Music Video released in February 2011. Featured on Music Discovery on HDNet.

"With You I'll Travel" - Single & Music Video released in March 2011.

"Shivonne" - unofficial single gets regular airplay on College & Public Radio. Broke in Dallas, TX in January 2011.



Menkena is a rock band that owes just as much to shoegaze as it does folk and 70's FM. Their debut album, With You I'll Travel, was released on the Jolly Roger Music label, and found immediate airplay on college and alternative stations. The songs "Shivonne," "Rocketships," and "I'm One" get particularly strong representation on the radio. Music videos for "Rocketships" and "I'm One" appear regularly on the national program "HDNet Music Discovery."

They are also well known for their live shows, which feature extensive lighting and exclusive video projections made for each song by producer Steven Gaddis – some of it even consisting of actual vintage NASA footage of planets and shuttle take-offs.

The band’s sound is a major departure for frontman Jimmy Menkena, who cut his teeth on the grit and rawness of old school punk rock, and who formed and played guitar in the New York based INDK, a guttural punk rock outfit discovered by Tim Armstrong of Rancid/Hellcat Records. After the band’s demise in 2001, Jimmy found refuge in a collection of acoustic recordings he’d compiled over the years on cassette tapes.

These tapes of over 50 riffs and melodies were eventually boiled down to a nine-song demo he made once he moved from the bustle and struggle of Brooklyn to a settled down Dallas. Soon after, he happened upon a few musicians who could take the one-man-band demo and give it the full effect it deserved. Now, with a full band, a new album and video projections, Menkena presents an experience seeped in holistic, ethereal ambience and intense vocal fragility. The remaining band members are Christopher Robinson and David Hickmott on guitars, Mark Pirro (of The Polyphonic Spree and Tripping Daisy fame) on bass, and Guyton Sanders on drums.

Menkena has had the honor of supporting such international acts as Peter Murphy and Fanfarlo, and has toured with Concrete Blonde. The band is looking to go back in the studio to record their second album, due in 2013.