Every day in May, to mark NZ Music Month, Gary Steel presents something local from his considerable behind. Personal archive, that is. Today’s surprise item?
Originally appearing in IT magazine some time in 1981, here’s a wee interview with those North Shore pop sensations The Screaming MeeMees.
IT caught up with bright-eyed pop palliative for depressed days, The Screaming MeeMees, at Avalon’s expansive TV studio where they were doing a clip of their latest single.
After an exasperating day of take-after-take-after-take of miming to the two chosen tunes under bright lights and in generally humiliating circumstances, the MeeMees flopped on the floor of the adjoining room to face some questions.
Luckily they’ve a sleeper train awaiting their patronage back to the Queen city tonight – last night on the journey to Wellington they made do with the seated version.
The MeeMees are young! Out of a straight-laced Catholic school last year, they were quick to win hearts in Auckland’s gig-going population.
They speak incredulously of MeeMee badge and t-shirt toting fans – there is no official MeeMees fan club merchandise.
The band don’t mention, either, the “MeeMee girls” I saw wandering around the Sweetwaters site back in January. Yes folks, though close inspection reveals the usual teenage complex complexion problems, this band seem in an obvious ongoing teen-appeal situation.
But their music is where IT comes in, and the MeeMees’ music has obvious merit: good songs with memorable melodies, and onstage instant high-likeability.
So far the band have appeared on both the Hauraki Homegrown and Class Of 81 albums (demos of ‘See Me Go’ and ‘All Dressed Up’ respectively), on a one-off indie single ‘Can’t Take It’, and now their first single-proper through Propeller, a 12-inch of ‘See Me Go’, an almost bona fide minor pop classic.
They stress they’re “more into funky stuff than anything. Disco seems to be a dirty word, but what we’re about is dance music, and disco’s got a really good beat, like reggae and ska.”
Funk to the MeeMees collective means anything from The Brothers Johnson to Talking Heads to David Bowie’s ‘Golden Years’ period. They say this side of the band will emerge more on future recordings.
Despite North Shore origins, they insist they don’t stand for labels, least of all Mod.
“Ideally music should transcend all barriers like that. You don’t have to be a Mod or you don’t have to be that to listen to us…
“People are kind of set in their ways,” they say. “It happens all the time. You hear a song on the radio and you think ‘God that’s a good song’ and you hear it’s by someone like Pink Floyd and you think ‘Fuck, I hate Pink Floyd!’ But you’ve admitted to yourself that you quite like that song. Not that I like any Pink Floyd songs!”
The MeeMees call Wellington a “very so-so place”. The last time they played here hardcore Shoes This High fans gave them a hard time, and they have a dislike of Wellington as a result.
“They can’t see the relevance in music for entertainment’s sake”, say the band of their detractors. “Anything that entertains is just as important as social comment. Escapism… we need escapism. Reality is pretty horrible. There are lots of songs that remind you how horrible life is. It’s good to let people forget about those terrible things.”
The Screaming MeeMees are Michael O’Neill (guitar), Yoh (drums), Peter van der Fluit (bass, keyboards), and Tony Drumm (vocals). GARY STEEL
Note from the author: A couple of observations here: I must have failed to note who was saying what, or couldn’t tell one from the other on the tape recording, because I don’t identify any of the quotes! It’s interesting to see a young band in NZ in 1981 sticking up for disco, although their quotes about the validity of entertainment make you wonder if they were secret Thatcher admirers!