MEMES' debut EP, track-by-track

With the release of their self-titled EP this month, Glasgow laptop punk-rock duo MEMES talk us through the record, track by track

Feature by Tallah Brash | 23 Nov 2020

It’s impossible to listen to MEMES without the corners of your mouth turning up slightly; you can almost hear the twinkle in their eyes through the rattling instrumentals and sneering vocals. Having only formed in 2019, it’s amazing how much this Glasgow duo have achieved already, especially given the absolute shitshow 2020 has been. Seemingly straight out the gate they were being tipped by BBC 6Music’s resident guitar music obsessive, Steve Lamacq, who had them in for a session last May, and in 2020 the pair were selected to perform as part of Wide Days’ coveted showcases. This year, that showcase – like most things – moved online.

MEMES are built for live gigs, and watching their set online for Wide Days back in July had us longing for sweaty gigs in dingy basements. Until it’s safe to do that kind of thing again, we’ll just have to make do with MEMES’ self-titled EP, due out on 20 November via London-based indie label Fierce Panda.

To tell us more about the EP, cousins John and Paul McLinden, who make up MEMES and like to refer to themselves as ME and ME “because we are selfish genes”, talk us through the record's punchy 12-minute runtime.

"MEMES have a problem. In SO WHAT we confess to never listening to a song more than halfway through, and yet, we need you to listen to this song right to the end of its 103 seconds. All the work put in, all those ratty guitars and pogo-primed vocals, the rhythmic urgency and loping bass, would all be lost to listeners who gave up at the halfway point. 'So What?', you might say.

"Like most MEMES tracks, the writing of SO WHAT started with the bassline and electronic drums. We like the idea of keeping the tracks short and snappy, like song versions of memes. It’s self-recorded and produced and it was one of those tracks that just came together very quickly."

"The tempo’s wrong. The drumming’s wrong. The bass is wrong. The guitars are wrong. The singing is wrong. But put together, it’s OLL KORRECT. We had no idea that 'oll korrect' was the genuine abbreviation for OK until recently, it seemed like a good starting point for a song.

"The track is based around the constant high-tempo pulses of the bass and drums. As usual, we kept things short and snappy and to the point. This is the only track on the EP that we recorded at a studio (Venice of the North Studio in Glasgow) and our mate Adam Parker played drums on this. Although we like to work alone and with electronic drums, this was a welcome change to get into a studio and get the raw energy of live drums."

"This track is a slight departure from the punky attacks of the other tracks and even has real singing (backing vocals). It is still very much the MEMES sound with the thick crunchy bass, heavy electronic drums and shouty vocals, but there is allowance for a little bit of melody (just a little). We’ve also made more use of synths on this track as the nature of the song lends itself to synths. The idea for the lyrics is that social media is the perfect storm, and it’s brewing nicely."

"This was the first single that we released on Fierce Panda back in November 2019. The single we released prior to this (Happy Shopper) was a more melodic affair and with J.O.B.S., we wanted a return to a fast-paced and caustic sonic assault. We just didn’t know at the time that it would be so fast that we hang on its coattails when we play it live. Like all MEMES tracks, the basis is a crunching bass and a driving drumbeat. Throw some jagged guitars and shouting and you have J.O.B.S.

"J.O.B.S. was written with a red pen, whilst we should have been working. We all share the thoughts of J.O.B.S. from time to time."

"Cheer Up is about cancelled gigs, environmental catastrophe and the importance of staying in to watch TV. It's about heads of states and states of hands. It's about lifting the gloom in an atmosphere of doom. It's about fast food and slow internet. Streaming MP3s at 2MTRs distance. Stay home. 

"Cheer Up is a constant muscular motorik groove. It’s a departure from our usual two-minute tirade (although we did consider doubling the BPM at one point). We have allowed this one to breathe with a long electronic/techno music-influenced introduction, but the thread of the MEMES bass sound holds everything together throughout. This one is more LCD Soundsystem and Can than it is punk."

MEMES' self-titled EP is released on 20 Nov via Fierce Panda