Ménage

By Jennifer ToledoStaff Writer The first time I saw Ménage was during the summer of ’05 at Jack of the Woods, a Celtic pub in Asheville. I was underage and I was kicked out after the first five minutes, but during those five minutes I caught a glimpse of something passionate and energetic. There were three beautiful and stylish women playing acoustic instruments, the curvy stand-up bass reflecting the elegant female figure that held it, accompanied by rich tonal vocal harmonies riding along a gritty guitar. I had a couple friends with me that night, one of whom was Matthew Roberts, an adoring and devoted fan of the trio at the time. As it turns out, Roberts not only remains an adoring and devoted fan of Ménage, but now plays drums for the band as well. Once an acoustic female trio, Ménage is now a four piece band gone electric. Sarah McDonald sings, plays guitar and banjo, Mary Ellen Bush sings and plays bass. The line-up is rounded out by Matt Kinn on the electric guitar and Matthew Roberts on drums. Ménage started as a female trio, playing regularly at Westville Pub in West Asheville. Two of the band members were working there at the time. As in Rattlesnake Radio, songs about the service industry can be found in their work. Most of their songs, in fact, are about every day life. When I sat down to chat with Sarah at Green Sage in Asheville, she told me that most of the songs are 99 percent truthful and based on the members’ own personal life experiences. That would explain the sense of authenticity and sincerity emulated by their music. The music of Ménage is certainly original, eclectic and is described as an eclectic mix of different genres including swing and pop. Imagine a hybrid of girls’ songs on the Grease sound track and the bluesy music from the Quentin Tarantino film, Kill Bill. Most of Ménage’s songs are playful, cheery, and sassy but heart-felt. The guitar definitely has a multi-faceted personality, going from mellow strumming to aggressive outbursts, yet always moderated by lovely voices and a sturdy drum beat. “Specifically, for me in my song writing, my goals are very personal,” band member Sarah McDonald said. “For me, it’s about being able to relate something, figuring something out, showing someone something. Relating to an audience, especially on stage. Live performances give me the chance to have that connection. We want to write songs about things like every-day situations that everyone can relate to.” These songs really lend themselves to comfortable conversation, as if McDonald is putting music to her own interior monologue and sharing it with us. One song “Tomatoes” represents this philosophy to a tee. Recently, the song was adopted by Hunts Tomato Company and is used for commercials on television nation wide. McDonald explained her writing process for the song “Tomatoes.” “It was influenced a lot by swing music and gypsy jazz,” McDonald said. ” It was actually a forced song. I hadn’t written in a while, so I thought, what do I like? I made a list of things I liked, took it home, put it to swing chords, made the song after several recordings.” Ménage played at the”Bele Chere music festival” in Asheville at 6 p.m. on the Lexington Stage during the last weekend of July. Bush and McDonald also played an acoustic set on Saturday. Also, Ménage played with Chuck and Stephanie of Stephanie’s ID. Ménage has shared the stage with such bands as The Snake Oil Medicine Show, Donna the Buffalo, The Blue Rags, The Avett Brothers, The Dunks, Spin Doctor’s front man Chris Barron, Chris Isaak and Stella Parton. If you can’t make it to Bele Chere, be sure to check out Ménage’s show calendar on MySpace.

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