Exclusive Interview: MeMe Detroit

Originally from Stratford, multi-instrumentalist and talented song-writer Maria Rodriguez has been playing in Birmingham for over twelve years with various bands, but has recently taken the leap to go it solo and created a new persona ‘MeMe Detroit’ in the process.
With a new single ‘Stand Up You’re Living’ out last week and new album in the pipeline we spoke to MeMe about going solo, the new persona and accidentally creating a new genre.
“MeMe was the nickname my Grandma gave me as a child and she used to sit me on her lap and ask me to sing, and Detroit just kind of had a nice ring to it. She planted the seed so to speak. We used to record my songs on tape, I was always singing. The first time I really remember my hair standing up & my heart racing was hearing Billy Jean on the radio, it was exhilarating.”
MeMe has been playing since she was 6 years old, her mum dragging her along to piano lessons. “I hated it at first but now I’m very thankful! I started violin at 10 then swapped for guitar at 13, when I got bored of it. I started on classical guitar but I could hear them playing Beatles & Oasis in the room next door and eventually persuaded my mom to let me swap classes. I learnt how to put an E & a G chord together and that was that.”
MeMe was influenced by the Britpop phenomena, particularly Oasis, and Radiohead: “It was Jonny Greenwood (guitar, Radiohead) that made me realise I really wanted to get on stage and play.”
After playing in bands for years, including Gundogs who were often courted by labels and industry, it seemed like the right time to try something new. “This is my own thing, I had a great time with Gundogs and my other bands before that, but I just wanted to try something that I had more freedom to create, no compromises. I feel like I’ve made a record that’s true to me.”
“I had a few songs I’d been playing out acoustic, and ideas I’d had in my old band that didn’t really work with them and as soon as I decided on the MeMe Detroit thing it felt right. It was so simple and natural, I just demoed on garage band on my MAC using the inbuilt mic and sent trough to Alistair Jameson, a producer I know, who loved it. Then I just went in and just recorded it. All the musicians involved just came and played for free, they were happy to help.”
Having gigged constantly in other guises for many years it’s no surprise Meme already has some influential fans, including members of the Stereophonics, Dillinger Escape Plan and more. In fact the new album features appearances from some world class musicians, none of whom charged for the pleasure.
“It was a really nice process, wasn’t rushed, everyone was on the same wavelength, which made for really good working relationships. Me & Al would bounce ideas off each other and just be really honest and open which meant only the good stuff got through.”
After years of slogging it out on the gig circuit in various bands and the music industry being completely changed since first starting out, MeMe has a refreshingly positive attitude. “Things are a lot easier now to get your music heard, get it out there, do things yourself and have freedom of creativity. That’s one reason why I went with crowdfunding, no one is pulling my strings telling me what to do, bands in the past might have been told what type of stuff to write, I just do what I do and hope some people enjoy listening as much as I enjoy playing it.”
The releases are set to go through Meme’s own SoulRock Central label, which emerged from club nights she ran. “I always had a bigger inspiration for that, even have ideas for a clothing range and all sorts. Combining my love of soul and indie/rock, I wanted to combine the great vibe of having break dancers at my events with live music and partying.”
MeMe is enthusiastic not only about her own music, but also about the Birmingham music scene in general.
“There’s a really good buzzing scene in Birmingham at the moment, so much good coming out, from all kinds of genres. People like Youth Man, Arrks, Dead Sea Skulls and Blue Nation are just a few of the bands that are making waves. There seems to be real support in the Midlands now for new music, more fanzines, blogs, people coming to gigs more again, it’s an exciting time. Birmingham finally has a good name for itself in music again, and is getting the recognition it deserves for the great talent that’s out there.”
“There are so many great places to go now. I love having a good dance, particularly at the Actress & Bishop and Sun On The Hill, both have a nice relaxed but fun vibe. Love John Bright Street and all the cool places to eat and drink. I also enjoy a good dance at hip hop nights which pop up at various venues.”
Being influenced by various styles comes across in Meme’s music, comparisons have been made to a variety of acts such as Foo Fighters, Babes In Toyland, PJ Harvey and more.
“One problem I’ve been having is falling in-between indie and rock. I’m not heavy as rock, but heavier than indie. Live people have said we sound quite grungey, and there definitely is a grunge influence, there’s a new genre I suppose, grunge indie, it’s kind of poppy too maybe grindie?! Grop!? Grindie-grop, haha.”
The debut single ‘Stand Up You’re Living” is out now via iTunes, Amazon and other download sites with a second single due in July and the album in September alongside a full UK tour.
You can support Meme’s crowd-funding campaign here.
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