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Cherwell Introduces: Menu3

Joining me this week, are four members of Menu3: Nicole 2nd year biochemist/lead singer, Jude 2nd year chemist/bass player, Dan music student/drummer, and Marcus 2nd year biologist/keys player!

The Somerville band told me all about their musical inspirations, their busy upcoming Trinity, how they have grown from passion project to ball-playing big-hitter, and the story behind their name…

How did you guys meet and form the band?

Nicole: Jude and I were doing problem sheets in his room, talking about mechanisms, and just fed up. I just wanted to do something fun and thought we should have a Somerville band. Jude would often play the bass alongside music, and Jude was friends with Marcus, and I was friends with Dan, and that’s how it began!

Can you describe your sound in 3 words?

Dan: Fun is the big word; fun is at the centre.

Marcus: Crowd-pleasers as well.

Jude: We can go with fun, definitely chuck in groove, and NOW, lively. We’re quite interactive. We are now anyway, we warmed into it.

Nicole: I thought Dan would say grooves. My word would be connected, we gel as a band – I feel that we’re making the crowd have fun.

Who is your biggest musical inspiration?

Marcus: If we look at our setlist I think we have about five Bruno mars and silk sonic songs…they’ve got to be one of our main ones.

Jude: The songs we choose are those we know people want to hear at an event – for me, I brought myself up as a rock bassist: I listen to a lot of Muse, but that’s not exactly our sound!

Nicole: I listen to Adele a lot, and I think we have similar vocal ranges, so she’s an inspiration for me.

Marcus: From a keys perspective, it’s the likes of Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, that sort of vibe.

Dan: Funk and soul of 70s and 80s is the stuff I listen to and love: Earth Wind andFire, Chaka Khan.  while not playing their music that’s where I derive the groove.

What is your favourite song to perform?

Jude: It changes with recency bias, when we learn something new, and it sounds good it immediately becomes our favourite – but Toxic!

Marcus: I’d agree!

Nicole: We’re more hype to play something we know the audience will like. And yeah, Toxic is a fun one to do as a band.

Marcus: It’s also important to stay on-top of trends I’d say.

How do you differentiate yourself from other bands playing at the same kind of events as you?

Dan: I think our approach is putting the crowd at the centre of the setlist. Other bands are more ‘muso-ey’, which can be good, but at functions you’re essentially a live hi-fi system.  

Jude: We choose songs that are by artists people love but aren’t being overplayed (entirely) – I’ve only heard one other group in Oxford do Toxic, so it feels unique to us.

Dan: Lots of bands have bigger sections as well. With 12-14 people on stage, these big heavy moving things have to be arranged for.  As a 5-piece rhythm section it’s easier to get songs in and out, we can move with the trends in a way that differs from other bands in Oxford.

What is your favourite memory together as a band?

Dan: One of our first gigs, in the college bar: we organized it and weren’t paid, but everyone knew us.  I don’t know if you’ve seen it, but the Somerville bar isn’t very impressive, so to see it rammed was crazy. I’ve never seen it like that, and I don’t think I will again.  

Nicole: My favourite experience was the last time in Terrace (Somerville bar). It was a big gig that made us known on the scene, and it was the beginning of our expansion for sure. As a self-organised student band, it’s often hard to get gigs that will pay you and treat you as a band; Terrace helped put us on the map.

Jude: Initially Nicole did a lot of the heavy lifting booking us gigs: the first five were thanks to her, and we now have people requesting us. I thought we were going to be chained to small venues forever, I never imagined we would be playing balls.

Speaking of, what balls are you playing?

Nicole: We have whole spreadsheet set up, and as Jude said we didn’t expect to get big so quickly. Our first gig was a half hour, unpaid slot at Mad Hatter. It was a small stage, I couldn’t hear myself, it was not the best experience.

Jude: We were still called Nicole’s band at that point; we didn’t even have a proper name…(with spreadsheet up) Ah ok so, we’re doing the 93% ball in 1st week, Corpus Christi Ball, Balliol Garden party, OUAPS ball, the Regents Park College Ball –and stay tuned, more to come.

How did the name come about if you were originally Nicole’s band?

Dan: Ok, so…we wanted it to be Oxford related. It’s from Menu 3 on the formal menu. The 3 is the standard menu – the meat and potatoes of the formal menu. So that’s kind of what the band is musically as well. It doesn’t take much scrutiny!

Jude: It grew traction for me when we heard people chanting it – Men-U-3! It’s got a nice ring.

You can catch Menu3 playing all across Oxford throughout Trinity – be sure to check them out!

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