Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Dodos Interview

Ogden Theater--Black Slim Devil, C-41 400

On July 28th, 2010, I sat down with The Dodos' Meric Long before a show at The Ogden Theater in Denver.

How's the tour been so far?

It's been rad because we get to play rooms like this, and its all been really good, man. Nothing crazy to report, which is actually kind of a relief. It's been about as relaxing as a tour could ever be. Plus, its been tons of fun to play with The New Pornographers.

Do you notice the difference between The New Pornographers' and Dodos' crowds?

Yeah, I mean they kinda have older fans, so when there are younger kids in the crowd we kind of just hope they listen to us. (laughs)

What have you guys been listening to in the van?

We don't really listen to music together in the van anymore. (laughs) For me though, all I really listen to is Neil Young. Neil Young and The Ramones. For some reason over the last few months I haven't really been able to get passed them. It's just what sounds good right now.

So, it's been about a year since Time To Die came out. Now that you have some space to look back, how do you feel about the record these days?

Well I haven't listened to it in awhile, but its definitely been kind of... I dont know, the way I look at it is that that record was a kind of...not a diversion, but something different from our normal approach to making records. There are things I really like about it, but there are also things I don't like as much. And, now we're in the process of writing for the new record, which we're going to start recording soon, really soon actually, in like two weeks.

So you already have enough material for a whole LP?

The skeletons of songs are there. we've been playing new material this whole tour and, even if the songs aren't completely done, there's enough there to go into the studio and figure it out. Either way, I guess what I'm trying to say is that with the last record we made it in such a different way that it sort of reaffirmed how we wanted to approach music. So, coming back to this new material and this next record, we're going to go back to kind of the original approach, except with a new appreciation for that particular sound.

Are you going to record with Phil Ek again?

We're going to do some recording with a friend of ours and we'll see how that goes. We might work with Phil again, but we kind of just want to work on it ourselves at first.

Before we move off of Phil Ek, do you think the record would have turned out the same had he not produced?

I think the songs would have been the same, but the sound of the record itself was definitely Phil. I think we were really looking for that sound at the time. We had done two records a certain way, and John [Askew] had helped us a lot with the process of those. Then, when it came time to record Time To Die, I think we kind of wanted someone new to come in and sort of sprinkle their magic dust on the project. (Laughs). We needed that. We wanted him to come in and be like "OK, we're gonna do this like this".

Was it ultimately a good experience to have that structure?

Yeah, it was good for us to get our asses kicked a little bit, even if a little bit too much. But it was a good experience for sure. There are no regrets. Even if at the time it might not have been the best thing, I think we came out of it better and know who are a bit more and can now go back to what we were doing before with a bit more confidence. I think with Phil Ek we tried to be a band that we're not. Its like with Crosby, Stills and Nash and Buffalo Springfield; at some point you have to decide which way to go with it, which one you are. And, I think we're definitely more on the, you know, sloppy Springfield side of it.

That's exciting, I miss trashcan drums.

I don't if the trashcan itself will make it back, but the idea is still there. Our goal with this next record is to make like... it's funny, our goal was actually the same for the last record, but this time I think we know how we want to do it, which is to make the heaviest acoustic record we can.

How is the writing process? Do songs more often start with drums or guitar, or do you just kind of jam?

We really just get together and play for hours. What we did this time though, which I am still so fucking thankful for, is we started recording those random sessions and going back and listening to them. I go back and listen and then pretty much just construct songs from those sections that stood out. The initial thing is usually a single guitar part, or a moment when the guitar and drum syncopated in a certain way.

And what about vocals?

That's usually afterward, and that whats been great about recording our stuff is that I can listen to it and write vocal lines over it. Sometimes it just comes together. There are few songs that will be on the next record where we had recorded for like 2 hours and then at, you know, like an hour and ten minutes there was a snippet where we lined up really well, and I just wrote entire songs around those moments. Definitely times where if we hadn't recorded the session, those songs wouldn't exist.

You guys played a Daytrotter Session with Magik Magik Orchestra. How did that come about?

Minna [Choi], who runs the orchestra, contacted us and then we played a few shows. We played a show in February at The House of Fine Arts in San Fransisco, which is the most beautiful venue. It was incredible, man... I don't really do a lot of interviews and I don't know if I should be saying this shit, but... Magik Magik might be on the next record. I can't promise that because it's too early, we haven't even started recording yet, but we've kind of initiated it.

Would it be the full orchestra?

It'll be kind of whatever she composes for it. The two things that stood out the most before were the string parts and the choir parts, and those two things went surprisingly well with our music. She's amazing.

Do you think it'll go the other direction, Dodos on a Magik Magik record?

That would be really cool. I'd love get on the triangle or something (laughs).

Soundcheck disrupts the interview, so we walk and keep talking. Regardless, the train of thought was lost.

Quick side note, I saw your La Blogotheque performance; what's the deal on the guy playing accordian? Did you actually know him?

We've actually gotten a lot of questions about that. No, he was just standing across the street from where I lived, so we talked to him and told him what key the song was in and that was it. Actually, when they were editing the video they told me they didn't to add that, because it looked too staged. But, I was like " No dude, it's awesome and it's not faked". You can't predict what people will think.

So that was your street at the time?

Yeah, that's where I used to live. We're still in San Fransisco though.

Do you think you're going to stay there?

I actually have no idea; we're going to record in Portland soon, and then from there who knows...

I'm actually moving out west this summer, would you recommend San Fran?

No, it's way too expensive. Fuck, I'll probably move just for that reason. I'd love have my own home studio and be able to record by myself, and I don't really see that happening in San Fransisco.

Actually, speaking of self recording, I wanted to ask if you recorded the Dodo Bird EP by yourself?

I did, with a friend of mine, Liam Nelson, who is a great producer. We recorded it at his house.

And you play all the instruments?


Do you ever pull those songs out to play live?

Yeah, we actually did one with the orchestra, the last song on there "Popo".

Do you guys play songs from Beware of the Maniacs anymore?

Yeah, we go back a lot, generally because that material tends to work out really well live. With this tour it's like: our concern is to just play the newest material and get it rehearsed before we go into the studio. Beyond that, we don't care what we play. Most nights just end with us asking the audience to yell out what they want to hear. With this one too, touring with The New Pornographers, if we get 3 or 4 new tunes in and the audience is cool with that, which they usually are because its mostly Pornographers fans, then we can go from there.

Stock Question: Do you personally think that music is more powerful to the musician while being written and recorded, or to the listener while listening and interpreting?

I would say it's more powerful to the listener. At least for myself, I feel like I have more transcendent moments when listening to something, when it lines up with personal stories or whatever. Because, I feel like when I'm writing stuff it's like, whatever is happening, I can't really internalize it, it just happens. I maybe don't feel like I experience it as much because it's sort of leaving me, I'm not the one experiencing it... I don't know. In terms of "Whats more powerful?" I interpret that as "Whats experienced more?" and as a listener I think it affects me more than, you know, (laughing) wielding some notes or whatever... If that makes sense without taking away from what music is.

Recorded by Zane Saint James on July 28th 2010 at The Ogden Theater in Denver CO

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