It doesn't always hurt to be off the beaten track. For instance, Santa Fe snags a number of huge bands, including San Francisco's The Dodos, traveling to Austin for South By Southwest, for an oasis amid the high desert. SFR caught up with Dodos guitarist Meric Long for an interview prior to the band's all-ages show at Warehouse 21.
Known for its driving, relentless drum beats, strongly strummed campfire guitar, confident but restrained vocals, and aloof but occasionally biting lyrics, The Dodos is a memorable band. It stops in Santa Fe just a day before the release of its newest album No Color. We discuss the new CD, the tour, Miller Chill and more.
SFR: From what I can tell upon a first hear of your new album No Color, you haven’t done anything drastic in regard to changing up your sound.
ML: We pretty much try to make the same record every time. We haven’t really been able to nail down the sound we’ve been going for all these years just because of the difficulty in the way that our band has to be recorded. There are certain sounds and qualities of the acoustic guitar or drums that make it difficult to capture, from a sound engineer’s perspective. Each time we make a record, we still have this thing we’re shooting for. I think we got closer on this record.
So it’s not a matter of you being lazy?
No. I definitely don’t feel like we’re lazy on this record. We’re kind of addicted to a specific energy that happens when me and Logan play and a specific thing that happens. We try to veer away at times from what we’ve done in the past, but we still end up getting back to two over-hyper teenagers who need to get out teenage angst.
Is it thematically different?
No. I tend to write about the same crap. It’s chipping away at the same thing for me. Musically or artistically, there’s always this specific sound, this specific mood I’m going for, and I’m kind of just wearing away at the edges.
What is it that you're trying to get at?
Sonically, there’s a little section of “Don’t Stop,” the last song on the new record: Toward the end, the song breaks and it goes to an acoustic guitar, and I think the sound between the drums and guitar, for a minute there is pretty much what we’ve been shooting for. It’s really strong finger-picked guitar, really rhythmic with a drum part that basically mimics exactly what’s going on on the guitar and backs it up. It makes this weird sound between an acoustic guitar being finger picked and a low tom being hit at the exact same time. That’s not everything we’re going for, but that’s the best representation I can point to.
You relieved your vibraphonist after the album. Why?
We finished the record and recorded a bunch of vibraphone on it. As we were mixing, we were started pulling things out. The more vibraphone we took out, the more we realized the sound was heavier and a little more piercing, and that’s what we were going for. By the time we were finished mixing there was basically no vibraphone on the new songs. No vibraphone, no vibraphone player.
You two had toured with The New Pornographers and now Neko Case sings on approximately half of your new album. How did that come about?
Pretty naturally. We were on tour together. She came out and sang on a few songs during our set. Actually, she sang on our last show at Lollapalooza. Her tour was done but she stayed an extra day and she came and sang. I was like, ‘What are you doing for next few months?’ And she said nothing so I asked, ‘Do you wanna come sing.’ She said yes and that was it.
I hear you’ve insisted at playing at W21, an all-ages venue, is this something you two always try for?
I’ve told our booker to book all ages when possible.
You’ve been known to play all sorts of venues, no matter how small, is that why you chose Santa Fe over, say, Albuquerque.
There was no specific reason; it just happened to be the place. I’ve been a fan of Albuquerque. In the past we’ve had curiously good shows there. We have soft spot for Albuquerque because we never expected to have a good show there. From what I know about Albuquerque, it’s a hard place to play these days in terms of getting people out and venue-wise. I’m stoked we’re playing Santa Fe. I hear it’s beautiful and it’s not too far from Albuquerque so I can still get Mexican food from The Frontier on the way back.
Your song “Fool” off Visiter was used in a Miller Chill commercial. If a song off No Color hawked a product, what would it be?
Unfortunately, it’s a song recorded during this record that didn’t make it on but will probably be a B-side. That song is called “So Cold “ and I think that would be perfect for another beer.
Do you really drink 100-calorie light beer with lime?
I tried it afterward and I have to say I love it. It’s really good�kind of got a salty thing going on. I became a big fan of Micheladas; it’s basically that without tomato juice.
Do you get paid to say that?
No, not at all. I didn’t even get my free case of Miller Chill. I was really disappointed.
The Dodos with The Mumblers
Monday, March 14
1614 Paseo de Peralta