Wednesday, May 28, 2008

We’re All Just “Fools”: Strummin’ and Drummin’ with Meric Long of the Dodos

Posted By on Wed, May 28, 2008 at 4:00 AM

  The Dodos: Meric Long & Logan Kroeber

A friend of mine, we’ll call him the Music Guru (he’s where I go for all the fresh insider info from the alternative music scene), feverishly texted me late one night about a month ago. He had just seen a show at a small New Haven club and told me that he had seen the sharpest set he had seen in a long time, played by a new band called the Dodos. A short time later, the name kept popping up everywhere. I would be surfing an old friend’s MySpace and the signature track “Fools” from Visiters, their debut album as the duo, began playing in the background. NPR did a feature on them, their list of tour dates keeps growing and growing and now they’ve taken off to Europe to charm more avid music fans. The Dodos. Where on earth did they come from?

Once Upon A Time…

Guitarist Meric Long and drummer Logan Kroeber more or less came together out of convenience. Long, who was living with Kroeber’s cousin, needed a drummer to fill in for a few shows (the original drummer has now been incorporated into the band, according to Long). The cousin brought Kroeber along for a few sets. When Long set off for Portland to record “Beware of the Maniacs”, he asked Kroeber along to tackle some of the more difficult drumming. And, as Long says, “Badabing!” The Dodos.

The group hails from San Francisco—which is another thing. They’re not from Brooklyn. Which is neither good nor bad, of course, I won’t play favorites with the coasts here, but there’s a reason we Californians love anything local.

As they prepare to take on European audiences, the transition from small-time Bay Area band to world-traveling musicians has got to be a little unnerving. In true Dodos fashion, however, the group’s optimism outweighs their jitters.

“I am really excited [about Europe]. I'm a little nervous about playing to bigger audiences, but we've had enough experience to where it doesn't seem totally absurd,” Long told me by email as the band prepared to leave the country. “We've played a lot of empty shows, and learned how to make the most of that, so when people are there we're just extra stoked.”

Go Away Carson Daly

I’m struggling with one thing. The quintessential Catch-22 of the indie alternative music scene is that while I love my obscure underground bands more than life, it’s hard for the claws not to come out whenever the evil mainstream gets a whiff of them. I wish these bands every success of course, but if my little sister’s friends start listening to them on their iPods, I might lose it.

But success doesn’t have to be synonymous with selling out, says Long.

“I'm more concerned about getting into something that makes me uncomfortable,” he says. “I guess the important thing is just to become more aware of the things you participate in. I love my secret bands just like the next guy, and as long as the music doesn't start to suck they can have all the success they deserve. So long as they're not on TRL.”

Not to curse them or anything, but I think the lid ought to be blown on this one. They are both so attuned to each other that the music is crisp and extremely tight as a result, and no matter how quick the rhythms get, Long’s guitar and Kroeber’s drums are matching each other step for step. In a word, the sound is satisfying.

We’re Not Seeing Double

While I dig Animal Collective as much as the next girl, the fact that every new band that is even slightly experimental gets slapped with a comparison to them seems a little odd to me. It’s kind of like an initiation into the indie music scene, or a “welcome, you’ve made it!” pat on the back. The Dodos have been compared to them, as has Yeasayer, MGMT and the Muggabears. Call me crazy, but these bands are all completely different. Yes, they fit into the same genre beautifully, but in terms of the actual composition of their music, they have got to be taken separately.

Long agrees and called the Dodos more of a “rock pop band.”

“We've gotten a lot of comparison to [Animal Collective], and while I think they're a great band, I feel like those comparisons are sort of premature, or made by someone who hasn't really listened to the whole record,” Long says. “Our music is very visceral, which is why I think it makes sense more for people after they see us live. The way we physically produce our sound through the instruments we use is such a huge part of what makes us unique.”

Unique is damn right. Which is hard to pull off when “unique” is the adjective of the day for the critics who review all of these new creations.

For instance, the very words that Long chooses to describe the band’s signature sound are unlike anything else behind the more recent introductions into the underground music arena.

“What we're going for is what it would sound like if you stuck your head inside the acoustic guitar, or the drum itself, where those instruments sound huge and present, and while everything else just sort of filters in through the wood,” Long says.

It has that balance of finger picked guitar and booming drums, and the vocals sound close at times and other times it’s like your neighbor yelling in the next room.”

Sticking my head inside a guitar, albeit most likely physically impossible, may be the best explanation of a song that I have ever heard. They’ve got my vote.

The Dodos appear June 19 at The Independent in San Francisco with The Ohsees and Dreamdate.

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