Let's call the Dodos the most underrated indie rock band in existence. Since Meric Long and Logan Kroeber started producing their ultra-catchy, intellectual folk songs (all syncopated rhythms and entwining melodies, natch) in 2005, every album they've produced has been better then the last. The fact that they don't have fans as rabid as Animal Collective's is a mystery. Currently touring last year's Carrier and on the verge of dropping their sixth album, Individ (which drops Jan. 27.), the Dodos perform at Alex's Bar on Dec. 14. Consider yourself lucky that you can still catch their intense, high-energy show in an intimate setting; cancel your Sunday night plans and make the show your early Christmas gift to yourself. Singer/songwriter Meric Long talks about how the Dodos ended up making Individ so soon after Carrier and what it was like having Brigid Dawson (Thee Oh Sees) and Minna Choi (Magik Magik Orchestra) on their latest set.
OC Weekly (Lilledeshan Bose): Wasn't it crazy to create and release your Individ so soon after Carrier? Was there a lot of overlap, songwriting-wise and inspiration-wise?
Meric Long: It was really one long continuous process making those two records. We learned a whole hell of a lot doing [Carrier] our fifth record … writing songs in a different way, recording and mixing completely analog, and just establishing a comfortable relationship with the studio and Jay and Ian Pellicci who engineered it. By the time we finished doing that record, our excitement about the studio and working together kind of hit a fever pitch, so it just seemed like the right time to get back in there and do another before that enthusiasm dissipated.
The songwriting approach between the two records was quite different, almost opposite actually. Every song on Carrier was demoed beforehand and carefully planned out, while on Individ songs were completed as we were recording them for the first time, a lot of the lyrics and overdub ideas coming together at that moment. There was a sort of giddiness that we just rode on … it sort of felt like we were a high school band going to the studio and hearing our songs come back through the speakers for the first time.
Why the title Individ?
Individ is the term I coined, or at least thought I did, for what I think of as a quiet resilience, sort of immovable. It was a theme I kept coming back to, in relation to how it felt in the band but also with things that were happening in my life personally. A lot of the songs come back to this theme in one way or another … it was kind of a more elegant way of saying "scrapper."
Individ is also a lot more complex — time signatures change within songs, criss-crossing guitar lines … songs seems to be less about being carried by a melody and more about exploring what's beyond the melody. Did you specifically try to make Individ different in this way?
No, I wouldn't say that part of it was intentional. I feel like there was a level of technicality that we could operate on because we had basically just spent weeks in the studio recording the previous record, but it all felt very natural.
The song "Goodbyes and Endings" was a good example of that. I remember writing the chorus part and thinking I had a nice little pop melody but when I broke it down it turned out there were four different time signatures just in that one choral phrase. It felt like this huge accomplishment but at the same time it's just sort of unnecessarily complicated for a pop hook.
You had more collaborators on Individ too … was there a benefit to that?
They saved the record! Both Brigid Dawson and Minna Choi who sang on the record provided my favorite moments. It's hard to sit through nine tracks of yourself singing and expect it to be exciting, so they kinda provide relief at the right moments.
I have to say [engineers] Jay and Ian were basically like having new bandmates on this record. It made the whole thing really collaborative and just added to the overall energy. There was never a dull moment….between the four of us there was always a new idea to try in terms of recording, and because of the trust that had been established every idea seemed like a good one and for the most part ended up on the record. It just made for an exciting and fun environment, which I hope translates to the record.