For a band whose name references an extinct bird, the Dodos just keep on going. In only six years together, the band has released four albums and an EP, the most recent being this year's lovely No Color, which features a more refined approach to the manic acoustic-guitar-and-drum combo singer/guitarist Meric Long and drummer Logan Kroeber offered on their breakthrough album Visiter, but with more vibrancy than on its 2009 follow-up, Time to Die.
Long sat with us to talk a bit before their performance with the Luyas on Sunday at Detroit Bar.
Heard Mentality: You guys seem to write, record and tour at a breakneck pace. Don't you ever get tired?
Meric Long: Yeah, definitely. The past few years have been pretty busy.
Lately it's been the summertime, where we've had a few months off. I
already feel like I haven't done anything in a long time musically. I
have to remind myself that we just put out a record in March. I don't
know what it is, I think time just moves differently if I'm not doing
something, I feel like I blew it and am wasting time. I do get tired,
but it doesn't feel as busy as it may be perceived, I suppose. I think
when we started touring, I got used to having something every week. When
it lets up at all, I feel like nothing's going on.
No Color saw you guys returning to a two-piece. How do you feel about the band's progression across the three albums?
I feel good. For us, I feel like each record has its
differences, but as far as where we're coming from, I feel like we're
making the same record. We've had to come at it from different angles;
there's a certain sound we're aiming for. (car alarm goes off) That's
the sound actually. But it's been really hard to capture that on record.
So with each successive record, we try something different. I think
with the latest record, we got as close to it as we have.
You guys keep things decently spare live and on record. Do you
guys think you'll ever add more members again to your full-time lineup?
Full-time members, probably not. As we make more records, we
sort of figure out what makes the band the band, and really it just
boils down to what happens when Logan and I get in a room and play. I
don't think we're ever going to stray away from that. I think as time
has passed and we've made more records, we've come to appreciate that.
In terms of adding more people, it seems like we add a different person
every record — at least different guest members. We did a show, I guess
that was a year ago, we did a couple shows with the Magic Music
Orchestra, they're like an S.F. student orchestra that changes members,
but they basically use the conservatory as a pool of members. … It was
really rad and definitely different. I don't know if we'd add a full
orchestra [full-time], but we'd definitely do more with those guys in
Now we have an electric guitarist who tours with us, he plays all the
extra guitar parts that are on the record. We might even in the future
boil down to just a two-piece again [live]. I've been seeing a lot of
bands that are two pieces and … weird technology that allows you to use
your feet and whatever other apendages to play other instruments. I
could see Logan and I putting together some weird contraption where
we're playing multiple instruments at the same time.
I seem to recall you playing a Fender Jazzmaster at SXSW. Are you
playing more on electric guitar these days, or is the acoustic guitar
still your base for live shows and records?
I had two Jazzmasters. Since then, I've been seeing a lot of
people playing with them. I saw Ty Segall the other day, and he was
playing with one.
I'm kind of like at a point right now where I'm really unsure of
that. After touring and playing electric guitar, all the touring we've
done for the record since March has only been on electric. After playing
it a bunch, initially I was super excited to just dive into the
electric and get a lot of wacky pedals and maybe write songs that way.
But since I've been home from touring, I've played the acoustic a little
bit. There's still something about the acoustic that I can't get over.
I'm starting to do some recording and I think a lot of the stuff I'm
liking right now is acoustic and electric together, sort of, I've
learned now that I've had the experience with the electric, there's a
way to write the same sort of thing but … have that percussive
jangliness and still have some noisy, leady, electricy type shit.
Even on record you guys maintain this sort of live, intimate
feel. Do you record live, and how do the songs that end up on record
come about — improvisation, pre-written, or some sort of combination?
All the bass parts of the songs, like the drums and acoustic
guitar, are prewritten. All the overdubs get written in the studio
pretty much on the spot once we've laid down all the basics. … Recording
has been super fun that way because if feels like it's split between
trying to nail the stuff we've been playing for a long time but also
goof off and make weird noises and see what comes about. I think a lot
of the best stuff we've come up with has been mistakes in the studio,
and we sort of allow for that to happen. We try not to be too rigid in
the studio, but we realize we have to perform well, so we practice the
hell out of them.
What are you guys working on now? Are you writing while touring or does that happen separately?
Right now I'm trying to just record. I'm just trying to learn
how to record really. We've always gone into the studio with an
engineer, so I haven't had much time to learn that stuff. And also,
whenever we make a record, nothing's really been recorded until we
record the final product, if that makes sense. I'm basically trying to
learn how to record so I can learn how to write songs in a different
way. I want to write stuff while listening back to it instead of
planning it all out in my head and hoping it's good.