Folk-rock outfit The Dodos underwent a few changes when recording its third LP, Time To Die, for Frenchkiss Records, enlisting Keaton Snyder on vibraphone and working with producer Phil Ek (Fleet Foxes, Band of Horses). Since then and in preparation for their fourth full-length, the band has returned to being a duo (consisting of Meric Long and Logan Kroeber), returned to producer John Askew, who worked on their first two records, and snagged New Pornographers queen Neko Case to appear on half of their record. With less than a week left until the heavily anticipated, No Color, hits streets, we had a chance to talk to frontman Meric Long again about the changes, the upcoming international tour, and some of his recent influences.
Just wanted to thank you for taking the time and doing this with us.
No, if this is for Consequence of Sound, I appreciate it, and I like your guys’ website, so…
I actually saw you guys in Toronto when you opened for Beirut. It was an awesome show.
Oh, awesome. Yeah, that show actually I remember was pretty good. It was like right when we started playing with Keaton on vibraphone.
What was it like to tour with Zach Condon?
We did it that night and the next night in Montreal. It was cool, man. I had never seen those guys live, and they played trumpet, which was really cool.
Are there any bands out there that you’ve been wanting to tour with?
Well, we’re trying to decide who will be our support for our June tour, and there’s a list of bands that I’ve been listening to on Myspace, and my head is like flooding with bands right now (laughs).
Cool! Have you guys gotten close to deciding who?
Well, we had some people we wanted to tour with, but we’ve been having bad luck. We wanted to tour with our buddies Wye Oak, but they’re busy. For us it’s just about finding people that we’re friends with and they’re cool dudes.
Of course. What was it like touring with New Pornographers? Is that when you and Neko Case decided to collaborate? How did that all come about?
Yeah, she came out and sang a few songs a couple times through the tour, and we were super nervous to ask her to do anything. It was funny because she’s actually like a huge supporter of our band, and it didn’t really occur to me. We didn’t really know why, and I couldn’t believe it, so it was just like a funny dynamic. She was really happy when I came up to her, and I was so nervous about asking her. But finally, at the end of the tour, we played Lollapalooza, and she came out to sing on like three songs, and after the set she was like what are you doing this summer, and I said we’re recording and asked her what she was doing. She’s like, “Nothing,” so I asked do you want to come and record, and she said, “Oh, totally.” So, it just sort of happened where I didn’t know if it was going to happen or not, but if it does, I’m like sweet.
It’s funny because there’s been a lot of hoopla about her appearing on No Color, but the first two cuts we’ve heard (“Black Night” and “Don’t Stop”) she doesn’t even appear on. Is that you guys keeping us in suspense, or is that just how it panned out?
(laughs) It wasn’t intentional. I mean, people were definitely making a big deal that she was going to be singing on our record, but it wasn’t our intention to be like, “Oh, hey, we have Neko Case on this record,” and use that as a big marketing ploy. It’s a pretty mellow appearance.
It’s cool because she tweeted how “Don’t Stop” is her favorite cut off the album, and she’s not even on it. I think that just kind of shows what a big fan she is of you guys.
Totally, it was really sweet of her to do that. She sings on about five songs, and there’s songs when she kind of takes over. Her voice is so huge, but all of the songs she blends in really well with our sound.
You’ve been reported stating your love for Billy Corgan-style riffs and said you were going to implement that a lot more on this album.
Ahhh, yeah, it was an accident that it sort of happened, and that reference got a lot of attention. I mean, I love Billy Corgan’s guitar playing. When we were recording the album, we had a lot of extra time to sort of goof around and try different things, and playing electric guitar became the thing we all looked forward to the most because it really changed the sound of the songs. It became pretty funny ’cause I hadn’t played electric guitar since I was like 12 or 13 listening to all those 90′s bands. It was like totally going back in time and you know, I had the best time doing it, but everyone else in the studio was cracking up (laughs). It was totally 90′s.
That’s awesome. But you guys have played some heavy riffs before. “Joe’s Waltz” and “Small Deaths” have some pretty heavy guitar riffs, so this didn’t come entirely as a surprise.
Yeah, those were kind of accidents, and this started out as an accident, but then when I found the tone of Billy Corgan’s guitar, we started cracking up, since it reminded me of it, but it sounded really good over the stuff. I mean, every time we were in the studio and we were like, what should we do, I said, “Let’s get the Billy Corgan out!” (laughs), and we didn’t even know what to do with it.
It’s funny because it seems Corgan is the go-to guy this year. From what I’ve heard, the new Pains (of Being Pure At Heart) album sounds a lot like Smashing Pumpkins.
Totally! And I thought I was alone, and I had been reading press about bands referencing him, but I guess things happen like that. It doesn’t surprise me. I mean earlier this year when we were touring with New Pornographers, I put Siamese Dream on my iPod and listened to it and hadn’t listened to it in years, and I was like this is amazing, I mean, this is fucking rad! At the time I just thought they were rad records but now listening to them after actually making records and thinking about production, he totally has his influences and derivatives, but some of the stuff is like the first of its time, especially the way the drums were recorded. Plus, with his guitar, I remember seeing them live when I was younger, and the thing that stood out to me was his guitar sounded so freaking awesome; it was so massive, which doesn’t come across on the records at all. I did not realize how heavy it is. It’s hard to do that, you know. We’re about to go on tour, and I’m trying to get my live setup together, and getting that freaking sound is like insane.
Totally. You’ve also cited Neil Young and The Ramones. Was that also kind of an accident?
I go through phases of listening to stuff, and I just went through a heavy phase. When you discover Neil Young but like you really discover it, it’s not a small thing. I mean, I’m 30, maybe a little late to the game, but really the entire year I wouldn’t want to listen to anything else, like literally flip out over him. It was all I wanted to listen to. I would go back between Neil Young records and Ramones and just listening over and over again. I don’t know what it was, but listening to those two bands put me in my happy place. I never wanted to leave.
It kind of felt like with Time To Die you were obviously trying different things by adding Keaton Snyder and that whole vibraphone thing of his and also with Phil Ek producing it. Does it feel now with using John Askew again and going back to a duo…does it feel like going back to your roots but evolving all at the same time since you’ve got this new sound going on as well?
Yeah, I think the perception is you’re going back to your roots when you’re going back to something. For me and Logan, it feels like this is the next step. Working with John again, we didn’t want to feel like we were going backwards. When you hook up with an old friend that knows you and knows how you were, it’s refreshing, but it was also exciting to hook back up with him. It was obvious when we were talking to him about recording together that he had gone and made all these records and he had progressed, and we had gone and done a record with Phil and learned a ton. I mean, working with Phil, the dynamic of the studio with John this time was really different from the dynamic that we had when we were doing Visiter. This was more of a collaboration; we had grown as a band, as musicians, and gained knowledge about making records. Me, Logan, and John were all bringing things to the table that pushed it in a different direction. The record may not be obviously like, “Oh this sounds totally different.” It sounds like us. It sounds like the other records we’ve done, as we don’t really stray away that much from what we do, but some of the stuff on this record definitely wouldn’t have been possible if we didn’t do Time To Die. It was like the next step, way more of a progression than going back.
Does No Color reference anything in particular? Because it sounds kind of dark to me, and you’re known to have drawn on some dark lyrical themes before.
The name came from a conversation Logan and I had after finishing the record, just towards the end of mixing. He was telling me how he had these color fixations when we play certain songs. When we’re performing “Fables”, for example, there’s a certain color he corresponds and he sees with every song (laughs), and he said, of course, this is after listening to them 30 times, that he imagined bleak, gray matter during a lot of these new songs. After that conversation, when we were discussing names, I thought of the name No Color, and we both agreed it fit well.