The Dodo bird might be long extinct, but these guys are certainly not. Indie-rock duo The Dodos are here, happening, and have even sprouted some wings and taken flight to promote their new album Carrier. They’ve laid out some new songs that are brilliantly smooth, and even slightly exotic.
Meric Long’s exultant pop vocals and guitar picking are punctuated by Logan Kroeber’s kicking up-rhythms and fluid bass with lots of rim shots. The unfolding of any track on the album does not nest in one distinct sound, but will saunter from powerful pop, to sharp rock, and will often exit with dreamlike guitar melodies.
The key to The Dodos’ sound is in their rhythm, which flies out of your stereo so quick and sweet you hardly notice how often you’ve pressed repeat. “It’s a rhythm-driven music, that’s the distinct feature about a Dodos’ song,” said Long.
Long cites inspiration from dipping into the study of West African Ewe drumming and acoustic blues guitar. “Both broke down my understanding of rhythm. For a Western pop-culture suburban kid, they completely flipped my world, how I understood rhythm, and how I heard it,” said Long.
The musician’s unique ear for jolting out odd-tempo guitar riffs shapes the band’s songs in an inimitable way. “In the beginning guitar part of our song “Good”, most people would clap their hands in a different spot than where I’m hearing where the hand clapping should be,” he said. This still applies for those joining the band as touring members. Long explains how “there’s always this weird learning curve. There are certain things about learning our songs that they get twisted about and it’s always this sense of rhythm.”
Their distinct cadence is heard on Carrier, their fifth album released last month under Dine Alone Records. Carrier is an album fueled by the life and passing of former Dodos’ touring guitarist Christopher Reimer in February 2012. The album is both an accolade to the character and talent of their friend, and a medium for revitalizing what techniques and new sounds Long learned from Reimer, or the material Long had been eager to show him.
“[Reimer] was an awesome dude and an amazing musician. His influence would have been on the record whether he passed away or not. I wanted to write guitar parts and lyrics that he would be stoked on. “
Long and Reimer were brought together partially because of how distinctly different both musicians are in songwriting and guitar playing. It was Reimer’s ability to mimic styles and create a fierce wall of sound that complemented Long’s staccato chord playing and picking. Long was motivated to approach music from a new angle, greatly prompted by Reimer’s feel for music.
“Carrier feels like a step forward. I think in the past I started to develop habits or expectations of what I thought a Dodos song should be. Coming at it from a different angle was a way of getting more connected to it. The song is dictating what gets decided rather than expectations or habits or identity.”
Long focused on writing songs for Carrier by beginning with new elements, like starting with just words. This was a way of “feeling more connected to the song. Writing lyrics that I stand by and that actually mean something; I didn’t want to cut corners. I needed to tackle the things that I want to improve upon, or feel good about.”
The lyrics resulting from the band’s new musical approach and experience with hard-hitting tragedies are appropriately powerful, without delving too deeply into woefulness. The song “Confidence” begins with soft strumming and vocals, and eventually grows into a powerful electric chant of “Who has it all/ has nothing!”
“Confidence” is a mellow song from musicians who’ve been doing this for a while — they’ve shed the party-frenzied touring band persona as they head off on a jam-packed tour this fall. Long no longer misbehaves like he did as a child, which then would have been followed by his mother telling him in French to “fait dodo” — go to sleep — words that would later inspire the band’s name. “She would either say that or say something in Chinese when I’d misbehave,” he added.
The San Francisco duo return to Montreal for this year’s edition of POP Montreal and recall fondly their time here in the city several years ago. “Everyone was super nice and super attractive. It seemed like Montreal was this paradise of really friendly, beautiful people,” said Long, “J’espère que vous venez à notre concert!”
The Dodos play Sala Rossa Thursday, Sept. 26.
photo caption: The Dodos will be performing at this year’s edition of POP Montreal to promote their latest album Carrier.