You're the Dodos, not the Lobsters!
Sitting across the concrete park, we’re watching Oliver Stevens interview the Dodos and wondering if he is really working as sent here to do. The band are on jolly mood, constantly laughing, loving being accosted by fans and doing the Lobster Dance™. What is going on? A lot, apparently!
SS: Your music is very rhythmic, with drums right at the forefront of your sound. With a lot of bands coming from America at the moment placing a similar emphasis on percussion. Why do you think this is?
Logan Kroeber (drums, vocals): I think a lot of 90s indie rock didn’t move people, in a way, after a while... I remember definitely feeling that vibe at shows where people really liked the music, but in a live situation it was just not conducive to having a good time. And I guess maybe it’s a reaction to that.
SS: There are a lot of world music influences floating about. Would you say this has influenced you?
Meric Long (vocals, guitar): I spent some time studying some worldly music, and it definitely affected the way I write music and also hear music. Big, tommy drums - from West African music to Taiko drumming to Indonesian music - it gets you going. Everyone can relate, or at least feel it at the bottom of their guts. I kind of also hear it as house music. Well, I don’t hear it as house music but... whether they like to admit it or not, everybody loves a good dance beat and a thumping bass, it’s so addicting. But at the same time there’s a lot of content that gets lost in electronic music, particularly house music... overpowering the soundboards of clubs and young people’s minds.
SS: Music even hipsters can dance to?
Meric: Yeah, I mean everyone loves to dance. Once you let go of your inhibitions, or whatever, like when you go to a wedding... everyone’s dancing. No matter how old, no matter what you’re wearing… Your grandma, your mom that you never wanna see dance that way...
SS: Maybe you should play a wedding?
Meric: We got offered a wedding. Some friends of ours were getting married and they wanted us to play. It didn’t work out. If it was like my sister and my good buddy, the last thing I wanna do at their wedding is play music. That sounds horrible.
Logan: It would be like a kind of Police ‘I’ll Be Watching You’ thing, like ‘You really want me playing these songs at your wedding? Have you heard the lyrics, man?’
SS: You get thrown in alongside Animal Collective and the freak folk tag. Do you consider yourselves a part of that?
Meric: I don’t consider us a part of anything. Not that we’re outsiders, at the same time. We’re just doing our thing and at times it may sound like other people, especially other contemporary artists. It’s all just part of a bigger tree, and we’re just a little branch. Not even a branch, probably more like a roly-poly under the dirt, munching on the dead leaves that have fallen. We’re happy to even be in the tree.
SS: You have a certain rhythmic acoustic texture, but your album spans many genres - blues and stuff...
Meric: Between Logan and I we have a lot of influences, as any musician does. I don’t think we have considerably more, but I think that we don’t really streamline our influences. I’ve had long stints with the blues, I’ve had long stints with 80s new wave pop, I’ve had stints with all sorts of things, and I feel like they all filter into this band. The instrumentation on the record is a good demonstration of that because we were just in a room with a bunch of crap leaning against the walls, and we’d just grab various instruments that may not have even known how to play, or might have played a lot of, but it was just focused more on... where does this song need to go? Where does this little baby need to go to learn to...
SS: With just two members, playing mainly acoustic guitar and drums, is there a sense of seeing how much you can get out of minimal instrumentation?
Meric: Yeah, the basis of the band is definitely what goes on between me and Logan. That comes from playing together and touring together for a long time. And there’s a lot you can do with drums and guitar, and there’s still a ton we can do. When you put a restriction on things and try and develop them, instead of letting yourself to go into crazy production and stuff - which is good too - but I mean it was good for us to have the restriction of just guitar and drums.
SS: You don’t even use cymbals much.
Logan: Not too much, a little bit more these days. We’ve got a new song we’re playing live, with a crash at key moments...
Meric: The cymbals are starting to come in now because we haven’t used them. I feel like playing in bands and listening to the music we have done growing up, there’s certain things you get sick of and get used to hearing so much. So when you hear just guitar and drums it sounds fresh, especially without cymbals. And now that we’ve been doing that so much it’s that when the cymbals come in it’s like... ‘What is that heavenly sound? We need more of that!’ But we could have been doing that from the beginning, but it’s a matter of perspective. We just wanna play stuff that sounds fresh to us, even if that means sequestering ourselves in a dungeon for a month, not hearing anything...
Logan: Thereby making the sound of a crash cymbal sound fresh.
Meric: Seriously, though, every time you hit that crash cymbal in the new song I’m like ‘BOOYA!’
SS: How does it feel when you finally decide to quit your day job and make touring your daily life?
Logan: I don’t think until recently there was any sort of realisation on my part. I stopped going to work... I was playing music all the time, I was touring all the time... But there was still a nervous twitch inside my brain that was like ‘What are you doing? How are you surviving?’ Now I’ve realised the parameters of this new life, and what I can do to make my life work around it.
Meric: It’s funny because the transition at first is like ‘Less work, more party!’ But then the party becomes the work. So there’s that transition that I’m dealing with physically right now. There’s times when you’re like ‘Aw man, this was supposed to be fun all the time!’ And it is fun most of the time. Every night when we play I’m super stoked, but there’s definitely ways you have to monitor yourself and go ‘Okay, I need to do this, I need to do this, I need to make sure NOT to do that...’ Even if it feels like a job it’s a better job than what I had before.
SS: You used to be a cook. Do you have any easy recipe tips?
Meric: I’m a hot sauce freak. You’ve had it? It’s good, right? You should import it!
Logan: There was a Chinese food market next to a venue in Oxford, and my girlfriend bought some hot sauce there as a gift to spice up all the flavourless breakfasts we’d been having. And I tell you, we’ve ALL been hitting that hot sauce.
Meric: Do you guys have cottage cheese here? Yeah? You like it? Right, here you go. We’re gonna make a combo. You take potato chips (salt and vinegar), put some cottage cheese on there, get some hot sauce on there... another thing that’s cheap and always good to throw on are green onions, man. They call them scallions too. They’re small, keep for a long time, and you can throw them on anything. They make things seem a little more complex.
Logan: It’s like a fog machine in food terms. Makes things a little more mysterious.
SS: Why the name Dodos?
Meric: I’m gonna give you two answers. ‘Fais dodo’ means take a nap in French. My mom, who’s French, would say that, because I was a pretty rambunctious kid. The other... Logan can tell you.
Logan: Okayyyy... My mom is French. I was a pretty rambunctious kid, I used to run around all the time, and she would say ‘Go to sleep... or I’m gonna KILL you, and you’re gonna end up like a dodo’. And so I’d lock myself in the closet until she took her cough medicine, then I’d come back out.
SS: Dodos are dead now... we all miss them dearly. What animal would you bring back from extinction?
Meric: I just learned about the sea cow... I’d like to bring it back. Mainly so I could eat it. It’s basically what would happen if you put a cow in water. It can’t dive, it can barely swim. What a dumb idea!
Logan: God just probably dropped one in the sea by mistake.
Meric: We could eat it like Lobster Sashimi, where you kill it, cut its head off, put it on the plate while it’s still alive... It’s a delicacy, they do it in San Francisco. They stick the head on the plate and its arms are still waving about!
Logan: It’s doing a horrible little dance!
Meric: Someone asked me recently if I wanna be buried or cremated... I’d like to be eaten.
Logan: You could just take a leg off. You’d live long enough to see them eat it.
Meric: I’d like to be floating above it, observing. I don’t want to be like ‘Ow, my leg hurts.’
Words: Oliver Stevens
Photography: Choltida Pekanan