With their show at the Northside Festival being only the second time performing material from Time to Die, the Dodos' forthcoming album due out September 15 on Frenchkiss Records, the visceral energy that their live sets have become known for seemed re-focused on the complicated melodies, time structures and drum patterns. Frontman/guitarist Meric Long and drummer Logan Kroeber sat down to talk about whether or not that was actually a good idea, newcomer Keaton Snyder’s role on electric vibraphone, and how being hyped by Pitchfork can be like getting dumped on prom night. Sorta. Tickets for two upcoming NYC shows on October 13 & 14 go on sale tomorrow. You’d be smart to buy some.
The L Magazine: So, Time to Die. Does that title have any significance?
Meric Long: It wasn’t really a big deal. When it came time to think of names, it’s just one of those weird, catchphrase-y mantras that I say to myself before I do anything that I’m nervous about. It was the first one I got stuck on, so that was it.
The L: The last few times you guys played in New York, you played the single “Fables.” It’s ridiculously catchy, which lead me to think this would be a total pop record, but that’s not exactly the feel I got from the other new material you played at Studio B.
ML: The melodies may be more poppy, which was sort of an intention. It’s a little more straightforward—although, I don’t know, I don’t really want to say “straightforward”—but I had more time to write the songs. So I spent more time on the compositions; the songs are a bit more melodic, they have more parts.
The L: Would you say they’re more complex?
ML: Yeah, I think so. Maybe that’s just because they’re new, and they’re really hard to play right now. I was struggling at Studio B. The first time we played them, what was going through my head was, like, “Holy shit, we need to play these songs a lot. This is really hard." It gets to the point where it becomes muscle memory, and it’s fine, but it takes a while, you know? But for now, playing those songs, I’m totally concentrating on being able to play them instead of focusing on what’s happening with the band.
The L: Is that scary for you? Or do you just approach it as something you’ve got to do?
ML: It was scary at first, but I felt like the Studio B show was like, “Ok, we can do it. And it’s only going to get better from here.” And it’s good too, ‘cause it’s the complete opposite of how we were performing towards the end of our last tour. All the songs we were totally sick of, I could play them in my sleep. And now I’m concentrating so hard that I don’t think about all the stuff that my brain will just go to. I was starting to think about my laundry. It’s not a good thing.
The L: The vibraphone seems to play a big role on this record with Keaton joining in on the recording. Do you consider yourself a three-piece now?
ML: Totally. When we were playing with Joe, it didn’t feel like a three-piece, it was more like a two-piece with this other guy. I wanted to make sure that if we had a third person, he was more central to what was going on instead of just on the periphery. So we started rehearsing with Keaton about a month before we recorded. At the time, we were still figuring parts out—most of the songs were written—so it was more him coming in and adding stuff, but there was one song [“Troll Nacht”] where we were able to build the song around him, which was great. You can hear in the song he’s the timekeeper, and everything’s built around that. It gives me hope.
The L: Did you know him prior or did someone introduce you?
ML: We totally lucked out. I had gotten the instrument and we were like, “Ok, hopefully we’ll find someone to play it, but if not, we’ll just play it ourselves on the record.” But just when we started looking for somebody, I ran into my neighbor who’s the director at the Conservatory of Music in San Francisco and asked if he knew of anybody who played vibraphone professionally. The next day he wrote me, and was like, “I’ve got the perfect guy. This kid just dropped out, he’s 21, he has nothing to do” (laughs). It’s a weird instrument—not many people play it. He sorta fell into our lap.
The L: Are there any other oddball instruments that you guys pulled out for the recording?