The music of San Francisco band Dodos packs plenty of shifting time signatures, stylistically syncopated drumming, and a constantly growing technical savvy in its music, but don't even think of labeling this duo as math rock. If anything, the band embodies the spirit of 1970s prog icons such as Yes or King Crimson -- with surrealistic 1980s minimalism and gritty power-pop licks thrown in for good measure.
"The proggy things we definitely relate to. It's not even the themes in a lot of prog music, but the melodies. When I hear somebody shredding on a guitar or some crazy synth line, I always have wanted to do that," says Dodos guitars Meric Long, adding that his three siblings' affinity for '80s synth outfits like Depeche Mode and New Order adds some influence as well.
"It's young people's music," he adds, "and that make us feel young because we're still like two teenagers wanting to conquer the world with our riffs."
Long laughs at his final assessment -- The Dodos will fall short of world domination, though they have steadily built a fan base -- but truth be told, this duo (Long and drummer Logan Kroeber) crams powerful guitar work, layered drumming, and vocal nuance into each song. The pair continually pushes themselves to the musical precipice because simple pop songs aren't Dodos' songs.
"We always need to be challenged," Long says. "There's something in the way that Logan and I play our instruments that we have to feel technically challenged to make it a Dodos song. If I don't feel like I'm about to lose control, then I'm underwhelmed -- and that's not enough."
Long plays guitar like some spurned punk folkie, thrashing hard on his acoustic, but in a clean, technical fashion so that each note resonates with full power, clarity, and snapping definition. Kroeber imparts West African polyrhythmic values -- a steady propulsive fill -- on the kit, driving tempos to the edge, even on the slowest, emotion-laced numbers. Add Long's muted, Morrissey-meets-Ian Curtis vocal drone, and there's a seamless energy that resonates across each album. Individ is the band's most recent example.
"When we made Individ, we recorded 14 songs and the ones that we picked were the heaviest ones -- the most energetic ones; the ones I felt put the most energy across as clear as possible," Long says.
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"I think our songs have a funny thing. The more Dodos songs we make, the more complicated they get, but I think only to me and Logan," Long adds with a laugh. "From an objective point of view, they still sound sort of like pop songs, but to us, we feel like they are getting more and more complicated."
The energy of Individ is a positive one, coming immediately on the heels of Carrier, an album dedicated to and concerning the death of good friend and sometime bandmate Christopher Riemer. A darker, more brooding tone inhabited Carrier, but the making of Individ provided the duo a musical release. Rather than hit the road and tour Carrier, The Dodos stuck around the studio.
"We just put in more time to see what happened -- we didn't know we were making a record. It was just such a release that it came easy and ended up being an inspired record," Long says. "Carrier was like all this homework and studying -- we were very meticulous, very careful about the songs -- and this record was like the celebration party afterwards."
Now the party hits the road.
"And we're just figuring out how to pull it off live," Long says, laughing. "They're really hard songs!"
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