As a drummer, Brann Dailor makes even the most complex songs seem simple. As the rhythm machine behind progressive metal titans Mastodon, however, it's obvious the apparent ease is a product of enormous skill and loads of practice.
But when singing is added to Dailor's to-do list, things get much hairier, and even the accomplished musician is forced to admit it can be a struggle.
"It takes a lot of energy to play Mastodon songs anyway, so when I'm singing, too, I get out of breath," Dailor says. "I try to space the songs, be smart about it, not playing too many songs in a row that one person sings. But there are some songs that are extremely hard to play that I sing on."
After 14 years and six stellar albums, it would seem Dailor has a tight handle on his dual duties, but the truth is more complicated. Due to the complex nature of Mastodon's entire canon, everyone in the band plays dual roles. Dailor says those responsibilities and the desire to continually progress add a lot of pressure to the writing and performing processes.
"We sort of felt that it was taking its toll on certain band members," says Dailor. "It's all about taking control of your voice, being smart. Take a couple of voice lessons, learn how to treat your voice right, warm up. Singing and playing drums - it's not easy. You just try to pick your spots where you think you can sing, and not sing over parts that are incredibly hard to play. I guess I should take my own advice."
Lately, however, the focus from the outside has been less on Mastodon's music and more on a particular video the band released a few weeks ago for the single "The Motherload." The five-minute video starts not unlike any other heavy metal video, with cryptic imagery featuring chains, sorcery, and other vaguely biblical themes.
But less than a minute in, things take a turn. Twerking black women fill the screen, shaking their posteriors in slow motion, ultimately replacing the mundane, dark visuals. The scene eventually evolves into a psychedelic dance party.
It's funny, as it clearly was meant to be. But upon its release, the Internet lit up with vocal opposition to the video. Some claimed the use of scantily clad dancers was sexist, misogynistic, and generally in poor taste.
Dailor, on the other hand, says the video accomplished exactly what it was meant to.
"It's been a hot topic, for sure," he says. "We figured it would be. It's a different kind of video for a metal band. The idea was to catch people off guard."
As for the allegations that Mastodon exploited women by featuring booty-heavy dancing, Dailor is unapologetic. He says "The Motherload" piece was made in jest and doesn't even come close to objectifying the women it features
"I think it's a knee-jerk reaction," Dailor says. "I don't think a lot of these people watched the video. They need to look up the definition of 'sexist' in the dictionary and see what it says. It's almost the other way."
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He has a point. The dancers are not grinding on band members or other men in the video. The band members play in the background in some scenes but otherwise don't interact with the women in any way. And for what it's worth, the featured dancers have come to Mastodon's defense, echoing the band's take on the intent and execution of the video.
"The girls are in complete control," Dailor says. "If you watch the video, we're not even looking at the girls. It's just them. We had a lot of fun, and the girls did, too."