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The Dodos Interview

Written by Chris Rolls   
Friday, 24 October 2008 05:15
Our music editor, Chris Rolls, catches this 3 piece band before they head off for more world touring.

There is an instantly disarming quality to the gentlemen who make up The Dodos. Perhaps it is because we have met on a few other occasions, the last being a daze of drunkenness alongside fellow San Franciscans The OhSees and NRSZ in Austin for SXSW. Or maybe it is because The Dodos are genuinely nice young men. Singer/guitarist Meric Long arrives first at our meeting spot, the Transbay Terminal in downtown San Francisco. Soon we are joined by drummer, Logan Kroeber, and the latest addition to the group, multi-instrumentalist Joe Haener (formally of Gris Gris).

The Dodos: Joe Haener, Meric Long, & Logan Kroeber

The terminal seemed an appropriate meeting place as it embodies a decrepit charm reminiscent of music created by The Dodos. As the photo shoot gets underway, I mention to Meric that this terminal will soon be demolished to make way for a 110-story super modern structure that will fold into the rapidly ascending San Francisco skyline. Suddenly the structure's art deco charms surface amongst the homeless sitting on the rows of antiquated wooden sitting. We both seem to breathe it all in with a heightened awareness of impending change.

After an attempt at snapping photos in an old phone booth we are busted by security and asked to leave, which we obligingly do.

After dodging the office happy hour crowd at a few financial district watering holes, we decide upon the Gold Dust Lounge on Powell Street. With our destination in mind, Meric speeds off, cutting corners and jumping yellow lights to get there as quickly as possible. The rest of us trail behind. I comment on Meric's pace. "He is always like this," Logan assures me. "This is why I say he has the brain of a lobster," Logan pauses then continues: "Lobsters are fucking stupid, but they have an amazing sense of direction."

When we arrive at the Gold Dust, Meric has already scored us a window seat, and has made his way to the restroom.

Logan finishes discussing his quest to enter the pro rankings on Wii golf, a task he appears determined to complete before heading back on tour. Joe, on the other hand, says very little, but emanates an advanced aura of calmness once a beer is placed before him.

Once Meric returns and everyone has adjusted, the conversation takes a decidedly foul turn. Exactly how the topic of colonoscopy and colon cleansing arose is a mystery, but soon an enthusiastic debate about the merits of colon therapy erupts. "I know a couple that does it together" Logan says without a hint of humor. "If you are cleaning out your shit with your lover maybe your relationship should be over" adds an obviously bothered Meric.

From colonics the topic switches to pre-show rituals. "We like to sing 'Temple of the Dog,'" states Meric, "it helps loosen up the voice." Then, without skipping a beat, each person at the table begins singing "Hunger Strike," but of course no one can recall the lyrics verbatim. Logan tries, but gives up after "but it's on the table," which becomes the song's impenetrable point. In fact, the only line anyone can sing for certain is "I don't mind stealing bread / from the mouths of decadence."

After dedicating a solid five minutes to Eddie Vedder's masculine growl, the boys appear ready to discuss The Dodos. The band has been touring almost non-stop for the past year. In 2007 they released Visitor, an album that has received universal praise. It is hard not to fall for the album. Long's vocals are instantly endearing, the lyrics emotive, and the music a blend of bygone jangle backed by Tupperware-tight percussion.

But, rather than jump right into the band, the conversation detours into chairs and ritualistic behaviors developed on the road. All the while, newbie Joe just sits and watches, so it seemed only appropriate to lead in with who this dude is!

Fecal Face: Well first off, it is apparent that once there were two and now there are three. When did you decide to add a third member, and why this motherfucker?

Meric: He is the face of the band.

Logan: He is the only one who stands, so people see him more than anyone else.

Fecal Face: Oh right, you two are seated most of the time...

Logan: Yes, so in clubs with low stages people only see Joseph, sometimes.

Fecal Face: Since you are seated most of the time, are there chairs in your rider - do you have a specific type you like to sit on?

Meric: No, I have sat on everything from amp cases and stools to like, umm...what was the building you were talking about earlier that looks like the thing you stick up your ass?

Fecal Face: What...building in my ass?

Logan: (laughing hysterically)

Meric: (laughs) Why can I not think of the word...oh, a suppository! I was sitting on these little orange suppositories that I had to balance on. I like to sit on anything that is at least the length of my legs.

Logan: No, arms. I used to play on anything as well, but last time we went out I finally bought a drum stool, and that has been very good because before I ended up on shit that was all angled, and jumped around on me. I have sat on Meric's guitar amp before, and fucked up all his settings...

Meric: Yeah, like in the middle of a set all the sudden the distortion just goes all fucking crazy. Actually it's weird for me how important what I sit on has become. We were in Brighton and I spent like 15 minutes walking around looking for the perfect thing to sit on.

Fecal Face: Why is it so important?

Meric: Because it can totally fuck up my mojo.

Fecal Face: Well you have been touring a lot, so have you noticed your individual neurosis developing?

Logan: For sure. Before I got my own seat it was routine to show up and scope out the chair situation. Now I am more focused on whether or not there are towels.

Meric: Seriously. I think you would welt and die without the towels.

Fecal Face: Why?

Logan: I am sweaty. I sweat more than both of you combined.

Joe: I have seen that actually.

Logan: I sweat - C&C Music Factory over here. So yeah, I gotta towel up, that is my particular neurosis. I get paranoid and sticky if I cannot towel off my arms. My hands get really sweaty, so I have to grip my sticks tighter so I don't drop them, which would be a big mistake. That is like my fear on stage is dropping a stick.

Fecal Face: But it is common!

Logan: I have not dropped a stick in years.

Fecal Face: Wow. That is impressive. Can you back this up?

Meric: That he hasn't dropped a stick? Yeah. I can think of one instance, and when it has happened it is like, "whoa!"

Fecal Face: What about you gentlemen - any neuroses? I mean we covered the chair.

Meric: Probably my strings. I have to change my strings a lot. Like when I go to sleep if I haven't changed my strings then I have to. It sucks when I break a string because it always happens on this one song, "Fools." I just hate that feeling when you break a string and there is all this attention on you...

Fecal Face: When everyone is just watching you?

Meric: Or they are just waiting.

Fecal Face: Right, like you are not giving them their money's worth.

Meric: (laughs) Yeah, that is my biggest concern. On the other hand Joe is like the king of dropping sticks. I don't think there is one show where Joe has not dropped a stick.

Joe: No, I throw them.

Meric: I don't know what happens, but all of the sudden out my peripheral vision I just always see fucking sticks flying off stage.

Joe: It's because when I am playing the trash can I have to throw them down, but occasionally I do drop them. Usually I am just discarding them - tossing them to the side.

Fecal Face: Because they no longer suit your needs?

Joe: No, because I am playing the trash can, then I have to rush back to the vibes.

Meric: Actually I just realized another thing is not to drink beer within a certain time period before playing because I will keep belching while I am singing.

Fecal Face: Or large quantities of cocaine?

Meric: I have yet to do that, but I kind of want to.

Panache: The drug itself?

Meric: No, the combo. I have never played a show on drugs with this band.

Fecal Face: Do you smoke weed or another drug routine, aside from drinking before playing?

Logan: I was with a friend at Treasure Island [Music Festival] who ran into Devendra Banhart. He said the policy is if one of them is going to smoke weed then the whole band has to, and I feel like that is kind our policy. I do not want to go on stage being the only stoned person, but if we all were then it would be totally cool. I will definitely play Wii at home stoned, like that is a-ok, but if I am going to play music I do not want to be the only one going for the cosmos.

Meric: We are about to go on tour with this band on the east coast, and they smoke a lot of weed, and I kind of want to do this whole tour totally stoned.

Logan: Let's do it!

Meric: No, I am totally serious about it. Like I been smoking weed this whole week just to get ready. Smoking weed and playing used to be synonymous with me, but with this band I feel like the responsibilities are like, too great for my stoned mind.

Fecal Face: Can you elaborate on the responsibilities?

Meric: There is a lot going on...singing and playing.

Fecal Face: What about in the studio? Do you keep it clean?

Meric: We did both records pretty sober. I did like a few vocal tracks, like on whiskey (laughs).

Logan: (still laughing) I remember going out, getting the whiskey, and it was like bringing a foreign substance into the studio. It is usually just food and coffee.

Fecal Face: We were talking about Treasure Island earlier, and the entire festival thing...now that the Dodos have been pushed into the festival circuit what is your general feeling about it?

Meric: One thing I have to say about festivals for us is that we played a bunch in Europe, and like half the people would leave while we were playing. At first it was like "aw fuck!" I feel like we are not made for the festival circuit - it works better in clubs. I feel like a lot of people at festivals are like checking shit out.

Fecal Face: Like window shopping?

Meric: A little bit. It is harder to create a vibe at the show. At first it was like, we're playing this big festival, you know, we have to get some fireworks, and fucking...I mean not really, but at first playing the festivals was exciting!

Fecal Face: Right, like cages and girls dancing. But I guess the label did not want to kick down for that.

Logan: I think that we are definitely not a band that can throw down a bunch of hits and satisfy a raging public, but the whole atmosphere at festivals is pretty entertaining. It is like a little city that is dedicated to throwing a party, and there is another little city for the artists where they give you food and drink. It is a fun little thing, and it's summertime in Europe, you know, why not? But I don't know, compared to some other bands that we saw I don't know if it is our thing in particular...but it was fun. I got to see a lot of music, which is an upside -- since we play a lot of shows in clubs, we do not get to see a wide variety.

Fecal Face: And at the festivals you get to meet a lot of people?

Logan: If you are lucky!

Meric: We got to see some crazy bands...like we played after Faust. Like the debris from the sheets that they chopped with a chain-saw was all over the stage when we got on...

Logan: Yeah, and a bucket full of grass that they tossed everywhere, and guys with brooms sweeping it all up before we could put our shit down.

Meric: I would never in a million years have guessed that would happen - that we would be playing the same stage, let alone right after Faust.

Fecal Face: I am noticing some self-deprecation, which is odd because you are being invited to play these festivals. People obviously like your music. Visitor is popular, and certainly with critics.

Meric: (laughs) I don't get it.

Fecal Face: Really? You do not get it? Is there no internal awareness in regards to the popularity of your music?

Logan: Festivals create a false image. It's like here is the stage, here are the people, and it seems like you are bigger than you are. There were people there to see us, people were enjoying it, and some people didn't know us, but it's false...like it is a fucking U2 concert or something. It looks like more than we are.

Meric: It doesn't really say anything about where you are. We didn't earn that.

Fecal Face: What do you mean you didn't earn it! You have been playing a ton of fucking shows and great music.

Logan: It is just a big fucking jump. It is like there is no way of working your way up, it's like you are either in or you are out. It is not like you can go House of Shields, Edinburgh Castle, Cafe du Nord...it's like there are festivals, and then there's not. It's like they need to keep making money, and we snuck in the door. It feels a little weird.

Fecal Face: Would you play state fairs? I think they got it all wrong - you should have to play state fairs, then All Tomorrow's Parties.

Logan: Right. State fairs first, get some shit thrown at you, and then you earn your stripes, and get to play somewhere cool.

Fecal Face: Alright, more serious questions. What is happening with recording a new album?

Meric: We are going to record it starting in March.

Fecal Face: Right, because you are on tour pretty much until then.

Meric: Right. We are on tour pretty much until next January.

Fecal Face: Since you have been touring so much do you think you will continue living in San Francisco?

Logan: Perhaps. I have been struggling with that for a while, but I live with my girlfriend, so I can't just like bail out and put all my shit into storage.

Meric: We have been talking about Montana.

Fecal Face: Why Montana?

Logan: Place is dope man.

Fecal Face: I guess if you are touring most of the time it doesn't really matter where you hang your hat.

Meric: Well I grew up in the Bay Area, so I have a lot of friends, so this definitely feels like home to me.

Logan: There was a while after touring the states where I was looking at places we had been, and thought about moving to a place I never thought I would...like North Carolina. But after going pass that I miss the Bay Area. Like coming home after our last trip to Europe I could see the Bay Area from the airplane, like landing in South San Francisco...it felt really good to be home. I intend to stay here as long as possible.

Fecal Face: So, one last question. I had never read any of your press until today, and it seems that everyone went over your one-sheet and mentioned West African drumming, which is hysterical, but when you read that does it make you think that press is lazy, and that it gives off this ethno-rapist Paul Simon impression of your music that is unnecessary?

Logan: I feel like there is a lot of defensive back-tracking on our part, like they are taking it too far, and then I'm thinking how to better write the next one so that the regurgitation factor is lessened.

Fecal Face: So you wrote your one-sheet?

Logan: Well, it was a group effort.

Meric: Our label was like just write up some information, blah blah blah, and like I wrote it and sent it off. I was like no one is ever going to read this shit, it doesn't matter, but then it was everywhere.

Fecal Face: Regurgitated?

Logan: Exactly, regurgitated.


Interview conducted by the Fecal Face Music Editor, Chris Rolls - chris(at)fecalface.com
Photography by Dave Franklin

Go and see The Dodos this Summer. They're playing all over Europe, Australia including here in San Francisco at Bimbos on Thursday Nov. 6th with Kelley Stoltz... Check their Myspace page and watch the great video for their song Fools below:

Fools - directed by Matt Amato

*this interview is simultaneously being run in Panache Magazine {moscomment}

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