The Dodos “Jodi”
The Dodos’ Visiter (released earlier this year on French Kiss) was enthusiastically beloved by mass portions of international humanity. Meric Long speaks with Chesney Higgins from some crazy place on tour.
Is the ‘e’ instead of the ‘o’ spelling for Visiter from the French verb to visit?
Meric Long (guitar): I never thought of it that way—wow. That’s really profound. I, uh—no! The reason it’s misspelled is because it’s from a drawing this kid gave us. We played a show for a bunch of kids in South Central L.A.—Dorothy High. A friend’s sister is a special-ed teacher there, so we went down there to her class and we played for the kids and it was super fun. Then it came to the kids asking us questions and then one of the kids came up to us and he gave us a drawing with that written on it. The drawing is the cover actually of the album, and just—I dunno we liked it. Actually we used all of the drawings that the kids made in the artwork on the album. It was definitely a fun, interesting venture for us. We’d never played for kids before—we didn’t know what to expect but they were like clapping and dancing. They were pretty stoked. It was super fun.
When you’re a kid, you think that’s gonna happen every week, you know—‘Teacher, when is the fun band coming back?’
Maybe we’ll go back—we had a great time. Maybe if we run out of artwork. No, I didn’t just say that! Just kidding.
Where did you record Visiter?
In Portland, Oregon at this studio called Type Foundry. We recorded our first record there—Beware the Maniacs—with the same guy, and it’s basically a warehouse space that was converted into a studio? It’s got a really specific, unique sound to it. And there’s a bunch of instruments there, like great old instruments that we used. This studio has a more home-y feel. I don’t know if you’ve ever been in a professional studio but there’s a certain…it’s very….um…
Clinical. Yes. Thank you. Clinical. There’s carpet everywhere—kind of freaks me out.
Yeah, kind of freaks me out. In San Francisco, there was kind of a building that was going to be torn down, and this guy that owned it, he let me and my buddies stay super cheap. So I had this great idea to tear down the living room and make a sound studio and put up like, egg cartons, you know? And I got this carpet from just like an old rug-slash-carpet factory. And this carpet—oh God, it smelled so bad. You can’t imagine. I went to this carpet store: ‘Do you have any extra stuff you’re not gonna use?’ And it was all this old carpet—like God KNOWS what’s in there, hidden inside all these little fibers! I was just so hell-bent on soundproofing this room! I lived there two years and I played there—no joke—like three or four times, it smelled so bad. I don’t even wanna talk about it.
How did you guys find one another?
My old roommate’s cousin is Logan. And he set us up on a blind date. No, he just got Logan to come to one of my shows and we were both looking for other people to play with. I actually invited him to play in the stinky carpet room—we jammed a couple of times. It was more of a metal jam session. He played one of my shows, like one drum on one song, then one drum on three songs. And it slowly eventually got to where we’re at now.
And you had been studying African drumming?
I did for a little bit. This guy Phil—this drum master at Cal Arts, he taught me. We would play together and he would teach me various parts. Yeah, I was actually looking for a metal drummer. I was looking for someone who could be really syncopated with what I was doing. I was imagining double bass with acoustic guitar. I’m really rhythmically centered. I think more about rhythm than anything else. Also with the African drumming, I was doing Balinese gamelan, too. It’s like a traditional music that they play in Bali and also there’s an Indonesian version. It’s super old and usually accompanies dancing, and the instruments are really particular to that type of music. There’s like three sets of xylophone type instruments—like four people would play it. The notes actually don’t exist in western music—it’s between the black and the white keys on a piano. There’s only like 5 or 6 tones on the scale, but the harmonies, when you put them together—it’s really trance-like. It’s like all these notes that exist but…I dunno? So we had all these bell-type instruments and then the drums, which are like the lead instrument. It’s like a huge ensemble, and all these bells like Dong! Dongg! Dong! Donggg! And the drummer would keep time with it—be like the lead. With this band, I wanted the guitar to be the time keeper and the drums to do a lot of the talking and a lot of the fancy footwork.
Have you ever been to Coachella before?
I went like—I guess it was the first year. It was hotter than FUCK.
THE DODOS WITH THE AKRON/FAMILY BAND PLUS LITTLE BROTHER, KRAFTWERK, DWIGHT YOAKAM, ANIMAL COLLECTIVE, COLD WAR KIDS AND MANY MORE ON SAT., APRIL 26, AT COACHELLA AT THE EMPIRE POLO FIELD, 81-800 AVE. 51, INDIO. 11 AM / $90-$269 / ALL AGES. COACHELLA.COM. VISIT THE DODOS AT DODOSMUSIC.NET.