Feeling 50/50 with The Dodos at Great American Music Hall

The Dodos
Photos by Justin Yee & Diana Cordero // Written by Molly Kish //

As The Dodos‘ Meric Long (vocals, guitar) and Logan Kroeber (drums, percussion) prepare for their first hometown show as a duo since 2007, they seem collected yet express that their sentiment is anything but.

Performing and recording for nearly a decade together, the two have produced six albums as well as various special releases and have had several friends and musicians join them in the studio and on their worldwide tour. Starting off the West Coast leg of dates debuting songs from Individ, they seem just as excited as they are nervous to be embarking on a full-scale junket promoting the new album.

Taking some time to speak about their band history, momentary reservations and songwriting process, The Dodos caught up with Showbams before their show at the Great American Music Hall, giving us a look inside their 50/50 mindset.

Showbams: This is the second stop of your North American tour this winter, and it’s the first time you’re debuting the new material off Individ. How are you feeling about doing that in front of your hometown audience?

Kroeber: I’m nervous. I was excited when we first got here. Now I’m nervous.

Long: You just made me nervous by telling me that. I was fine before you said that, but now when you know that 50 percent of you is nervous then …

Kroeber: You know what I’m nervous about really? It’s less performing the songs, and it’s more getting the merch set up in time. But my concerns are trivial. When we get to playing the songs, it’s fine. Last night we got to play a bunch of new stuff for the first time, and it was a blast.

Showbams: Well, you got one down. Now you’re amongst friends and family, so you’ve got a lot of support and it’s less stress with each date.

Long: Well, you would think that, but actually hometown shows are much more stressful for that exact reason.

The Dodos

Showbams: This also marks the first North American tour that you guys have been on since 2007 while performing as a duo. Was it hard to adjust your show for this tour, especially considering the difficult circumstances that brought about the move to play again as just a two-piece? (Editor’s Note: Previous touring member Chris Reimer passed away in 2012.)

Long: It’s usually harder to have someone come along with us because you have to teach them everything. It’s easier getting ready for the tour, but during the actual tour, we have to do a lot more because now there is only two of us. So yeah, it’s easier, but it’s also harder. Not a very profound answer there. I’m really on the 50/50 thing right now.

Kroeber: The big advantage we have, like Meric said, is that there is a lot more work that we have to put in. But once we start doing the shows, we are able to play pretty much anything we want to. We could have done it in the past, but having somebody else with us, we want to play all the stuff we put in the hard work to get them to learn. Now that it’s just the two of us, we can play anything we want. Also, we have a lot of songs as I have come to realize by looking at all the ones that we want to play. There is no way that we can even play those selected songs in one concert — it would be like five hours long. The setlist is actually kind of sad because you have to cut away all this stuff that you would have fun doing, but cream of the crop I guess.

Showbams: You guys chose to record Individ at John Vanderslice’s Tiny Telephone, which was also the same recording studio you laid down Carrier. Was there any other motivation besides the sound quality and production to record there again?

Long: Yeah, actually the guy who’s doing sound tonight recorded the record with his brother. We just became good buddies by the end of making Carrier. It was really about that good relationship that we just wanted to capitalize on. So, outside of it being a great studio, they obviously have a good thing going on over there. It was like, “Well, we just made some new friends, and we want to spend more time with them.”

The Dodos

Showbams: Speaking of friends, also present on the album are vocal contributions from Brigid Dawson of Thee Oh Sees and Mina Choi of Magik*Magik Orchestra. What prompted you to ask them to be involved in the album?

Kroeber: Well, their talents speak for themselves, but I think it’s super cool that we got Mina singing on the album because she is known as a composer and arranger. She was doing arrangement for our album Color, made demos vocally in GarageBand and she has just got an amazing voice. Meric arranged it I think. I don’t really remember the lead up to it. We were just like, “She’s coming in, and now she’s singing all this crazy stuff!” We knew she had a great voice back then, but she’s just not as well-known for it and I think she will start to be soon.

Showbams: How was it having their influence in the studio and bringing their talents to the table?

Long: It was a much-needed break in the sausage fest that is making a Dodos record. They were both really different. Mina is a real technical performer, like she writes all of her crazy parts in her head beforehand. She’s more of an instrument in the way that she sings. Then Brigid came in, and she is really funny because she has got like this crazy voice but is super modest. She is almost unaware of what she truly has. She would go in the recording room and be like, “Oh, hi. How does it sound?” in her British accent (laughs). That’s a terrible British accent, but yeah, she would sing this crazy part and come back in like, “Did I do OK?”

The Dodos

Showbams: Your sound is one that is incredibly unique and is solidified by your unique musical backgrounds as well as the alternative ways you guys play your instruments. Logan, you play a kit that is usually absent of a base drum and have a tambourine strapped to your foot. Meric, you play an array of modified guitars as well as have a background in West African drumming?

Long: Yeah, we don’t really like to talk about that.

Kroeber: Also, I hate to burst your bubble, whereas everything you did say about my drumming is true, but now they’ve been subsumed into this greater kit that looks very regular now. I still play weird, but the kit does include a kick drum and the tambourine foot has turned into a hi-hat with a tambourine. So, from a distance, it looks like any other boring drum set, which is kind of sad, but I can do more stuff with it now.

Showbams: How did you guys start playing your instruments that way, and is there any more odd instrumentation that you guys introduced into the songwriting process on the new record?

Kroeber: It started that way because Meric had his EP that he made back in 2005, when he had started messing around with clattery percussion on there. So, when I met him, he had those songs and I learned how to play them, but it was really minimal. I only had a snare drum and a floor tom, and I played shows with him like that, just like nothing. I got to where it is now by starting with almost nothing, and then I would add like another drum and tambourine just as needed. Until now, I need everything, just not on every song. So, mainly it started as serving the percussion needs of Meric’s songwriting. We don’t want to turn down any opportunity for a cool addition to that palette of sounds, but I’m also such a minimalist when it comes to touring, I don’t want to add a bunch of stuff to just have to take around with me. It’s hard. I don’t want to not add something just for the sake of keeping it minimal on stage, but on the other hand, I do want to do that completely. You just have to skirt that line like, “Do I really need this? Is it worth it? Can I just hit this instead?” In the studio, we bang on whatever we can get our hands on. That’s why it’s fun to do stuff with Magik*Magik. They just bring the kitchen sink with them, and we can do our thing.

The Dodos

Taking the stage that night, The Dodos were greeted by a packed house full of friends, family and fans alike. Following a strong opening set from Springtime Carnivor, aka singer-songwriter Greta Morgan, Meric and Logan rocked the headlining slot absent of any nerves we had touched upon before the show. Watching them run through their setlist of material spanning the band’s entire body of work, the two played off their noticeable excitement and natural chemistry together.

Peering over the crowd from the upstairs balcony, you could physically see how the audience was affected by each individual track. Reacting to the material both old and new, the audience’s reception was triggered by various songs, including a surprise “Competition” duet with Dawson to close out the evening. While the band communicated their insecurities before the show, acknowledging that touring North America as just a duo would be a daunting task at times, seeing them command the stage as a pair again was as refreshing as it was nostalgic and truly brought an intimacy to the performance that could have easily gotten overshadowed with a larger ensemble on stage.

The Dodos’ magnetism as songwriters and performers is truly exemplified as a duo, refocusing their audience’s attention on the skill and level of technical difficulty they master both as individuals and in their 50/50 mindset.


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    Feeling 50/50 with The Dodos at Great American Music Hall – Showbams

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