It would be tough to call it straight-forward folk. But, for all of his sonic tinkerings, The Dodos frontman Meric Long has constructed tunes that are devoid of many bells and whistles (save for a few vocal loops) and have an unmistakable honesty and humility that's refreshing in a genre that has bred more than its fair share of uppity musicians.
The lack of ornamentation, according to Long, helps keep the live show from sounding alien to those who have heard his albums. “I try not to get too carried away with production when recording,” Long explains. “I don't want our songs to be identical live to the way they sound on the record, but most of our songs are conceived in a live situation, and I don't want to stray from that platform.”
Adding a drummer (Logan Kroeber) with a metal background is a testament to Long's flexibility as an artist. The decision has paid dividends, as evidenced by the peppier, more engaging tracks on The Dodos’ debut release, Beware of the Maniacs, as compared to Long's previous solo work. The addition has also allowed Long to break into new musical territory. “This started as a solo project and it’s become more of a band thing where different influences start to show up more and more,” Long says. “One of our new songs is a total reminder of the days I used to listen to OMD and Erasure. I would have never guessed that would’ve happened.”
Before he teamed up with Kroeber, Long had already drawn comparisons to sensitive, folky staples like Elliot Smith and Nick Drake, largely due to his candid delivery and a sort of unforced innocence and casual self-awareness.
Long often breaks up the songs with fairly lengthy finger-picking episodes where he attacks his guitar strings, seeming anxious to try out a new skill. These interludes also provide hints that Long holds back a lot of his technical skill in most portions of his songs, especially the verses and choruses, preferring to keep things simple, maintaining much of the focus on the vocals.
Although the Dodos are, as of now, unsigned, they are on the bill for the upcoming South By Southwest music festival in March and have received heaps of praise from Bay Area publications and online zines. You can see what all the fuss is about on Saturday, Jan. 27, when the Dodos join the Lowlights and Mei Long for a free, 21-and-over show at Burt’s Tiki Lounge.