Unlike the flightless bird of the same name, the San Francisco duo known as the Dodos has persevered to outlast many peers.
“The more we work at it, the more we see what is possible,” says guitarist and singer Meric Long of his band’s longevity.
For a decade, Long and drummer Logan Kroeber have attracted a devoted following for their physical, rhythmic interplay: Long’s maniacal acoustic-guitar strumming unites with Kroeber’s intricate drum patterns to lift each other to a higher plateau. The result is a kinetic sound distinctly their own.
Yet Long concedes he has no control over how the music industry categorizes his band. “Labels are kind of a like a pet that is out of our control and it goes crazy on you,” says Long. “You can’t do anything about it. It was your pet, and now it’s run off into the wild, and it’s out of your control.”
This says a lot about Long and Kroeber’s musical partnership. They seem less concerned about outside distractions, instead focusing inward on each other’s strengths. Together they play with a visceral, reckless abandon that appears to give them each more power. Such musical inter-reliance may be the key to their resilience, as the two have experienced a few untimely events that would have derailed most ensembles.
After releasing four albums and touring nearly nonstop as a duo, the Dodos recruited Canadian guitarist Christopher Reimer to bring new sonic textures to their live shows on the No Color tour. The addition proved inspiring, and Long says he started considering ways to write new songs with Reimer. Whether they would be new Dodos material or something else, Long wasn’t yet sure. But he says he was certain he wanted to write new tracks with Reimer, excited to explore where it would take them as songwriters.
Then Reimer suddenly passed away in his sleep. Long and Kroeber looked to each other for strength. They flew to Calgary for the funeral in what Long described as an “intense” period in his life, and then returned to San Francisco to play the Noise Pop festival that same week. The two were already considering going on hiatus prior to the show, but then they reflected on the recent events.
“I was really looking forward to writing with Chris, and now he wasn’t there any more,” Long relates. “It felt like it would be weird to not do anything, especially after just going to the funeral and playing that show. It felt like we had to do something. After touring with Chris there were things that I really respected about him as a person and also as a musician. And I borrowed a lot of that. When I came home after that tour, I was messing around a lot with the electric guitar and sounds that he would get out of the guitar. Trying things out and trying to emulate things that he did, so when it came time to start writing another Dodos record, I had it in my mind that we’d make a record that he’d be stoked on.”
Long and Kroeber went on to record Carrier using many of these ideas. Asked if Reimer’s death influenced the album, Long emphasizes a distinction: Reimer’s musicianship rather than his passing influenced Carrier. “Before he passed away, I was trying to write parts that he would be excited about because I thought we’d be working on the record together. So after he passed away, I continued to do that. I wanted to make sure this was something he’d be into.”
In spite of Reimer’s death, he and Kroeber were so inspired making Carrier that they didn’t want the recording process to end when they finished it, and so immediately launched into the next album cycle. “I wanted to record more songs. It felt like we were just getting started,” says Long. “There were a lot of sounds and combinations of things—guitars and amps—that we were really happy with, and I wanted to write songs based on those sounds.” Despite not having any songs written, the Dodos returned to Tiny Telephone studio and rejoined with engineers Jay and Ian Pellicci to begin work on the band’s sixth and most recent album, Individ. Soon afterward, Long’s father passed away.
Describing the experience, Long pauses. “This record was really therapeutic. It was a relief of a lot of things in terms in what was going on with my dad at the time,” he says. “I kept a lot of the stuff that was going on in my personal life outside of the recording process. And it was good, because the recording process was really fun, and it was a time for me to not think about other stuff and focus on the task at hand, which was recording and making music.”
In light of everything, there’s still optimism in his voice. Most bands would have been defeated by the emotional strain of losing people so close to them during pivotal moments of their career. Yet for Long and Kroeber, the studio provided healing, and ultimately inspiration.
Finding solace in recording, Long had the time and space to work through his grief. Individ ’s lyrics point to darker themes on songs such as “Goodbyes and Endings,” where Long sings “Like a memory I remember only in this, goodbyes and endings.” Yet Long says the session was filled with happiness. “Making the record wasn’t a sad thing,” Long recently told the San Francisco Chronicle. “There was so much joy because we were having so much fun.”
He’s equally enthusiastic about incorporating the synths and electronic equipment his dad left for him in his future work with Kroeber. “He played synths and quietly had this hobby, and now it’s all ended up in my hands and it’s all sitting in a pile at my place,” says Long. “I’m excited to go home and learn how to use all this stuff. That’s the next thing for me.”
THE DODOS With Springtime Carnivore, Posse. Neumos, 925 E. Pike St., 709-9442, neumos.com. $15. 8 p.m. Wed., March 11.