LOGAN KROEBER got into the Portland swing of things when his band, the Dodos, recorded their latest album here.
"I had a whole routine going, and it was fucking awesome," the drummer says. "I borrowed a bike from my friend Amanda. It was so rad: The weather was so good, I could bike back and forth all day and go meet up with people. Riding the bike path by the river, every day and every night, crossing the bridges. Watching all the red and black caterpillars scurry across the bike path and trying not to hit them in the morning. It was great," Kroeber says. "I definitely had many a morning where I set out, turned on the iPod, got on the bike, and started biking to the studio, and thought, 'Yes! I love my job right now.'"
It wasn't the first time the Dodos had recorded at Portland's Type Foundry Studio—the San Francisco band recorded their first two full-lengths there as well—but the sessions, which stretched from August to October of last year, marked the longest period of time they'd worked on a single album, resulting in the new No Color, the Dodos' fourth album. It also marked a reunion with Portland producer John Askew, who'd met Dodos guitarist/songwriter Meric Long back in 2005, when Askew's band Tracker did a short tour with Long, then performing as a solo artist.
Around that same time, Long began gigging as Dodo Bird, then joined forces with Kroeber to perform a brand of folk that incorporated Long's background in dexterous metal shredding—translated, with stunning effect, to acoustic guitar—and Kroeber's percussive style of drumming, derived from a range of African styles with a wide range of dynamics. Eventually the duo began calling themselves the Dodos, and their unique and intricate style of music contained elements of familiar folk songwriting, played with urgency and speed, and an underlying current of experimentalism. Their second album, 2008's Visiter, broke through to a larger audience, and for 2009's Time to Die—recorded without Askew—the pair brought on vibraphonist Keaton Snyder.
Snyder parted ways after the recording of No Color. It was determined during the mixing process that the band needed to progress in a different direction. "I remember when Meric first brought it up," Kroeber says. "It wasn't like a total shocker to me, but I was kind of like, 'Wow... what are we going to do instead?' But when we were starting to mix some stuff and we pulled out a bunch of the vibraphone, we were like, 'Yeah it does sound better here and here.' I mean, there's still a bunch of vibraphone on the record, but not half as much as there was. Nothing against Keaton: He's a hard-working maniac, he's a super talented guy, he was playing drums and vibraphone at the same time onstage, and he's amazing. But I really dig this new direction.
"And he was looking at it the same way. He was a hired gun when we first got him, and he just stuck around for a while, and did a good job, and then it was time to move on," Kroeber adds.
No Color contains the most involving Dodos music since the excellent Visiter; it also marks a shift toward a more melodic sound that is perhaps not as reliant on their percussive, rapid-strumming interplay. The Dodos enlisted Neko Case to sing on the album, and to allow for the thicker sound of the new material, the duo has added a second guitarist for live dates.
"There is something totally different that's hard to put my finger on," Kroeber says of the new record. "There's a lot of different ways that I could look at it. There's fucking totally insane, really proggy, really fast, really uptempo songs. But what I think I like most about the record is that it introduces a new tempo for us. Before, Meric had songs that he would sing by himself and then the songs that he'd play with me. So it kind of got to this fever pitch: We were just playing gnarly song after gnarly song. But on the new record, we've got jams like 'When Will You Go,' 'Companions,' and 'Sleep' that I think are really awesome songs and really interesting. It's a new speed for us. It's not just fast and slow. Now, I'm sure you could go back to the other records and find things that are exactly the same and prove me wrong, but that's how I feel about it right now."