(MERIC LONG OF THE DODOS)
(MERIC LONG OF THE DODOS)
It has been over two years since indie rock duo The Dodos have dropped new music, and the break may have obscured the band’s lead singer and guitarist Meric Long almost beyond recognition on his first solo offering as FAN on the upcoming 7-inch release Fire b/w Disappear, set for this Friday (Nov. 3) via Polyvinyl Records.
The new project is a solo supplement to Long’s work in The Dodos and serves as a personal challenge for the guitarist as he explores several unfamiliar sonic territories, including home recording and a host of new sounds provided by synthesizers left from his late father.
“He left behind a couple synthesizers, and I sort of started messing with them,” Long tells Billboard. “When I started putting together the songs I had this library of like samples...and those came from literally just sitting in my garage and playing weird drone music for hours.”
This was a major difference in approach to songwriting for Long, who has collaborated with percussionist Logan Kroeber as The Dodos since 2005 and over the course of six studio albums, the latest being 2015’s Individ. Although some changes were inherent from Long using synths to build the melodies in place of guitar, others were more intentional departures.
“My approach to guitar is really percussive and everything is about the attack, so this is kind of the opposite,” Long notes about the composition of the new songs. “That was sort of the gateway into what dictates these songs being together....they all started on a different point than how a Dodos song would start.“
The contrast is immediately apparent on the lead single “Fire,” which arrived in late September. In place of the folk flourishes and tangible instrumentation is a driving drum machine beat that leads the song into a jarring-but-ultimately pleasing mix of guitar and synthesizer. It’s the perfect transitional track as Long compromises his band’s crunchy, aggressive tendencies with FAN’s more retro, ethereal synths.
“I want things to have a strong impact, so I was always trying to squeak more bite out of the synthesizers,” he admits.
The FAN project has developed under a period of massive changes and uncertainty for Long, who has become a father himself and kept a relatively low profile since The Dodos’ last record. This time away allowed Long to step back from the grind and observe the world around him with a fresh perspective. This mindset helps to understand the simplicity of the project’s inception and namesake, as it came from Long hearing the irreproducible rhythm of “a broken fan” in a taqueria bathroom in Spain.
“I recorded it and I made a sample of it and I did a bunch of stuff to it, but to me that was an eye-opening moment of ‘Oh, the human can’t produce that’ and that’s really inspiring to hear and to work with,” Long says.
The project came together naturally as more ideas and sounds presented themselves to Long. As the B-side to his upcoming 7-inch, “Disappear” came about from “hours of singing to a baby and trying to keep myself entertained.” With its dreamy synth melody and delicate build that warbles to an elaborate soundscape, one can imagine Long pacifying his audience to the cold, isolating aspects of a new world.
Both “Fire” and “Disappear” showcase an artist brimming with the passion of unrestricted creative expression. The experience seems to have a positive impact on Long as well, as he proudly claims it “ was really great to not have an idea of what this was going to be...to just throw a bunch of stuff on there and sort of like sculpt it into a song.”
FAN should not be misinterpreted as Long itching to break out on his own, with the guitarist insisting, “I don’t think of it in those terms.” However, he ensures that his days of boundary-pushing will continue “regardless of whether it leaves my garage or not.”