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Carrier: Life, Death And The Dodos

Thursday, 21 November 2013 Written by Huw Baines

For Meric Long and Logan Kroeber, ‘Carrier’ is more than just another Dodos record. Released in August through Polyvinyl, it’s a solemn collection, one that weds their expert, unusual musicianship with the process of overcoming the death of close friend and collaborator Christopher Reimer.

Reimer, mercurial guitarist with Canadian noise-rock band Women, toured with the band during 2011 but died in his sleep a matter of months later, aged 26. He left an indelible mark on the Dodos, his influence driving them into new territory and awakening a collaborative desire in Long.

His creative juices flowing, Long began to look at a new project alongside Reimer as a viable option. But then, that idea was snatched away. The intervening months found Long and Kroeber channelling their competing emotions into ‘Carrier’, a complicated record that highlights the pair’s technical prowess and a heavy thematic load.

“We had a formula of writing songs which worked, and it’s certainly not exhausted itself completely, but at the time I was really hungry for something different,” Long said. “The natural thing would be to start another project, start something completely new, but when Chris passed away it brought me and Logan together, just in terms of having to get together and go up to his funeral in Calgary.

“It just felt like we had to do something. It would have been weird to just stop right there. I think we were both fired up and knew that. It ended up being a Dodos record but I guess it could have been something else.”

‘Carrier’ is a slight detour from the paths the band have chosen since 'Beware Of The Maniacs' arrived in 2006. Long’s guitars are largely electric and the compositions often densely layered, their various peaks only visible after repeat visits. Prior to release, the band were aware that its charms wouldn’t be identifiable to everyone who’d enjoyed their previous work. They ended up being pleasantly surprised.

“I didn’t know if people would get it, or if people would really take the time to listen to it,” Long said. “The only concern you have nowadays as a recording artist is that when you work on something, you want people to get it. Even if they don’t like it, it’s ok as long as they don’t misunderstand it or think that it’s something that it’s not.

“It’s people reading into it in certain ways, and understanding things that we certainly didn’t consciously think about while making the record. It feels good to be understood that way, you know? It feels like you’re doing something right when people read into it and make accurate observations instead of saying ridiculous stuff that makes you want to take a shower.”

Long’s efforts on ‘Carrier’ are some of the best of his career and his playing has undoubtedly been influenced by Reimer, someone with a different but compatible method. The record is, in fact, less about death than it is Reimer’s life and influence.

“It [his style] was more on my mind before he passed,” Long said. “We were planning to do some collaborating and I had been really inspired by seeing him play and touring with him. I was already trying to get some of those tones out of an electric and write a song that way. His way of songwriting was really different to mine and I wanted to try that out in hopes of getting a new approach to songwriting.

“When he passed it was almost like I turned that off. I didn’t want to try and leech that consciously. To have that in my mind would have just been wrong and weird. I just pushed it away but there’s definitely moments on the record that wouldn’t have come about if hadn’t been in our lives. Even if it wasn’t consciously done. He sort of popped in my thoughts, occasionally.”

Underpinning Long and Kroeber on this record, as they did on ‘No Color’, are the Magik*Magik Orchestra, a made-to-order, malleable troupe of San Francisco musicians led by founder and music director, Minna Choi. Long’s view on strings, just like his take on guitars, is an interesting one and on ‘Carrier’ he pushed ahead in collaborating more freely with Choi.

“I was actually planning on doing a whole project with Minna by sending her stuff,” Long said. “When this was going to be a Dodos record and started to take shape more and more, I still had that in the back of my mind. I can send her stuff and she’ll come up with something, nine times out of 10, that will make it better. I wanted to incorporate that.

“I still think of strings, probably because of the way she writes them, as another percussive element. I know that strings can be characterised as heavy, or make a song more dramatic, and I’m sure that’s probably the case on this record, but it’s more the rhythmic elements that excite me. The last song on the record, that’s the best example of what happens when there’s more of a collaboration between the band and her. On The Ocean, the song was being written as she was involved. It took on its own shape.”


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