The art of pouring your emotions onto a slab of vinyl has handcuffed more than a few musicians, over the course of music history. But for Toronto’s Odonis Odonis, it’s an artform that chills it’s audiences while surrounding them with the purest form of “shredgaze”. The music is dark and sinister, but builds on a wall of noise that would make the Jesus and Mary Chain proud. Originally a solo project for prolific songwriter/ bandleader Dean Tzenos, Odonis Odonis has only recently become a live band. Todd talked to Dean about the band’s new EP, his fondness for The Pixies, performing at the 35 Denton Festival and more.
Todd: When you recorded the initial demos (40 of them, right?) did you record those by yourself or with Jarod and Denholm? Please talk about the process of recording those early demos.
Dean: The first year or so of the project was just me on a mission to write as many songs as I could while I was unemployed. To be honest, there’s a lot more than 40 demos lying around but its definitely not all gold. I had lost my job, left my old band and was in the middle of break up with my fiancé at the time so I had a ton to write about. I would sit down everyday and try to record at least 1-3 tracks without any pressure or guidelines as to what it had to be. After I thought I had something, I’d bring in different friends to collaborate on the music. Eventually the process really meshed well – so picking tracks for records felt more like picking my greatest hits.
Todd: What happened to the demos that you didn’t send to Colin Stewart? Have they morphed into new songs or are you still holding on to them? I’d love to hear them.
Dean: It’s actually funny, most of songs I worked on with Colin aren’t even out yet. I actually recorded most of Hollandaze out of my bedroom so you will probably hear a spike in audio quality when the new material is finally released. Colin is the best and really amazing at what he does, we’ve both been waiting a long time for these particular songs to surface. So yeah, I mean, besides that, I have 3-4 other records just sitting on my hard-drive waiting for the right moment. A lot of the songs I clumped together based on the particular direction I was feeling – so some of it is far from what people have heard from the project. I don’t want OO to get pinned down as just some kind of hardcore band – that would be the worst and incredibly boring. Hopefully, we can figure out a way to put out music at the same pace as the writing process but till then ya’ll gotta wait as long as I have.
Todd: I’ve read that you’ve essentially built your own recording space. Can you tell us what kind of equipment you use?
Dean: It’s a very basic setup, I used logic with an Apogee Duet for about 80% of the music I produced. I soundproofed a room about the size of walk-in closet, had some reel-to-reels linked up to it that I would use to run samples through. I’d also have a bass, guitar and a shitty midi keyboard running through an early 70s Silverface Super Reverb always ready to go. The whole thing was devised to be “immediate.” When I have an idea, it’s most important for me to “get it down” quickly. Once I had the backbone of the tracks, I could venture out to places like Colin’s studio to do overdubs, drum tracks or redo guitars ,etc.
Todd: When writing, what’s first for you: rhythm track, lyrics or instrumentation?
Dean: I’ve always been a guitar player but when I started OO, I didn’t want to write on the guitar at all; so the songs started from the drums. I’d then lay down bass/samples, followed by guitar and vocals.
Todd: I feel like Better is a bit of a departure from your earlier work. It should slow the Jesus and Mary Chain/Pixies comparisons a bit. Do you agree with that premise and does the new EP stay with this sound, throughout?
Dean: The new EP is a different process altogether. We are now a full band with Jarod Gibson (Thighs) and Denholm Whale (Cartoons) filling out the lineup. I wanted this EP to showcase what we can do together. I spent almost two years just assembling the live band with help from Chris Slorach of Metz, so to me these dudes are cream of the crop and really complete the vision. This EP is a band effort, other than the track Better which we pulled from the demo pile and completed in the studio. The rest was written from scratch and recorded all together. Everything OO does has to have an element of unpredictability. So while I feel the whole EP has cohesion it still has a lot of variety. Better has kind of opened the door to a sound the band will likely explore on future releases.
Todd: Lyrically, is there a common theme on the new EP?
Dean: I wouldn’t say that 100%, but the horror theme is a common thread. If you care to dig deeper, most of the lyrics are usually rooted in day-to-day struggles metaphorically played out in an overly dramatic backdrop.
Todd: How did you feel about the 35 Denton show you did earlier in the month?
Dean: Man, we had a lot of fun, it was an epic adventure. We literally drove 24 hours straight from Toronto while a massive lightning storm followed us right into town. So when we finally got to play it was like we all just blew a massive load. We were also just really stoked to share the stage with The Soft Moon that night. I really really like playing smaller festivals, people are usually real music fans that come out and want to have a good time and party. I generally prefer the vibe to some of the bigger industry festivals we’ve played.
Todd: If the Pixies Doolittle is your favorite album, how does a band avoid making Bossanova? How do you keep your songwriting fresh and challenging, as expectations grow. Any thoughts on how you approach this as you move along with your career?
Dean: I usually think way too far ahead so I tried to write all my records in a vacuum before there was any external pressure. So my writing spree was also a way for me to avoid future writer’s block. Now anything we write as a band can be fun without pressure and we can always pull from the well whenever we need too. All that being said, I fucking love Bossanova!
For more information about the band, visit their website. Their new EP, “Better” is released on April 16th.
To purchase tickets to see them at Austin Psych Fest 2013, click here!