The Sanglorians frontman talks about the band’s first album in seven years.
You describe your music as “heavy power pop,” which seems accurate. In your mind, what does that description mean?
I’m glad you think so! You’re an important style arbiter. You helped me form an opinion about power pop. For me, it’s all about the attitude, and the spirit in the songs. The Beatles crystallized it, and they’re still the greatest, most consistent top-liners ever. No one will surpass the bar they set for pure melodic ingenuity, but it’s fun to try! They are my musical DNA — the ending of “Red Door” is a nod to “I Will” and the falsetto “whooo” in “Affection” is a tip-of-the-hat to “She Loves You.” Power pop originally described nostalgic young songwriters from the late ’60s and early ’70s (like Badfinger) who wanted nothing more in life than to be The Beatles, so it’s not wrong to apply it here as well.
A few of my favorites from Odalisque (so far) include “Miriam,” “Come Back To What You Are,” “Ice Queen” and “In Bruges.” Which tracks stand out in your mind?
Hard question! Songs are like children. Writing and recording is their gestation, and putting them out is their birth. After all that, playing favorites doesn’t seem right! But “Miriam” is the standout. I wrote it for my sister. In 2012, before she even knew about it, we had demoed it out for “Initiation.” One night, she came by the studio to hang out, and I asked everyone to leave the control room. I sat her in the captain’s chair between the speakers, had her close her eyes, and pressed play. What a special moment! The other highlights are the weirder songs that I was so self-conscious about I almost cut them. Like “Clearer,” an experiment with harpsichord and singing bowls, or “Red Door,” where I’m intentionally re-inhabiting the mind-frame I was in during the early Ozma years.
I’m glad you mentioned Ozma. That band has had a really interesting career over the last 20 years. What’s your personal relationship with Ozma music at this point?
I still love it! Most of it still holds up. The ones that don’t are juvenilia we’ve long forgiven ourselves for — I turned 18 recording Rock and Roll Part Three. We wrote some of those songs at age 15/16 and under Weezer’s spell. But I’m proud of the great run we’ve had and the hella tight live band we are when we’re in top form. The songs definitely have wings and remain meaningful to a lot of people. We can still sell out back-to-back nights at the Troubadour! That’s a great feeling, and I hope we have lots more chances to play, write, and record together.
I noticed that a few songs on Odalisque open with drums. Was this a happy accident?
I got really interested in using percussion to scaffold the sonic space. We were rehearsing in a shared jam room with multiple kits set up, and a sound formed in my head: Double drums. Stereo drums. The same groove, interpreted in two different ways by two amazing drummers (Tobias Smith and Andrew Lessman) and hard-panned in a mirror image. I like the depth of field it provides. Tortoise, The Melvins, and Daniel Lanois have all done it to great effect. Not to mention King Crimson, touring as a seven-piece with three drummers across the front — holy fuck!
Any special significance to the album title, Odalisque?
It’s an enigmatic feminine archetype. Young, wise, and in full possession of her faculties. Rising deftly through circumstance and subverting imposed realities with her indomitable will. She offers you a choice of two paths. They lead in vastly different directions depending on how you respond to desire. It’s a mind game with infinite stakes, playing out over countless incarnations.
The album closes with a heavy cover of The Beatles’ “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away.” Why choose that track?
I like Lennon’s headspace in it. It’s a true song, about his marriage to Cynthia and keeping it quiet in order not to upset the balance. I’ve been in similar situations. I stole the descending pre-chorus bass line for “Come Back To What You Are,” then returned to the scene of the crime by putting them both on the same record. Very power pop, actually!