Friday Tyrant - Dent May's Deep Digital Shadow
Aug 18 2011
Don't you sometimes get tired of rap dudes talking at you about themselves while they do weird things with their arms and fingers? Or the longhairs of death metal going, "WARRRGGGGHHHH," while you pretend to feel something from it? Me neither, but there's other shit out there. I don't ever push music here because that's not my gig. I usually don’t even care to share what I like to listen to. But there's always an exception floating around. I haven't gotten attached to music in such a light-hearted, damn-this-stuff-actually-makes-me-feel-better-about-life way in a long time. If there has ever been shit made for Friday, this is some of that particular shit. So whether your plan for the day is just staying in and smoking at your window, or if it entails a couple of oh-sees and going to the park with a pitcher of gin sangria and a friend, this could be your day's soundtrack. Or not. You probably prefer the "WARRRGGGGHHHH." Anyway, I talked with Dent May for a bit. This is an attempt to enlighten you.
"Meet Me in the Garden"
VICE: Since I discovered your music a few weeks ago, I have worn the living shit out of it. I've probably worn down the Spotify streams. Say you had to put a label on your music—like you actually had to make stickers and slap them on the sound—what would it be, if anything?
Dent: I really want to call it “Softcore.” Is that genre name taken yet? If not, I call dibs. Otherwise, I just tell people it’s homemade pop music.
We met briefly while I was in Oxford, Mississippi, where you live. You’re such an unassuming and relaxed dude, I had no idea there was a musical freak beneath such chill. Do you get that a lot?
Living in Mississippi, there's really no other choice but to fly under the radar. I feel like the internet is the main platform for what I do, so I really only go into self-promo mode there. When people ask me what I do in real life, I usually lie and make something up. It feels dirty telling people I'm a musician.
When and how'd you get started?
I’ve been in bands since I was 13. My first band played Creed and 311 covers. I shit you not. I got a lot more serious about music after I spent three horrible semesters at NYU film school. Those were very dark and uncreative times. I moved back to Mississippi and started a psych-country band with Michael Bible called Cowboy Maloney's Electric City. It was supposed to be this whole multimedia project, but Michael finished and published his written part, and I never finished the music. Then I did the ukulele thing for a few years and now I'm making stuff with more synths, drum machines, and electric guitars.
Who would you say you've been influenced by?
I want to take little pieces of everything I've ever heard and combine massively disparate elements into something that's just highly enjoyable on the simplest level. I haven't achieved it yet, but until then I'm just trying to soak up as much as possible. I want to tap into forgotten and previously maligned sounds that rock ‘n’ roll fans find uncool. Making music or anything else is just about exploring what's possible. One of my favorite musicians growing up was Beck. He showed me that there are no boundaries. Lately, I've been inspired by R. Kelly. He's so prolific and really pours his personality into what he does. Sometimes he's so honest it's uncomfortable.
R. Kelly, huh? Damn. Will Oldham is all on his shit too. I don't get it. What am I missing? A soul?
Maybe you haven't heard the right songs. If you don't like "Sex Weed" and "Sex In The Kitchen" from the great album TP3-Reloaded, there's a good chance you have no soul. The beginning of the "Trapped In The Closet" series is on that album, too. Go get your head right and watch those videos. He writes and produces everything, and he has this very meta sense of self-awareness.
Do you play everything or do you have other musicians who help you out?
These days I play almost everything on the recordings, but I have a great live band of friends who also live with me at the Cats Purring Dude Ranch. We host a lot of house shows there, and we all have our own recording projects going constantly. The live band is always different, but my first backing band for my solo stuff consisted of the writer Michael Bible, Steven from Flight, and John from Bass Drum Of Death. Those were pretty epic times.
You have a ukulele album. So does Eddie Vedder. I saw him perform the other night on late night TV and all I could think of was how much he sucks.
I haven't heard his album, but I'm done with the ukulele. At least for a very long time. I started playing it because it was so portable and easy to play, but I really don't want it to define me. That era of my career probably lasted too long. I don't want to piss off any ukulele fans, but if I die and that's what people remember the most about me, I've failed.
Where do you record?
I record in my bedroom, which we also call the Hits Incorporated studio. It's a super simple and cheap setup. I'm only able to record one part at a time, so I just layer pieces bit by bit and usually end up with 30 or 40 tracks per song. I recorded my first album with a producer named Rusty Santos, in the double-wide trailer where I was living at the time. I learned a lot from him, and I hope to improve my studio setup and keep doing everything myself.
A lot of motherfuckers know about you. Is it a promotion secret or is it just that your music is so damn good?
I don't think that many people know about me! But I grew up on the internet, and I'm definitely guilty of overusing it. I like to maintain a deep digital shadow. It's pretty necessary, living in Mississippi, if you want to be connected to the world. But I don't just tweet about myself. I always promote other things going on in Mississippi and just try to be entertaining in general.
I think I like pretty much everything I have heard of yours. Is there a certain track or tracks that you consider to be your best? Anything you are particularly proud of?
Definitely the most recent stuff. I have a new 7" single that's about to drop on Paw Tracks. The songs are "Fun" and "Wedding Day." It's a more funky, electronic psych-pop direction, and the new tunes I'm working on now are more in that vein. There's this other song "Eastover Wives," which is about women in the town where I grew up. I heard some of them were genuinely offended and others really dig it, so that's cool.
I've been listening to your music on Spotify. How do you feel about Spotify? Do you get paid somehow from them?
I'm really into it. I'm all about Spotify, Rdio, and other services like that. I have no idea how much they pay, but I know my label gets something. Thankfully there are other ways to make money off of music besides selling traditional product now. I celebrate the fact that you can find everything for free online. That's basically how I educated myself about music. If people like it, they're going to find a way to support it.
I'm trying to finish my new album by the end of the year. I went through a long period where I didn't write anything. I only want to record when I feel intensely inspired to do so. I'm taking my time. A lot of bands overwork themselves and burn out. My songs have to come naturally. It doesn't work when I try to force it.
A lot of your music is about girls. Do chicks line the front of your live shows with their panties hanging over the rim of their drinks to let you know you're doing the right thing or what?
Not yet, but for the record, I highly encourage that type of behavior in the future.
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