The San Francisco-based guitar-drum duo The Dodos is due to make a rare Sacramento appearance Thursday during a lengthy tour showcasing their fifth full-length album, “Carrier.”
Dodos guitarist-vocalist-songwriter Meric Long and drummer Logan Kroeber don’t like to categorize their music, but if you have a taste for psych-folk-rock-pop cocktails with a splash of steroids, the band is not to be missed.
Vibraphonists, percussionists — and even a 30-piece version of San Francisco’s Magik Magik Orchestra — have joined The Dodos on stage in the past. And guitarist Joe Haege (of Tu Fawning, 31Knots and Menomena) is also along for this tour.
Long worked for seven years as a line cook and was introduced to Kroeber in 2005 while moonlighting at coffeehouses, cafes and open mikes, and developing material for his solo “Dodo Bird EP.” The two began exploring a sound based on a rhythmically intense, semi-acoustic alchemy.
“I knew that he had played metal before playing with me,” Long said. “There was a certain rigidity (in his playing), in a positive way. I wanted that sort of tautlike feel.”
Long and Kroeber’s sound featured a muscular front line of heavy drums and percussive acoustic guitar that meshed well with Long’s intimate lyricism and smooth vocals.
The Dodos released “Beware of the Maniacs” in 2006 and their shows became known for complex, layered interplay. Long would pluck, strum madly and sing, while Kroeber would use a single floor tom to its fullest potential.
The Dodos transitioned from club to festival circuits on the strength of their second album, “Visiter” (2008). Its ethereally, harmonized cut “Fools” was licensed for a Miller beer commercial. They followed up with “Time to Die” (2009) and “No Color” (2011). “Carrier” dropped Tuesday.
As the band evolved and its progress was trumpeted on National Public Radio, Long inserted more electric guitar, effects and keyboards into the mix. Kroeber added more toms and a crash cymbal to his drum setup, sometimes taping a tambourine to his foot. For the past year he has been playing a full drum set.
“We succumbed,” Long deadpanned.
But they have not forsaken their early embrace of hypnotic minimalism.
After “No Color,” however, Long and Kroeber said they felt creatively drained. Long pondered an album without drums, with other instruments providing a percussive feel. He also courted a collaboration with Magik Magik Orchestra artistic director Minna Choi.
But gradually, the two found the drive and “Carrier” began to emerge with stark song titles such as “Relief,” “Death,” “Family” and “Confidence.”
Long, for the first time, wrote the lyrics before the music. Instead of shaping words to fit an acoustic musical grid, he molded electric guitar passages to fit the words.
The band also switched to a new studio – John Vanderslice’s Tiny Telephone Studios in San Francisco – and an analog approach of recording directly to tape rather than into a computer. There also was a record-label change.
In addition, Christopher Reimer, guitarist for the art rock band Women, which toured with The Dodos in 2011 and died in his sleep in February 2012, had a posthumous impact on the album, Long said.
“He was sort of the gatekeeper for me,” he explained. “He had a real strong voice using the electric guitar; he was really proficient using guitar pedals and sort of transforming sound. I wanted, for lack of a better word, to steal some of that because I was sort of petering out.”
“The first song on the record (“Transformer”) was the hardest to put together. It’s a challenging song, a lot of odd time signatures. So that song for both of us became sort of the flagship song. And Logan was kind of like ‘Hey I kind of imagine that song as a big aircraft carrier and all the other songs are landing on it.’ So that’s how the (album) name came about.”
The first line of Transformer is: “What is a song?”
“That question is what I pictured the whole process of writing this record was,” Long said. “I needed to, like, reassess what my connection is, like, what a song is.”
The experience of making the record rejuvenated Long, who wanted to embellish what he had heard and learned over the years. The Dodos recorded nine more new songs at Tiny Telephone in July for future release.
“I think it’s the next thing (from The Dodos) that you would want and hope for,” he said.