Birds of a Feather

Meric Long and Logan Kroeber break the singer/songwriter barrier

The story goes like this: Meric Long and Logan Kroeber get out of a cab on Wall Street. They grab their gear and enter a building in New York City's financial district, ride the elevator up to the 26th floor, and arrive at an office suite. The people who work in this particular place, Dave Matthews' ATO Records imprint, stop sending e-mails, turn from their computers, and gather around in a circle. The duo of Long and Kroeber, sometimes known collectively as Dodo Bird, but mostly called by their given names, set up their instruments — an acoustic guitar and amp for Long and a few big drums for Kroeber. With a plate-glass view of the city and cubicle workers before them, they begin to play.

"It was pretty strange," Long says of the performance. A few days later we're sitting outside the Latin American Club, a block away from his apartment in the Mission District. He speaks quietly about the experience, his debut showcase for a record label, during his debut in New York City. "It was the first time we had ever done anything like that, and it was mind-blowing."

To underscore the point, Kroeber ads: "It was next to the Trump building, dude."

We were so displaced in this business setting that that was enough to feed off of," Long says. "It's a cool, strange environment to draw inspiration from."

Some important elements about the members of Dodo Bird can be culled from this conversation. The way they recount the New York story is a lot like the way that they play songs: Long's quiet, wondrous narratives are accentuated by Kroeber's interjections. The situation they're remembering testifies to the amount of momentum the duo, both barely in their mid-20s, possess after only a few months of playing together: a label showcase next to the Trump Building, dude. (They're currently waiting to hear back from ATO).

The armchair reference fans first recognize in Long is the early bedroom recordings of Elliot Smith, (even though Long concedes that "if you're male and you play guitar you're going to get that"), but the looping current of finger-picked patterns and melodic instincts more acutely evoke Brit songwriters like Nick Drake and Tyrannosaurus Rex-period Marc Bolan. The sound isn't far removed from our city's freak folk du jour, but Long's breathy vocal lines and Kroeber's accents are sparer, less stylized, and not exclusive to backward-looking affectation.

Long had been playing around town at the Rite Spot Café, Café Du Nord, and 12 Galaxies for about three years, sharing stages with other local songwriters when he met Kroeber through his roommate. For Kroeber, whose last project was the Santa Cruz-based blood metal band, Entragian, the situation was a complete musical sea change.

"Back then I played double bass drums, not a double bass pedal," Kroeber says. "But I burned out, and needed to start again from scratch. I started with one drum. That's all the song needs."

"I didn't need a drummer to keep time," Long says. "I needed a drummer to accentuate what's already going on. That's the intention. I don't know how much that comes across."

The concept is relayed perfectly on Meric Long's self-released debut, the five-song EP dodo bird, where the singer's base of finger-picked lines are supported, not driven, by Kroeber's understated accents. If the songs till chestnut themes of lovers' dysfunction for inspiration, the delivery — with its thumping pulse and fleeting acoustic guitar lines — is wholly captivating. The best of these tracks, "Notes," offers a passionate postscript that swells with a rising wall of drums and a repeated pledge: "Maybe I'll make this work." As the statement cycles, it seems only more determined. With all the reverb, it's easy to imagine it bouncing between glass towers, 26 floors above Wall Street.

 
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