The Ukulele was a gimmick, as Dent May is the first to admit. It did the trick on the Mississippi-born musician's second album, The Good Feeling Music of Dent May & His Magnificent Ukulele. The LP -- his first for the Animal Collective-run Paw Tracks -- established May as a musical force. These days he continues his hunt for the perfect pop song. Nowhere has he come closer than on this year's What's for Breakfast?

Dent May 0:12

There's this kind of, I don't want to say new trend, but there's a lot of I noticed new bars popping up that are like, based on this Japanese Hi Fi concept where you know, you kind of have usually you have like a library of records on hand, and a really great, you know, audio system or something. And so yeah, I'm doing I'm doing the parties at places like that. And so yeah, I'm just going to kind of DJ for a little bit. Put the record on. Hopefully people come to listen, I'll bring a box or records that somebody wants to buy one from me directly. So yeah, I haven't I haven't done this before. So I don't really know what to expect. And then I'm doing one on band camp.

Brian Heater 1:00

Do you play your own music?

Dent May 1:02

As you're DJing? I mean, I never do the, you know, the only exception being at a listening party, I'll have to put that out mine. But like, I do DJ quite a bit, and I would never play my own music.

Brian Heater 1:13

No, I'm sure I'm sure. But Can there be like a level of just like awkwardness to like standing there and playing your own music for other people?

Dent May 1:21

Oh, it's, I mean, yeah, it's gonna be awkward when I put out mine, I think, you know, at these parties, I don't like love the idea of like, listening with other people like, are really at this point. I've heard it so many times. I don't really want to listen to it at all. But I don't know. It's a cool idea. Hopefully, I meet some people who liked my music. And it reminds people that Elvis exists, and it's coming out. Occasionally

Brian Heater 1:47

I'll talk to somebody who like actually listens to their own music for fun, and it just, it's kind of creepy. That's like

Dent May 1:53

a psychopath. Right? Do not trust this person. Do not trust this person.

Brian Heater 2:00

I had this thing for a long time in college where I couldn't. If I was making out with somebody, I couldn't have music by somebody I knew playing in the background, because I agree.

Dent May 2:12

Yeah, totally. Very true. Yeah, I don't want to hear my music ever again. But I'm not like we're not weird about it. I don't you know, it's fine.

Brian Heater 2:22

Just like a normal level of weird about it. Exactly. Do you I mean, you have to, like get to a certain degree like reengaged with some of the old stuff before you go and play it live. Right?

Dent May 2:34

Yeah, have to remember how to play the songs. And I've actually have been, for the first time actually rehearsing, singing the songs along to the instrumentals. Just to kind of get my voice back in shape, I kind of find that my voice comes in and out of shape, when I don't use it for a while. And so yeah, I have some work to do between now and the tour starting like to actually remember how to play the songs because you know, I write them and record them kind of all in this one big frantic moment and never play them again for for like a year or something like that. So it's going to be kind of tough, because I'm not actually very good musician.

Brian Heater 3:22

It makes sense. But that's something that I never considered that I know that people have to reengage with the songs they haven't played for a long time. But there's almost this like, they talked about weirdness. There's like you're almost doing karaoke over your own voice.

Dent May 3:34

Yeah, you mean the live? It's just playing live in general? Or when I'm when I'm rehearsing?

Brian Heater 3:40

Yeah, singing along to your own songs. It

Dent May 3:44

is weird. I mean, that yeah, it's kind of cool, though. I mean, it is an excuse to kind of reengage with the songs and there are moments when I'm like, All right, I'm proud of this. Good, I guess. But yeah, so that's kind of something new I'm doing where usually I'll be like massively underprepared going into rehearsals and like so I'm just trying to Part of it's just kind of from a peace of mind to feel ready. I don't know.

Brian Heater 4:15

Well, it's like I'm not one to like preach the importance of self confidence to anyone else because I very much a lesson I can learn myself but have you at least like as you've as you've gone on and continue to produce music do you feel more confident in your skill set?

Dent May 4:34

Yes, and no. I mean, I do feel confident in my ability to write and record a song and share it with people and do all that but there on the other hand, there's like a very intense dissatisfaction with myself and everything I do and and, and I don't want to fall on say insecurity because it's more about just like an a hope that I can do better in the future. So like, that's kind of the, what keeps me going and continuing to write songs is that I'm never really that happy with what I've done, even though like, I can take a step back and acknowledge like, this is I don't want to say good, but this is acceptable. I mean, I do, there's a part of me that thinks it's very good. But a very small part of me, most of me is saying, you got to do better than this, you got to do better than this. Not to try to put my own music down, because I am proud of it. But I don't know.

Brian Heater 5:37

It's tough. And I and I relate to everything. He just said, it's a mixed, it's a double edged sword, I would say that there is obviously you know, it's not good for your self confidence to always feel like that. But then, if you feel like you've never quite hit the thing that you want to hit, or it's never just like, exactly where you want it to be, then that at least compels you to keep doing it to a certain extent now.

Dent May 6:01

Yeah, I mean, I do think it's good enough to release and share with other people. And honestly, like, I want to be like the greatest songwriter, like ever, you know, deep down, and that's kind of what I'm trying to do. But obviously fall modest goals. Yeah, it's like literally, but you know, it's like, it's like, I'm not like, I obviously fall flat every time. But I think that where I ended up is decent, and worth sharing with people. So I'm not trying to say I'm terrible or something. But there is like this weird, just self. I don't want to say hatred, self dissatisfaction, that, you know, is actually part of what keeps me wanting to make another album, because if I feel like if I was like, This is so good, I would probably not feel as compelled to make stuff.

Brian Heater 7:00

I always try to figure out where that comes from, for me, because like, I had parents that loved me, they were supportive of the things that I want to do. And yet I know that I'm harder on myself than any other person is on me.

Dent May 7:14

Yeah, it's also like, there's some statistic like 100,000 songs a day being released on Spotify. So to what extent I have to ask myself, why am I bothering contributing to this noise? So on one hand, I do set my standards very high. Because I want it to matter, I want there to be a reason that someone would want to listen to my song out of the 100,000. But I also kind of like acknowledge the how ridiculous it is that I'm like, dedicating my life to doing this. And I don't have a particularly elevated sense of like, the importance of what I do, even though I am proud of it, would you classify

Brian Heater 8:00

some of that as imposter syndrome?

Dent May 8:04

Not really, because, like, I do think I'm doing the right thing. I mean, I really, I don't know how to do anything else. So it's not like, I feel like, why am I doing this? Because I know, I know why I'm doing it. But it does. Yeah, I don't know. I just kind of like, don't take it that I mean, I'd take my music very seriously. But like everything else around it. I don't take I don't take very seriously think

Brian Heater 8:27

I have the right read on this. But I feel like that's reflected in the music videos of like, hey, let's just kind of have a fun time with this music I just made.

Dent May 8:34

Yeah, it's true, I want to have a good time making it and I want other people to have a good time, for the most part, when they engage with it. That's not to say I won't like have sad songs or like something kind of buried in there about darker feelings, which is I think, is there. But ultimately, I kind of consider myself an entertainer. And I want to I do want to like make someone's day better for three minutes or whatever. This

Brian Heater 9:02

is cliche, but it's cliche for reasons like that, to me is a benchmark of great pop songs is balancing like, the subject matter with some, you know, some, some dark subject matter with like a really great

Dent May 9:19

hook. Yeah, those are my favorite kind of songs where it's kind of they sneak it in there a little bit. You know,

Brian Heater 9:24

do you have benchmarks for for success? I mean, it's there an extent to which people paying attention of people coming out to the shows, critical feedback or anything else, like gives you a reason to keep doing this?

Dent May 9:40

I mean, not really, I feel like I've already exceeded like my expectations from like being growing up in like, Jackson, Mississippi. I mean, I remember there was a point when I was talking to a friend, and this is like before ever had an album out but I was releasing the demos that became my first album and we were kind of talking about our goals. And I was like, oh, I want to play a show in New York City. That was like my goal. I was like, if I could just do that, that would be something I'd be proud of for the rest of my life, and have to remind myself of that kind of thing. Because I've played New York like 100 times, I've played, you know, a lot of places around the world. And but yeah, there's always something else. I mean, you know, I mean, I have recently, the song I made with I dress went platinum, I never thought that would happen in my entire life. And so yeah, there's the bit the benchmarks are more creative, where it's like, I just want to make something so good, I don't know. And then like, as far as like, commercial success or anything like that, I've always been prepared to just be broke to, like, die, penniless, in a gutter, I really don't care. And thankfully, I'm able to, like make a modest living actually making music, but I don't like I've never been like a business minded or commercial minded person where I'm really bad at that, to be honest. I don't know. I'm just thankful that enough people have wanted to listen that it is working out, okay. But my only really benchmarks are just the quality of the music.

Brian Heater 11:15

You when you say you have to remind yourself what is what does that mean to remind yourself that, you know, that this, this is kind of, I guess that you're, you're lucky that you're able to continually have this experience. Yeah,

Dent May 11:27

for example, I have a tour coming up. And like, there are moments where I'm excited about that, and moments where I'm really stressed out and dreading it. To be honest, even though like, it's a process that I really love, I feel extremely lucky to be able to perform music I wrote to an audience, however big or small it is. But like in moments where I'm really stressed out, or maybe dreading something that's kind of that I have to do to promote my music or something like that. I have to remind myself of that, yeah, that able to do it at all, and remind myself of where I was, as a kid and dreaming about this. It's, it's crazy. You know what I mean? So yeah, I mean, they're, they're, you know, I've been writing songs for like, 25 years straight up, you know, this is my sixth album. So I do have to remind myself, maybe even not actively, but subconsciously, be in a place where I am really aware of how, how special this is, do

Brian Heater 12:31

you get stage fright? Or do you get anxiety at all around playing live?

Dent May 12:34

Well, the only, I don't get stage fright, but the only anxiety I have is around my singing voice. Because I've had some like mildly traumatic experiences where my voice went out when I was sick. And like I was embarrassed. Although honestly, after going through those experiences, the audience is there with you, they're down, they don't really care that much. It I'm still alive, it nothing really that bad happens. But I have this weird fear of losing my voice because I actually do have a little bit of a sensitive voice. That's one of the reasons I'm like, actually practicing singing for the first time in my life. And but yeah, so that it's not stage fright, where I'm like, very comfortable being in front of people singing my songs. There's nothing bad about that. But there's like a bit of a paranoia about like, losing my voice. That's like, the main thing.

Brian Heater 13:27

This is like an anxiety. It's just the way that anxiety manifests itself that I have to deal with is trying to figure out like, how much to draw attention to that fact. Like, I'm one of those nights where you're, you know, you your voice is a little bit scratchy. Do you do address it? You know, obviously, you don't want to dwell on it, but part of you kind of wants to really like be like, Hey, guy, you know, don't worry, this isn't how I usually sound. Yeah, I actually

Dent May 13:51

have changed my mind about this over the years. And at this point, I don't say anything about it. I feel like if I really, if it's that bad, I should cancel it. I mean, that's usually if it's like, I feel like I'm damaging my voice by singing through truly like, a bad thing. But like, I feel like it's part of my like, feeling that I'm an entertainer is that like, I don't want one little thing I do or say, to make somebody feel like, Oh, I wish I came to the wrong concert. His his voice is, is not as good as it usually is. Like, I wish I went to one of the ones where his voice was perfect, you know? So I actually never say anything negative. I try to not say anything negative at all on stage. Just because I want somebody paid money to come to this and I want them to feel like it's like the best thing ever. Have you taken singing lessons at all? I have. I mean, even when I was really little I like came up singing in church and school. I went to a performing arts Elementary School, where I was in the theater program and I was in a lot of musicals. So I took singing lessons when I was living Yun and I, before my last tour a couple years ago, I took some like singing lessons, which I think helped. But I think what I've realized is that, like, I have enough of a basis to understand how to sing. I just need to, like, exercise the muscles and keep my voice in shape, which is something I don't do. If I don't have a reason to do it. I'll go, you know, I'll go months without seeing that much. Even, I might write a song. And I sing a little bit that afternoon, but like, as far as getting in the habit, I find that like, yeah, just singing for like, 30 minutes a day makes the world of difference between like, you know, not doing it. And plus, I do you know, I'm going out to social situations a lot. You know, talking over loud music at a bar or something is pretty bad for your voice. Yeah, drinking doesn't help either. Yeah, like recently quit coffee, because of the acid reflux and stuff like that. Yeah, gotta be careful.

Brian Heater 16:02

I quit coffee during the pandemic. And I actually quit drinking before that. And I found quitting coffee to be like, 10 times harder for me, just in terms of like real chemical dependency.

Dent May 16:11

Yeah, it's really coronate. Like, I have this product that I got called wean caffeine. I mean, you could do this yourself. But it's like this thing that they give you a caffeine pill. And like every three days, it goes down by 10 milligrams. So you know, if you if you drink a cup of days, start with 100 milligrams pill a day. And then after three days, it goes to 90 milligrams, and it lasts 30 days. And I did it once before, because I quit coffee for my last tour, and then I like started again. So we'll see if I like start again. But I like it once that once I'm really fully off, I realized that like, I think that I do sustain energy better throughout the day, rather than, like, go crazy for like an hour and a half and then feel kind of weird in the afternoon. So I don't know, something I'm doing right now. Yeah, I think

Brian Heater 16:58

your body like your body starts to anticipate that it's coming. And it like you and it regulates your energy level accordingly. So when it doesn't come, you're you're screwed. Oh, yeah. The thing? I mean, the reason why the reason why I asked about safety lessons is I'm not suggesting that you need them. But just like, you know, like more and more musicians I talked to you, the more I realize how important learning to sing correctly is as far as not actually like injuring yourself in the process.

Dent May 17:28

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think that is really important. And also like, the other taking care of your voice when you're not singing that we're kind of mentioning. It's also really important, I find that a lot of people I know don't do that. I have a lot of friends that I do feel like have permanently damaged their voice over the years. You know, I've been doing this, like my first sound came out 15 years ago. So I've known a lot of people that do this. And I think it's pretty common for people to permanently damage their voice. So yeah, all that's important. Singing properly. I mean, I think it's like, I think it's a little overstated. I think that like, once you like, get down a few basics, and you're not just like sick screening your throat and like seeing it from your throat and you can you understand that like breathing on your diaphragm, even just like knowing what that is, and practicing it, even if you're like, kind of halfway doing it like that goes so far. And I do think another big thing is just treating, being kind to your voice when you're not singing is huge, you know, smoking, I mean, I'm not trying to be like, I'm like, actually a really degenerate person. I love to drink. I, you know, like I like, totally, like, have no problem with like people smoking, like, actually, like, you know what I mean? But like, just smoking is bad for your singing voice. That's, I don't care if you you know, do it. It's great. I actually, I feel like nicotine is awesome. I love it. It feels good. Sometimes I still like I'll be out and I'll hit my friends like little, like nicotine pen or whatever else. I don't know, I'm not I'm not like a teetotaler at all, but I just recognize these things. And I feel like being careful is really important. Yeah,

Brian Heater 19:03

there's a difference to like, between, like, vaping and like actually smoking a cigarette.

Dent May 19:09

Yeah. Especially if you're smoking a bunch per day, you know? That's, you know, very different. Your

Brian Heater 19:15

voice had to be more out front when it was you and the ukulele versus now you know, playing with a band and having more like layered music. Do you feel like do you feel like you had to sort of lean into it in a way that you don't necessarily have to now?

Dent May 19:30

Not really because I do feel like in my recordings, I mixed my voice pretty upfront. And when I'm live I do even though there's more going on in the in the like arrangement. I do have my vocals pretty forward in the mix, like on the album and both live. So I do feel like it is like up there in you're kind of like in your face a little bit. And so I don't necessarily to me, it doesn't feel like my voice was more exposed than than it is now. Although now that I think about it. It will was because, you know, I did an entire European tour, part of which was opening for Animal Collective and like venues that were 1000 to 2000 people just playing ukulele and singing with my friend, playing maracas and tambourine and doing harmonies, and it was like, very bare. So obviously, my voice is much more exposed than, but I've never really thought about it that way. I

Brian Heater 20:19

would guess that you know, that that Animal Collective speaking as an Animal Collective, and that they would, you know, be open to, you know, different experiences. But was that was that ever really awkward to get at? You know, they're this kind of big, like, bombastic band with four dudes to get out in front of that and be this, I guess, at the time relatively unknown person standing there with a ukulele?

Dent May 20:44

Yeah, I didn't personally find it awkward. Just because, like, part of me is just I want it to embrace the fact that I'm doing something different. Some people here gonna like it some art. That's totally okay with me. Like, I yeah, I feel like maybe it was a little awkward. But I never really, that never really crossed my mind. Because it's just like, Here I am, you know, this, this that was like, my first time touring Europe, I would, you know, there's like, a year after that conversation, or like, a year and a half after I said, like, I want to play New York one day, and then it's like, fastball, or my album just came out a month ago, and I'm doing this. So I'm like, I don't care if it's awkward, you know, and I've never been the kind of person where it's like, you know, there's gonna be some people talking to the back, there's gonna be some people paying attention. When you're opening for a band that kind of goes back to what I was saying about, I'm not going to complain on stage. In very rare instances, I might say some thing. But like, I've never been the kind of person who would be like, Hey, I'm playing up here. Be quiet, pay attention. And that's one reason that now when I do solo shows, I have a little drum machine track behind me. And I try to fill up the space a little more. Because, yeah, it's like, I recognize that, like, these people, like came out to have a drink and hear music, not necessarily, like, be quiet. So if they want to have a conversation in the back, I don't, I don't really care. Although it can, it can get gratuitous. And as a show go or I find myself pretty annoyed when that's happening. And I want to, I want to listen. But as a performer, I'm just kind of like going with the flow. And it's my job to command their attention. If and be and play good music. You get up having

Brian Heater 22:23

been on the side of that? Do you feel like you're sort of more mindful or more attentive when it comes to like, as a show goer, showing up on time and making sure that you're watching all the opening bands?

Dent May 22:34

Yeah, I'm absolutely I tried to do that. I can't say I'm always perfect about it. It's hard if you go to a show. And you see people you haven't seen in months, and it's pretty hard not to say like, Hey, what's up and have a short conversation. But I'm like, super mindful of that. And, yeah, I always try to like, get up towards the front and like, listen, to listen to bands and not be a jerk. I don't know,

Brian Heater 23:02

when you mentioned, you know, bringing something different with with the ukulele. It reminds me as ringing interview that you did, and you don't even think I'm paraphrasing said like, I don't want to be the ukulele guy, you know, moving forward, it reminds me when I was in college, which is a long time ago, now there, we there was a ukulele guy in Santa Cruz he liked and it was really novel at the time, and then there. And then it's like, once the culture comes around to you, then you feel like you feel the need to go off and like, try something different. Because you don't want to feel like you were chasing that.

Dent May 23:43

Absolutely. And like, to be honest, part of me was chasing that when I decided to do that. I mean, I liked Tiny Tim, like, I kind of like, like, knew there were these there was this kind of novelty aspect to this that I wanted to embrace. And then there were like people like Jens Lekman in the magnetic fields at the time that were also doing it. Obviously, in the like, early 2000s. There was like a tweed indiepop moment where like, ukulele was a thing. And I quickly realized I maybe I was a part of it, but I don't want to really that to be my legacy. Especially like, as, as it gets more. I don't know. I don't want to say mainstream, but like, you know, you hear in like a Charmin ad with like a ukulele and a glockenspiel. It's like cutesy, cutesy, cutesy and I'm like, no, no, no, no, this is not me. And I have to admit that it was a gimmick like I was like, Oh, this is you know, if I say didn't may end his negatives that ukulele and like, in the early shows, I would like wear a cape and like, have a weird suit on and like, be kind of like theatrical. And I was like, Oh, this is the one small reasons someone might want to hear my songs and not just didn't May and then once I did that, I was like, not to mention that I just I want to do other things. I like a lot of different kinds of Music and I think that's reflected in what I've done since like, it's, you know, I tried to, I don't know, I'm just, I want to like, be, I want to explore. And not like I kind of another thing I've noticed, doing this for so long is I think a lot of artists and bands get stuck having success with a sound thinking they have to do that for the rest of their career. And that's why it's like famously so many like debut albums with the best album and diminishing returns is pretty common. So it's like, also that, like, self dissatisfaction I'm talking about earlier is kind of coupled with, like, a desire to explore possibilities. And that keeps me going, like, there's no real, like, I want to make an album, it's like a piano and strings and nothing in my voice, nothing else. I want to make a full on like, club album, like, I don't care, like I can and will do any of that. And, but as it is kind of like my albums have like a little bit of each, you know, oftentimes, but you know, I it's

Brian Heater 26:01

something I reflect on a lot. Yeah, years and years ago, I was interviewing Wayne Coyne, from The Flaming Lips. And at the time I was using, like, in the context of conversation was using the word gimmick like, like, as a bad word as like most people, you know, usually use a word like gimmick, and the connotations are that it's like, you know, like, like, like, like, cheaper or hacky or that it detracts from other things. But he, you know, he effectively said, yeah, like, we're, we're gimmicky band, we do gimmicks, we like gimmicks and that I was like, Yeah, I love that I love I love just like, you know, continuing to embrace that and not necessarily feel like like doing something like, maybe a little bit silly, or a little bit out of the mainstream is like necessarily a bad thing. Yeah,

Dent May 26:43

I mean, I think that what it really comes down to is, is the rest of what you're doing good. Is the music actually good, like a gimmick that, you know, that contributes to great music, or that's like one aspect of just the way you perform or present your music, if it's amazing. People are gonna love that. But if you're gimmicky and the music sucks, people are gonna hate that.

Brian Heater 27:07

Do you feel like there's still some gimmicks that you use, like on this album? Are there? Do you think that there are gimmicks?

Dent May 27:14

I can't really think of one. I mean, there's like, aesthetic themes like that I do with the album, title and art, for example. This one is what's for breakfast, and I'm in like, a classic diner environment on the cover. And I'm like, currently writing a list of my favorite diners for a music website. And that's not a gimmick to me. But it's sort of like an aesthetic world that I am building around the album and like this kind of, in a way, it's no sequel to my last album, late checkout, which was about kind of like old school, Americana of motels, roadside motels and stuff. I feel like it's more like, I like to think of it like a more of I'm building a world that around my music, and I don't think of those as gimmicks. I mean, a gimmick would be something like I'm addicted to chapstick, and my fans know it. So I sell I don't have it right now. But like, I used to sell chapstick. I didn't make chapstick at the merch table that feels like more of a gimmick even though I don't know if it is a gimmick. But But yeah, I don't really exist outside of the music, though. Exactly. Yeah.

Brian Heater 28:19

You know, you mentioned the magnetic fields. And I was just thinking about this recently that they had, you know, the, the album where every song, every song on it begins with a letter I and I don't know, I'm sure like other people have pointed out to you that having a hotline is, you know, in the tradition of like, of They Might Be Giants. And that's like these are Yeah, these are all these are all bands that have like, yeah, has had those like little things that they've hung their hats on, but have absolutely transcended that.

Dent May 28:50

Totally, yeah, the hotline in the one call, that's all video, you could describe that as a gimmick or like, but again, it's also more of like an aesthetic world because I'm like, doing the the like lawyer the like ambulance chasing lawyer commercial and stuff like that. So yeah, I mean, it's kind of gimmicky, but it does feel like it's like building a world around it. And it's, I don't know, I'm not trying to say it's good, right, that the hotline part of it was actually my, the part that my least favorite part about it. Because I've noticed, it's a really common thing for bands to do, like call this number to hear a little snippet of the album like it's really really common, but this was more like once I had settled on doing this like lawyer thing which Nathan expanded to include like, other types of commercials like they all have this number flashing and dent May is seven letters. So like, I can't read what it is a 1833 Dent may or whatever. It's like I can't act. I can't not do this. You know what I mean? Yeah,

Brian Heater 29:52

and there are worse things to be compared to them. They Might Be Giants it like in my

Dent May 29:56

chest. I love them. I mean, I didn't even know that they did that but I've seen a lot of people Do it. I mean, they might have been the first but yeah, yeah,

Brian Heater 30:02

early days, they had something called dial a song, which was like, oh, cool now like pre pre like a kind of a pre internet kind of thing. But I was also thinking that like, again, getting back to, to the magnetic fields album, you know, I was thinking about that. And I was curious, I should go back and kind of read, you know, the process of actually writing those songs, because I was wondering how much of it was them kind of working backwards into that, how much of it was him really like setting a set of parameters for himself to build an album around, and it strikes me that like, that, the latter probably applies to a lot of your stuff in that building something around a theme, like it gives you a focus so that your brains not going in too many different directions at the same time.

Dent May 30:46

Yeah, I mean, setting restrictions is so important. And that's probably the hardest thing for me because, like, My music can be quite maximalists. And, you know, I am kind of like everything, but the kitchen sink type of arranger, and I kind of liked that I'm not necessarily trying to go full on minimal, but, you know, like, for example, I was like, I'm not gonna have any strings on this album, or horns, even though I ended up putting one trumpet, and I have a lot of like, fake synth strings, but it's just kind of a thing, or it's like, Oh, I'm gonna, like limit the palette a little bit. And it's a little more, you know, there's a little bit less going on. And then yeah, like, conceptually, I don't know, having some ideas. Like I do think that the eye thing or like their 69 love songs, that's like, a framework to, to like, once you like decide on a framework, sometimes the songs can kind of write themselves.

Brian Heater 31:43

Yeah, I guess this is probably backlash to like the turn of the last century. But you know, last circles, maximalist is, is a dirty word. But you, you know, I was reading interview and you you mentioned that in there, too. And you mentioned ELO, and it's like, you can't that's like, unimpeachable, you know, it's like, yeah, yeah, there are Maximus, but like, the music is great. So what can you argue with?

Dent May 32:05

Well, I am sort of a contrarian in the sense that, like, I feel like a lot of the 2000s in the 2000 10s have been minimal, you know, aside from music, you go into a coffee shop, and it's like, beige, everything. There's nothing on the walls. It's that like, thing. And, like, as soon as I see something kind of reflected in the culture, I kind of want to do the opposite. And I do think that like maximalist psych pop, I don't know if it's in or out of style right now. I do think that maximalism is coming back into the zeitgeist a little bit, but I do think that like, I don't, you know, when I see something underrepresented, I think in the cultural zeitgeist, I kind of want to do it. Not to try to say that I'm some like, enigmatic, like, you know, whisper of culture or something. But like, yeah, I've always kind of and that's also the thing with the ukulele thing is I knew it was kind of off putting to some people. And so like, I've kind of always embraced that, like I'm okay, being a little cheesy or like being a little not like, I'm not like a cool guy, mysterious rocker. That's just not me. And I'm not pretending to be that. So I'm like, okay, with being like doing things that some people will like, and others won't. I kind of embrace that.

Brian Heater 33:21

Is there a sense in which maximalism is a reaction to your own early

Dent May 33:27

work? Probably so. But it's also just, I think it I think it just also reflects that I do, like, kind of like, obsessively consume as much music and other types of media as possible. And so I feel like kind of overwhelmed by like, my desire to stylistically, you know, play around with all these different like, tropes and like, aspects of like the history of recorded music. So I'm like, trying to cram them all into like, one song or one album. And, and, yeah, I think it but there is an aspect where it probably is like a reaction to like, my first album, and like, I do think I had a little bit of internal backlash to my own first album. For whatever reason, part of it is like ukulele becoming like uncool in popular culture at the time, which once again, I see it coming back right now. But you know, it is what it is I don't I don't want to see my I don't want to find myself. I very quickly learned I don't want to find myself. Giving any thought to trends or chasing any sort, especially youthful, I'm a 30 year old man at this point. I'm not chasing any sort of youthful trends. And I want to just do what I do forever. And that maybe will come in and out of style. But I don't know. Like I'm not chasing trends. And I think that I wouldn't say I was with the ukulele album but like, I think I will would have been more likely to be influenced by what the kids are into these days at the time where now I'm much more secure and just who I am.

Brian Heater 35:11

I don't usually end up using the video for this something that people are missing out on is that you're wearing what appears to be a Tommy Bahama shirt right now, which to me is really, I think it's extremely since any, it's

Dent May 35:20

actually known as LL Bean. It's LL Bean but I loved it's funny. So I was talking about Tommy Bahama. I was literally talking about Tommy Bahama with my friend like literally two days ago. I love the Margaritaville Tommy Bahama aesthetic, which Funny enough, I don't think I actually own a Tommy Bahama shirt, but I own lots of like, things that could be one. But yeah, exactly.

Brian Heater 35:42

funny moment in my life when I when I crossed that threshold from really enjoying the yacht rock video series to listening to music, ironically, to actually like, Oh, this is an earnest enjoyment of like, I mean, obviously now it's like, cool to talk about how great Steely Dan is. But you know what I mean? Like that it was almost like taken as this as a silly thing at the time. They obviously had a lot of reverence for it. And then it's like, yeah, if you sometimes if you play something enough times, ironically begin to really, like appreciate it on a very real fundamental level.

Dent May 36:18

Yeah, I was talking to someone who teaches school the other day, and they said that like middle school right now is kids who right now are like obsessed with 80s music. And they're so far removed from the cultural moment, where obviously there at one point, there was a huge backlash to like, you know, Duran Duran style, like 80s aesthetics. It's like the tackiest thing you could do. But like, you know, down the line, no one really, you know, remembers that or cares. And I don't know, it kind of also goes, I don't want to say I'm a full on contrarian, like in a negative way. But, like, I loved like goth rock. Forever, you know, in this kind of thing, where I have this thing where like, Oh, you think this is uncool? The fact that you think it's uncool makes it cool. Or like, there's a reverse of that. We're like, once something has become cool, in a way that everyone can agree. This is cool. The Rolling Stones. It's like I love them. I'm obsessed with them. But like trying to me trying to be Mick Jagger would be the corniest thing I could ever do. You know what I mean? So it's like being a cool guy, rock star, there's always going to be a kind of a lane for that, I'm sure. But once that's what is considered cool, it's not cool. You know?

Brian Heater 37:30

It's so funny. They're like, like, maybe like six months or a year ago, Steve Albini was going off on Steely Dan and like I had this and you know, talking about how he helped I think he said punks punks hate Steely Dan. And then I, you know, I had that like, you know, sort of, like contrarian impulse to be like, well, Steely Dan is more punk than you ever are. And I'm like, I'm just like, far, like, way too far into the looking glass. And I've lost all all contexts, to suggest that Steely Dan is, is more punk than Steve Albini. But at the end of the day, like, literally none of this shit matters. Well,

Dent May 38:02

I mean, the fact that he felt compelled to say that on Twitter is proof of the power of Steely Dan. I mean, that's, that's like the irony that I hope is not lost on him. You know, that, that it's powerful. And yeah, it doesn't matter if you like it or not, I would never have like, the, the ego to think that, like, I need to get on and be like, Oh, everyone likes this thing. Here's why you shouldn't like it like that, to me. Like, I used to do stuff like that. But that's like, that's like, to me the worst like, narcissistic impulse. You know, and I'm not trying to call out people who chime in on pop culture on social media. It's fun. And in a way it's necessary. Like, it's impossible not to, but like, out like, I'm not ever gonna do that. And especially when it's like, you know, there's like the, like, let people enjoy things type meme or whatever. It's like, yeah, I don't care if you'd like the same stuff I like or not. And if something is super popular, and I don't like it, good for them. Like, I don't. Yeah, I don't know. Like, whatever. And yeah, Steely Dan is amazing. I like Steely Dan more than anything CWD ever touched by far. And not to say he worked on some great stuff, but not enough for him to like, come, come. Come let's come saying that stuff. Yeah.

Brian Heater 39:33

In a way, the fact that Animal Collective who at the time, you know, not that they're not still great and cool, but at the time were like some like apex of like, cultural coolness, embraced you doing this thing? That may or may not have been cool at the time must have been. There must have been a validation there for you.

Dent May 39:56

I was pretty surprised. You know But I mean, I met them like and became friends with them. You know what I mean? Before they heard my music, I guess, or something like that. I mean, they knew I was a musician at first, but they were recording, they didn't have to put your album out. No, I don't know. It's amazing. I mean, it is cool, man. It's a testament to them. I mean, I think they, I don't want to speak for them. But like, they also come from a place of a pure place where they, you know, I think that I don't want to say what they were doing was ever uncool. But I think that like, in their early days, what they were doing was off putting to some people. And they were having a pretty abrasive live show in the early days. But like, they were specifically doing stuff that is kind of divisive. And that, love it or hate it. The thing that's great about that is the people who love it are gonna love it so much more. You know what I mean? And they were never chasing trends. They they invented the trend, you know what I mean? And eventually, culture catches up with people like that. And, and so and yeah, the fact that they like, my music is cool. And it to me, I don't know, it definitely just shows that they're there. I don't know, to me, they're just the best. They're just nice, good people. And they're not like, they're not trying to like sign the next Animal Collective. They're just, you know, it was kind of more of a friend thing or something. I don't know.

Brian Heater 41:19

I had avian a couple months ago was the first time I'd ever spoke with him. And I was like, Oh, I don't know why it was kind of nervous. I thought like, you know, you're gonna be like, too cool for school. But it's like, oh, no, it's just a dude, that happens to be in a really good band, which is always, always very heartening.

Dent May 41:35

Yeah, I mean, they're the among the least too cool for school type people I've ever met in music, you know, which is cool, which is great. Another way

Brian Heater 41:43

that strikes me as you sort of being a contrarian isn't the right word. But there's a better word I'm blanking. But and kind of moving in two directions at the same time is that, to certain extent, it strikes me that like, you might, you might almost have to be by the nature of the music, that you've make a bit of a micromanager with stuff that's a little bit, you know, playing into the Maximus thing. The fact that you're like cooperative studio, I suspect plays into that too, but also are so ready to embrace collaborations and in order to collaborate with somebody, like you have to let you have to let up some control.

Dent May 42:24

Absolutely, it took me a long time to learn that or to be comfortable with it. I mean, I didn't really start doing that until like, maybe almost 10 years into, you know, my, quote, unquote, career making music, you know. And it's also kind of one of the things that keeps me going, it's like, I'm saying, I want to keep exploring, and that's one way I can explore is by bringing other people into the process, treating it more like a community than like a personal. I don't know, like diary entry or something like that. And it's, it's one way to keep things interesting. And also, like, I learned a lot collaborating. And, you know, as I keep doing this, I realized that, like, music is a community. And like, the friendships I have, and the other people in my life who write music that I love, like, I want them to be a part of, of what I do. And yeah, I mean, there is part of that. That's like the LA songwriting session scene, which, like, I doubt I dabbled in, but like, I very quickly learned that if I'm not friends with you, and I don't already know, and like your music, what we make today probably isn't going to be good, it, it's definitely, or I would say, it's probably not going to, well, I don't know how to word this, but it's probably not going to be good. And it's probably not going to ever be released. I mean, you know, it's just like, there's

Brian Heater 43:54

a lack of almost like an authenticity to it, if you don't really believe in the product,

Dent May 43:58

of course, and I really hate the pressure of being like, I'm going in with a stranger. And we have four hours to write and record a song. And I think that there are some hit songs that do get made that way. But I actually think that probably the best of it wasn't made that way. And it's different. When I'm like, Hey, one of my best friends, let's get together some afternoon. And there's the idea that like, we could do this once a week if we want to. In fact, there was a time when I was having once a week songwriting kind of sessions with my friend Paul cherry, who co wrote three of the songs on the new album, but like, it's way different when you're like have a friend for four hours being like, let's see what happens. Then, like a stranger that was like set up by like a publishing company or an artists manager. I don't know. I'm always open to it. And I do get those emails sometimes. And it's when someone that I've already really like, you know, catches my ear. That's when I say yes, in fact, Jordanna we already followed each other on social media and I and we liked each other Music and had, I think probably communicated like, maybe a little bit like on social media, but like that was actually one of the few things that like, like a publisher, or manager or somebody, like made that session happen. And now we're like good friends. So never say never.

Brian Heater 45:17

I had Carl Newman on the show. And I asked him the question of just like, you know, because I've had people, I've talked to a lot of people who have like, these really successful, what I guess, you know, what you would deem like, indie rock, or like, you know, like, mid mid level successful careers. And I was like, how, you know, you write such great pop songs, have you ever considered, you know, doing this for, you know, being part of that machine? And he said, Don't you think that if I could have gotten that to work that I, I would still be doing? Like, you know, like, like that, like, obviously, in terms of making a living, doing music and still being able to pursue your thing on the side, like, that's a great, that's a great road to go down. But not everybody, even like people who can write a great hook and great song, are not necessarily equipped to do it that way.

Dent May 46:08

Yeah, I find that a lot of it's more of a networking thing, as well with the pop world. It's kind of like, there's a whole world of people that know each other. And not to say, I don't like those kinds of people because I do, but like, there's a very different attitude towards making music that a lot of those people have that is more transactional. And that's okay. But yeah, I you know, I don't know. But I don't know, I would, I'm down to try anything. And if some if that's the kind of thing where it's like, I don't want to have a session where it's like, somebody set it up. If somebody like that loves my music, and it's like, really wants to write with me. Definitely. But it's the worst when like, somebody set up and they don't really know who I am and I don't know who they are and you're just there because you're there. That's stupid.