[LO-FI ROCK] Since recording his debut, 1998's indelible For Your Radio
, with just voice, guitar and softly brushed snare, Eugene songwriter Dan Jones has been accompanied by the Squids, a shifting lineup eagerly layering guitar noise and rhythmic energy over and under Jones' unfailingly witty lyrics. But despite being thoroughly wrapped in the Squids' tentacles, Jones' next two albums were released under his name alone. With his newest disc, Totally Human
, the amiable, scratchy-voiced songwriter makes it official: It's credited to Dan Jones and the Squids, with all four members proudly pictured on the back. I spoke with Dan by phone to discuss his development from solo artist to rocker.
WW: Are you more comfortable nowadays performing in the role of bandleader than singer-songwriter?
Dan Jones: I'm pretty comfortable at this point—at least, people tell me I look comfortable [laughs]. I just like change, trying new things, so I honestly try to do new material as much as I can [with the band], even if it might not be fully ready sometimes. That's the good kind of uncomfortable.
You're not just fronting a band with the same old songs; your songwriting's developed to incorporate the band.
Some of the writing process is similar, in terms of hunkered-down wordsmithing and chord-fiddling. But on this record I've done more arranging with Mike Last, my drummer. Some of the songs that have more twisty-turnies in 'em, we honed those in a little bit, trimming, arranging—some of those songs have part after part, without a whole lot of traditional repetition.
Were all those parts in the songs as they developed, or were they added on during this arranging process?
Mostly, the parts were there, but the ligaments that held them together weren't, really. As a songwriter, you can choose to be the creature that pops out these fully formed songs, and people learn 'em. That's a time-honored way of doing things, but it's great that I play with folks who are willing to hear things in a less-than-perfected state, and hammer 'em around a little. With a lot of troubadour-type record production, it's fairly obvious that they've tacked a bass and a drum part onto a pre-existing song, because the bassist and the drummer didn't want to upset the guy who wrote the song too much by being creative! Now, my band's fallen apart many times, but at this point I'd rather be creative and make things happen together.
Dan Jones and the Squids celebrate the release of
Totally Human Friday, Aug. 17, with thebrotheregg and Oh! Captain at the White Eagle. 9:30 pm. $6. 21+. Read the full, extended Q&A here.