By Julie Smitka (@julieksmitka)
The end of Odonis Odonis’ press release describes the Toronto trio’s latest album with that all-too-familiar satirical pall of 2017: “No Pop is raw with emotion that’s elevated by deft production. Each hypnotizing meditation captures an uncomfortably honest cynicism with a brush of humor, emphasized by sparse vocals that taunt the current dystopia of technology, human emptiness and the mundane. No Pop is the soundtrack of a sinking ship, and we’re all happily aboard to go down with it.”
Following last year’s departure from surf and static into Post Plague’s murky synths, it was unclear what direction Odonis Odonis would take while recording No Pop. After listening to the album, I called Dean Tzenos (vocals/synths) to discuss No Pop, the eponymous movement, and postmodern cynicism.
JS: I see you're going on tour soon, like a week after No Pop comes out.
DT: Yeah so we've been practicing getting like the lights and all that stuff working. We've been working on a bit of this stage show. It's super.
JS: Oh wow, sounds really busy already. I was surprised to see you have a new album coming out so soon after last year's Post Plague. It was kind of funny because the first time I heard it, someone was playing "Needs," and I remember thinking, "wait is that the new (at the time rumored) Ministry album? What is this? It's so good."
DT: [Laughs] No way!
JS: [Laughs] Actually comes out next March, FYI. But yeah, I'm glad to see No Pop carries over Post Plague's dark themes with a sort of dystopian take and pairs it with a higher energy. What was your motivation for exploring that further on the new album?
DT: To be honest, it just kind of happened. I mean we just started looking into that "no pop movement" and what that meant and it just freed us to start creating for the sake of creating without any inhibitions. We could do anything we wanted, without any pressure to do anything. Essentially we got in the room with the instruments and it started happening. There's not a big crazy story about it because it's really three people in a room creating freely. There weren't even a ton of outside influences on this one. Obviously, we have influences coming into it, but it really became whatever came out during our sessions. And it was pretty quick. The whole recording process was super fast. From start to finish, it took like three months. I think most of [the tracks] came together in the last month. That's how No Pop happened so quick.
JS: Wow, that sounds like the dream really.
DT: It kind of is. [Laughs]
JS: I went through some of the discography and noticed your sound has changed quite a bit. Your debut was sort of blended garage and surf rock. Hard Boiled Soft Boiled was very textured. Were those recorded during times where you felt like Odonis Odonis had less of that creative freedom?
DT: Hard Boiled Soft Boiled was all done in a bedroom and was the first thing I did. So there was a huge departure from that when we started doing more. It just didn't get released for like five years. And then Hollandaze I just kind of did soon after. And as soon as we started doing stuff like the Better EP around 2013 or something, we started to create more music together rather than how we were piecing it together from what we'd done alone. It was more of an expression of the three of us all together and in a more democratic way. We've been playing together for almost six years now.
JS: If you had to, how would you describe your sound now?
DT: I would just say dark electronic now. It's not too specific. [Laughs] I mean I've heard people say we're metal and stuff and I'm like, "okay, I don't know." Dark electronic seems pretty good. Not really goth. Well, we've always had that element to it and I love it. It's always been a part of our band, but I'd still hesitate to group it in with goth specifically. It makes sense that that's a move though. I guess more generally post-punk is cool again now because a lot of different DIY bands want to tread post-punk territory and are interacting with it more readily. The interaction is interesting.
JS: A lot of No Pop is about interaction, isn’t it? Especially "Check Your Profile.”
DT: Yeah, it's a cynical take on social media. I think it's deceiving that it makes people more interactive. Obviously, I can't be negative about all modern technology especially social media since we choose to work with it all the time. But I do think it makes interactions between humans a lot colder. I think general human happiness has gone down and that that's because of the stilted interaction of it. It feels like it's fulfilling social needs but it really isn't. You still have to go out and meet people. It's part of humanity. I don't think social media is an equivalent replacement for what it's often treated to be. It isn't very honest. People aren't really there.
JS: It's so easy for it to switch from communicative to performative.
DT: Oh yeah, even with online dating and apps. It's the natural progression of something really unnatural. I feel like a relic sometimes because I still like to interact with people face-to-face and just go out but it seems like fewer people even go out anymore. They're always on their phones. Or like, when someone goes to a show and watches it through their phone to post on social media. I'd never watch a show from a phone and get the same feeling of being there.
JS: It's not the same experience.
DT: Not at all.
JS: Considering that, do you plan to make other VR videos for No Pop?
DT: [Laughs] We could but it's a lot of work to put together and a bit of trouble to get people to watch it. I think the technology is really cool but it wouldn't really be worth the effort.
JS: Guess it’d be a little too ironic to market it that way.
DT: [Laughs] Totally! Everything we're trying to do with this one is way less... I don't know what the word is... we're not trying as hard to impress people with all that. We're thinking "let's just make this shit and put it out and make the process simple and easy to do and fun the whole time." We didn't need to put in super labor and make [the process] painful. We made what we wanted. Even with Post Plague as a record from front to back [it was] a really hard process. The way people digest music is passive. So much of a struggle can go into that for no reason. With this one, everything has been easy. Even the video. Once the mentality of all of that's changed, the whole process is very simplified.
JS: Kind of mirrors what you said about social media, like just putting your work out there and encouraging people to interact with it in its most realistic form. Seems to be a great time for No Pop to come out, with growing concerns about how we utilize social media and tech in general, and what it means for us as humans. I mean, there's even that Blade Runner sequel out now.
DT: [Laughs] Have you seen it yet? It felt so long but it's really cool.
JS: Yeah! Good visuals for sure.
DT: I loved the look of it.
JS: Other than working on the visuals for the live show, is there anything else you'd like to say about tour or the album?
DT: Just that we hope to see people come out to the shows. We made No Pop for us, but the live show is a big part of sharing it.
10.27 - Brooklyn, NY @ Saint Vitus w/ Boy Harsher
10.28 - Montreal, QC @ l’Escogriffe (DJ Set)
11.03 - Toronto, ON @ The Garrison
11.18 - Detroit, MI @ Trixie’s w/ Ritual Howls
11.19 - Chicago, IL @ Empty Bottle w/ Ritual Howls
11.29 - San Diego, CA @ Soda Bar w/ Chasms & Houses of Heaven
11.30 - Los Angeles, CA @ Zebulon w/ Chasms & Houses of Heaven
12.03 - San Francisco, CA @ Swedish American Hall w/ Chasms & Houses of Heaven
12.06 - Portland,OR @ Lovecraft Bar w/ Chasms
12.07 - Seattle, WA @ Timbre Room w/ Chasms
12.08 - Vancouver, BC @ Astoria w/ Chasms