In one-way or another, Dan Dixon has earned a lot of ink in Innocent Words. Whether it was in our infancy as a print magazine where we gushed over Dixon’s band Dropsonic or covered bands he has produced in his Atlanta studio.
After a fistful of killer records, Dixon disbanded his respected rock band Dropsonic saying in a 2013 interview with Innocent Words, “As much as I loved Dropsonic, I think musically, we had run our course. Personally, I felt the need to do something different, so we shut it down. We made six records that I’m really proud of and played nearly 1,000 shows, but ultimately, I didn’t see us progressing any further and felt that it was time for a change.”
That change came in a completely new musical direction with his new band PLS PLS. The band formed shortly after the breakup of Dropsonic with Dixon exploring the world of electronic rock music. PLS PLS (pronounced Please Please) released their debut ‘EP EP’ in 2013 and quickly came back with a full length entitled…. wait for it…yep, you guessed it ‘LP LP.’
PLS PLS — Dixon (vocals, guitar), Mike Boutte (guitar), Andre Griffin (keys), new guy Takashi Takemura (drums), and Dixon’s old Dropsonic running mate David Chase on bass — are back for another round on their second long player entitled ‘Jet Black.’ We sat down with Dan Dixon to talk about the record among other things.
Innocent Words: Normally if you say something is infectious you should go to the doctor to get a shot, but ‘Jet black’ is just that — infectious. Were you going for big hooks?
Dan Dixon: For sure. Even though I’ve spent a ton of time listening to more obtuse music — and spent some time writing songs that were intentionally jarring — the music that sticks with me the most is usually something simple, catchy, infectious. I’ll have riff or an idea that I think bears repeating a bunch of times in a three-and-half minute pop song — I try to not shy away from it just because it’s straightforward.
Innocent Words: The first album was ‘EP EP,’ the second was ‘LP LP,’ was there any consideration naming this record ‘CD CD.’
Dan Dixon: Nah. I think somewhere around Dropsonic ‘VI,’ I clearly got tired of naming albums. I’m back now though.
Innocent Words: Going back to your early days, even before Dropsonic, were you into synth-inspired music like this?
Dan Dixon: I grew up in the ’80s so some of the first records I bought as a kid were Duran Duran, Michael Jackson, Tears For Fears, Run DMC, but even growing up there were always bands with synths that I liked — Radiohead, Flaming Lips, Pink Floyd, Yes, Can, LCD Soundsystem… I don’t exactly think of PLS PLS as electronic — It’s all real drums, bass, and guitars played by humans — I’m not auto tuning the vocals — but there’s also a bunch of synths and some of it’s designed to make your ass shake or your head bob — it’s still basically a rock band.
Innocent Words: I’ve known you for some time now and I don’t picture you dancing to electronic music as most people would. Can you cut a rug?
Dan Dixon: Not really, I’m a wallflower.
Innocent Words: But back then, electronic music didn’t have the bite of the electric guitars PLS PLS does. I think that’s what sets you apart from most “synth pop” bands.
Dan Dixon: Right. Real guitars, real drums. I think of electronic music as having programmed drums. I’m still putting microphones on things and using ’70s and ’80s analog synths to get sounds.
Innocent Words: What’s the difference between writing a rock song compared to a song with lots of synths, I mean beside the obvious? Do you start on an acoustic guitar like a rock song would?
Dan Dixon: I still usually start writing with a synth sound or on piano. The main thing about PLS PLS for me was hearing myself sound different than what I’m used to. Writing songs on electric guitar in Dropsonic became uninspiring so playing an instrument like piano that I’m kind of bad at or finding some new synth sound keeps it fresh. Some dudes buy new pedals — I decided to try a new instrument.
Innocent Words: The title track is such a powerful song. Tell me a little bit about the writing process of that one.
Dan Dixon: I wrote it on a Pro One that my keyboard player Andre loaned me. It’s that pulsing sound that goes throughout the whole song. I had this really simple chord structure going with that sound and basically sketched out the whole thing that day. Of course, everyone added their parts and built it up, but it came together fast and easy.
Innocent Words: Lyrically, the new album has a bit of punk aggression with “We Don’t Scare,” “This Is War,” and “Fools.” Were you trying to make a point here?
Dan Dixon: I write whatever I’m feeling and then usually I can see the pattern after the record is done. Most of my songs are about me or something that happened to me or whatever. I write what I feel and what I know, but I’m not usually trying to make a point- just saying what’s on my mind.
Innocent Words: It’s been about five years now since you started PLS PLS, are you happy with the progress of the band?
Dan Dixon: I think we’re becoming a better band all the time and ‘Jet Black’ is the best thing we’ve made. We’re finally going on tour next month — probably should’ve done that sooner, but I don’t feel pressure like I used to, to be on the road all the time and to try so hard.