¡Ay, Dios Mío!
Were not mellow guys, confesses Dios (Malos) bassist J.P. Caballero, though he knows that might sound like heresy to fans of the bands laid-back, 60s-based pop songcraft. Were actually angry people. I just wanted to clarify that: Were not mellow California beach-pop. Were actually degenerate intellectual symphonic rock. Actually, strike that. Just say were degenerate.
Lyrically, thats true. Their new, self-titled LP, follow-up to their easygoing 2004 debut, is filled with songs touching on issues dear to mall rats and grad students alike: drugs, desire and all the bad news that comes with them. And more drugs. But theres more to Dios (Malos) than singer Joel Morales smart-ass lines like I take drugs but I cant afford them, no matter how much of a laugh they are. Joel always writes songs that are deceptively simple and basic, adds Caballero. But theyre very profound.
Theyre also more energetic than those that appeared on Dios last release. Where previously placid and plaintive tunes like You Make Me Feel Uncomfortable and All Said + Done were mellow to the max, treading territory explored equally by Neil Young and the Alan Parsons Project, the new tunes have a bit more blood in their veins.
We tried to get a bit more rocking on this record, Caballero explains. Its a little more thuggish. We pulled out the switchblades. (Yes, hes joking. Sort of.)
And while were setting the record straight: Dios (Malos), who come from Hawthorne, are bored with continually being compared to fellow Hawthornites the Beach Boys and no one else which is not to say that Caballero entirely rejects the link. Weve definitely taken from them, he explains, especially in our approach and atmosphere. The Beach Boys were just regular guys from a regular city who happened to get bored and make something that was inspired as a result.
Whats most surprising about talking to Caballero over the phone is how funny he is especially when asked about pintsize metal washout Ronnie James Dio, who sued the former Dios over a single letter in their name.
Yeah, hes tiny, Caballero agrees when I offer the absolute lie that Dio landed a Guinness World Record for shortest headbanger on Earth. Hes like Verne Troyer, right? And his real last name is Padanova! We were thinking for a while about changing our name to that. It sounds a lot less dramatic and evil than Dios.
The addition of Malos in parentheses speaks to its complete superfluity plus, in the spirit of fuck-up revelry, its not even conjugated correctly. Malos is not supposed to have an S on the end of it when it occurs next to Dios, Caballero explains. Were into poor grammar too. But its an intentional play on words, so were actually geniuses. Let me know when you want to slip us a Peabody. Or Pulitzer. Something that starts with a P.
Ever since they appeared on an influential New Musical Express watch list following the release of their EP Los Arboles (Dim Mak, 2004), people have been slipping Dios one good thing after another: Their eponymous 04 debut on Star Time garnered critical acclaim and a following in the U.K.; they landed decorated indie producer Phil Ek (Built To Spill, Modest Mouse, et al.) for their recently released sophomore effort. And now, like so many melancholy poppers before them, theyre headed for The O.C: The catchy soft-loud-soft nugget Everyday, from Los Arboles, has made it onto an episode airing December 1.
Dios new LP is also a perfect match for The O.C.s postmodern teen soap. Take first single I Want It All, for example (whose surreal animated video was made by a friend who works on South Park). Its a straight-ahead jangly pop morsel as soft as butter, lamenting and celebrating the hunger that comes with a taste of la dolce vita. EPK recalls Coldplay and Yoshimi-era Flaming Lips (who once showed up on Beverly Hills, 90210, by the by) right down to the honeyed crescendos and heartstring balladry. You dont want it anymore, Morales sings, expressing a sense of longing that runs throughout the album in different forms. Feels Good Being Somebody is an upbeat bouncer that takes the slacker ethic to its endgame with snarky asides like Im self-absorbed and Im lazy/It feels good being somebody else. Somewhere, Malkmus is grinning, and Cobain is laughing. McCartney may be flattered or annoyed: The songs chorus, See how they run/Under the gun channels Lady Madonna a bit too ably.
Some have already used the O.C. placement a coup thats famously helped Death Cab for Cutie, Pinback and many more deserving and undeserving bands to subtly deride Dios in their sophomore phase. Theyre not having any of it. A track from their debut album called (what else?) You Got Me All Wrong already made it onto The O.C. Mix 2: The Soundtrack. Indie idiots have called them sellouts before.
Ill say this, Caballero offers, in what passes for our only serious exchange: We just made a record. No one told us how to make it. No one told us what songs to put on it. No one told us what the artwork had to look like. No one told us what the lyrics had to be about, or what the first single was going to be. No one told us to do anything. If someone makes you do something, then youre a sellout. If someone wants to put something we made ourselves in a TV show and give us money and exposure, Ive got no qualms with that. I never knew so many 15-year-old girls liked our band. But its definitely nice.
Anyway, for all their indie cred, Dios (Malos) have always been outsiders, in a sense, to the Silver Lake scene. As far as playing a Silver Lake club or something like that, having a 310 area code has never really helped us, Caballero says. Weve always had a lot of uphill resistance from those people, which is kind of a bummer. But ultimately, were going to do what we do no matter what. If people want to be into it, thats radical. Shower us with money, attention and affection. And airplay, if they want. Were not going to stop making our music. And hustling.
We came up playing to nobody, Caballero continues. Playing arcades on Tuesday nights, with no one giving a shit about us or wanting to do anything for us. Then we had that write-up in NME, and everything blew up. All of a sudden everyone was asking us to do things. But thats always been the deal with this band. Its always been about thinking that things are a lot less complicated than they really are. Maybe when you start dating us, youll see.
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