Dent May was kind of enough to grace our studio in preparation for his show at the 40 Watt Nov. 3rd with Bass Drum of Death. You can check out his live performance on our Bandcamp (click on the link) and check out a transcript of our interview below in which he discusses his fandom of Katie Couric, Katy Perry, The Fifth Element and Sweet Potato Queens as well as his creative process and “Do Things.” Also, we agreed to let him have our Katie Couric Taboo card. He wouldn’t leave the station without it.
Will– So let’s talk about the 40 Watt show tonight with all you Mississippi Boys, Bass Drum of Death, ILLS and Dead Gaze, will there be any baked goods provided
Dent May– We should do that you know, we should have put more thought into our merch, but I think we’re just going to have the traditional setup. Unfortunately I lost a lot of my merch on tour this year I had temporary tattoos that I gave out with every purchase and they’re gone and I can’t find them.
Will– Well there is a tattoo parlor right next door to the 40 Watt…
Dent– Yeah I know that, maybe we can just get real tattoos, maybe everyone should just get real Dent May tattoos before the show.
Will– Oh yeah, those are temporary man don’t worry it will come right off. But yeah you’re playing with your Cats Purring folks.
Dent– Yeah a lot of them live with me, a lot of the bands share members, we’re a family.
Will– Tell us about the North Mississippi infotainment cult that is Cats Purring.
Dent– I don’t know its just a name we have for what we do, kind of started out as a way for us to put out free demos of our music and not be just talking about ourselves the whole time and it kind of evolved into promoting a lot of shows around town, we have had a lot of house shows at our house, at the Cat’s Purring Dude Ranch, this year we had Grimes, Real Estate, DIIV, Frankie Rose, which the cops came twice to that show so we haven’t had one in a while but yeah we’ve had Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Youth Lagoon, pretty much all my favorite bands have been through, its surreal to think back on that. But overall its just a group of friends that includes a lot of non-musicians and supporters and in that way, it’s kind of like a cult.
Will– I feel like I would be pretty scared of Bass Drum of Death if they rolled in here.
Dent– They probably could beat you up, but they probably wouldn’t, they’re really sweet guys, they’re tough dude but they are sweethearts.
Will– Maybe you and me and another guy out there could take them?
Dent– I’m a lover not a fighter so I’m going to stay out of this one (laughs)
Will– Do you think you’ve kicked the image of being the ukulele guy yet?
Dent– I’ve started to, when I’m on tour I’ll still see them billing me as Dent May and His Magnificent Ukulele, and I’m like have you not followed my career, not that they should but I get annoyed because I don’t want fans to expect something different. Every once in a while there’s an angry person who’s like “Where’s the ukulele?” I don’t know I haven’t played one in three years, where have you been? (laughs)
Will– Another interesting association is with your Grateful Dead cover, it comes up as one of the first Google suggestions.
Dent– Yeah that’s a weird thing too, and I sort of did it because I knew it would be something people would say it wasn’t cool. But then again, I don’t want that to be my claim to fame, so we play it live now but we’ll probably phase it out and find some other unexpected cover song. I think our friend Alex Bleecker’s goal of Real Estate is to unite the jam band and indie scene and we have the same ideals.
Will– Hey, don’t be looking at my notes (I caught him stealing glances at my questions), you can’t be prepared for these questions, but yeah are you working on anything new and is it going to follow in the same vein as Do Things?
Dent– Yeah I’ve started working on the new album, just writing songs at this point, some of them were written at a house in Florida where I’m going to record the album in February. I don’t want to think too hard about what it’s going to sound like, just because I’m a different person than I was a year ago, or two years ago, but it’s a similar songwriting style and I just want to have fun recording it, be adventurous, get weird in the house alone by myself. There’s a grand piano in the house but still really poppy, funky but still a little dark at times. We’ll see what happens.
Will– I like your glittery nail polish, what’s the story there?
Dent– I was just hanging out in New York at a party and the next thing we know all the dudes have nail polish on.
Will– I was at CMJ and I think you guys played 50 shows?
Dent– It was only 8 but it felt like 80 at times but I was not overwhelmed it was really fun, actually all the shows were amazing.
Will– Are you tired of touring?
Dent– No not at all, there was a time when we did tour and I was kind of afraid to be away from home I had anxiety about being on the road and singing every night, I don’t know once I get in the zone I never want to go back home, but yeah I want to be on tour as much as possible at least when I’m young.
Will– I’m glad you said that, I’m glad your set earlier wasn’t torture or anything.
Dent– No, but I was actually thinking this in my head, something about the work and the hard times makes it so much more rewarding. If was just hanging out with my friends I would be like I should be playing music now. The adventure is what makes it worth doing.
Will– So we have the Ole Miss game today as the backdrop for this interview, and you’ve told me you are somewhat of a fan, what is your mascot again, the old men?
Dent– It’s Ole Miss Rebels, but it’s really controversial, we had this plantation owner vibe that some people found offensive, so now we are the Rebel Bears but it hasn’t really caught on. I saw people passing out stickers that said Colonel Reb is still my mascot, all the trouble is a little silly.
Will– Did Walmart agree to develop your nude photos?
Dent– Walgreen’s rejected my disposable camera rolls for content and Walmart accepted it but I’m angry because they don’t return your negatives to save money. But to me that’s my intellectual property, something I’d put up at catspurring.tumblr.com, check it out.
Will– Are there a lot of nude photos up there?
Dent– No, not a lot of nudity but those nude photos were of Mac Demarco so maybe you’ll be seeing some racy photos on our Tumblr, I haven’t gotten them back so we’ll see what happens.
Will– So you were a film student at NYU, seen any movies lately you’ve enjoyed?
Dent– I’ve been on tour constantly so I haven’t had a lot of time, The Fifth Element is my favorite movie, I really liked Beasts of the Southern Wild which was made in Louisiana and I thought it was really beautiful, I saw it twice actually in theatres. I want to see “The Master” also but I really haven’t seen much.
Will– What do you guys listen to in the van?
Dent– We only have radio, so we listen to a lot of Top 40 radio, we love Rhianna, we love Katy Perry and we’re not afraid to say it. I’m always trying to find oldies stations also, and campus stations like this one but when you’re out there on the highway, all you can find is Katy Perry and you learn to love it. And if there a million people out there loving it, there’s something compelling there.
Will– Let’s talk about cereal.
Dent– I really like Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Honey Comb.
Will– Never been a big fan of that. Actually I saw them put out a indie based Honey Comb playlist you could download from a code on the box.
Dent– I would love to be on a playlist like that. Honey Comb if you’re listening put me on your next mix, I love your cereal.
Will– You should write a song for them and then they’ll be obligated.
Dent– I’ve actually though of writing jingles but you get into some pretty dubious territory, you got to pick a company you believe in. I’ll probably do a Honey Combs song then find out they have unethical business practices.
Will– We have the Taboo cards lying around the table here.
Dent– I know, I’m looking at the Katie Couric one, I’m a huge fan. I kind of want to keep this one.
Will– What are the forbidden words on it?
Dent– It’s kind of dark, today, NBC, television, Matt Lauer, colon cancer. It’s really sad, I know her husband passed away with colon cancer awhile back. So shout out to Katie Couric.
Will– So you have a cheery sound but dark lyrics, what creative process results in this?
Dent– Life is bittersweet and that is something I want to tap into with my music. To me, happiness and sadness aren’t that far apart for me and you really can’t know true happiness unless you know true darkness so for me its about shutting my brain off and looking at myself and figuring out what I want to say. I want people to have fun but at the same time I want them to think about what I’m saying and really experience it on a deeper level if they want to.
Will– I really appreciated the “Best Friend” music video, what is the inspiration behind that?
Dent– I was kind of inspired by Beyonce actually, and her “Countdown” video, just because she had so many outfits and she is so up in the camera, but I wanted to be like launching different personas and I played all the instruments on the album.
Will– And who were those girls at the end of the video?
Dent– That was in Jackson, MS and these things called the Sweet Potato Queens and there are these middle aged women who dress really crazy and get drunk and get wild and there was a parade and we randomly ended up there and decided to film. And Sweet Potato Queens have groups across America and they come to this pilgrimage to Jackson and we just stumbled upon that.
Will– What were you for Halloween?
Dent– A baseball player, just super generic, I had a glove.
Will– No bat, things can get interesting with a bat?
Dent– Yeah that’s what I was thinking too. I just don’t want to see myself behind bars.
-Interview Conducted by Will Guerin