Mastodon’s Brann Dailor Shares 20 Years of Wisdom and Easy Approaches to Songwriting

Brann Dailor is proud to say he’s been with the same three guys for twenty years now as drummer for metal group Mastodon. 

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And with the making of their new compilation record Medium Rarities, he looked back on his experience and repertoire since the band’s conception in early 2000. Most of which was written with simple and to the point approaches-some of it has to do with too much coffee- but they are practices any artist at any level can incorporate into their writing routines because most of it has to do with perspective.

Aligning with Dailor’s easy-going personality, he said, “Don’t be so defensive and get so married to a part. It’s just a riff and you’ll think of something else if someone doesn’t like it. And if you are really in love with it, make sure it’s heard the way you envisioned it in your mind. Don’t back down if you’re that passionate about it.” On the flip-side, if the roles are reversed, he advises you to give your bandmates the same respect and opportunity. “If you’re not feeling it and your friend is telling you ‘hey it’s going to be sick- just keep an open mind.”

Mastodon builds their sound with an instrumental focus, and likes to experiment with sounds, approaches and dynamics in a lot of their music, some of which are included on their new compilation, with instrumentals like “Toe to Toes” and “Asleep in the Deep”. But when it comes to keeping songs different and exciting especially with the ones that lack vocals, its important to change up the way in which you leave and introduce what’s next in the songs- a skill Dailor said comes with experience and time, but keep in mind music is repetition to some extent.

“It really comes down to your personal taste, but sometimes you will explore every option and then arrive back where you started, but it takes exploring everything” Dailor said. “If you feel like something is stale because you’re doing verse-chorus-bridge-chorus-outro or something, well that’s how music goes, but there are different ways to go about it.”

“I’ve been in some bands when I was young that were more technical and we’d never repeat anything, it’d be like fifty riffs in one song,” he continued. “But as I got older, I wanted that structure. I need choruses and hooks, but we try to keep it interesting with riffs and bridges. You have to ask questions about every part and transition. You have to say A goes to B, what is something that we can put between A and B as a transition- maybe start out with a cool rhythmic thing you can drop in. And as far as bridges are concerned, they should always be like their own song for a minute or so.”

And if you find yourself in the middle of that circle of exploration and still keep coming back to where you started, buckling under writer’s block, at the verge of completing a song, try to visualize what you want to accomplish with the song.

“This happens to everybody,” Dailor said. “For me the best thing is to get up super early and sit in silence and I try to mediate on the part. I concentrate on what message I want to convey and visualize a cinematic moment in my mind.”

To dive deeper into Mastodon’s songwriting process, check out our interview with Dailor here on their latest release, how it came to be over the years and who helped them along the way.  In the meantime, give a few minutes to Mastodon and listen to their new song, “Rufus Lives”, from the soundtrack for Bill and Ted Face the Music.

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