Dent May is the singer-songwriter from Oxford Mississippi with warm infectious melodies over psychedelic disco beats. His last album, Warm Blanket, was released in 2013 and was recorded in isolation at a house he rented in St. Augustine, Florida. Recently May packed up to leave the legendary Dude Ranch and Cats Purring Collective and relocated to Los Angeles. We were lucky enough to catch up with Dent May on the eve of SXSW, where he talks to us about being open to collaboration now more than ever and how the transition from Oxford to LA has been. You can catch him playing four shows later this week at Austin’s SXSW festival, catch the details after the interview.
Punchland: You recently packed up and left Cats Purring Dude Ranch in Oxford MS to
move to Los Angeles. How has the transition been?
Dent May: I’ve always been in love with Los Angeles. Growing up I romanticized this idea of faded Hollywood glamour and the seedier, twisted side of the city I knew from movies. Day Of The Locust, Sunset Boulevard, Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls, Body Double and what not. Of course, living here has been nothing like that, but the fantasy is real. My life hasn’t changed that much. I’ve been exploring and hanging out with a lot of inspiring people, but I still spend most of my time writing songs in my bedroom and trolling the internet for inspiration.
Punchland: Favorite memory from the Dude Ranch?
Dent May: I don’t remember much to be honest. Just kidding. In retrospect, the Grimes show is a favorite memory, but the toilets went out, the floor broke, and there were hundreds of people at my house. I was so stressed out, but that show has become sort of legendary. Real Estate on Easter Sunday was the best combo of wonderful tunes, fun crowd, and low stress. Plus, they’re close friends at this point. We played at Martin’s wedding. Parties aside, random nights going down Youtube K-holes with my Cats Purring family is what I lived for.
Punchland: My first and last time there was when you played with Mac Demarco at Proud Larry’s. I’ll never forget that night, and have had many other people tell me all the great things the Dude Ranch put on.
Dent May: That’s great. There are still shows going on there without me. Cymbals Eat Guitars are playing tonight. People made a bigger deal about me leaving than necessary. I’ll be back down south sooner than later.
Punchland: Before that I saw you play in a bowling alley in Little Rock which was totally unexpected and awesome.
Dent May: I prefer unconventional venues. Playing bars that have live music every night can get depressing. It’s a lot more fun when you show up to a bowling alley and the promoter brought a P.A. and everyone there is psyched something different is happening.
Punchland: The Guardian recently ran a piece where artists give their advice to help others survive SXSW, do you have any you would like to share?
Dent May: My advice to artists is have no lofty expectations. You’re probably going to leave discouraged by the vapid corporate showbiz rat race, so party and meet other cool artists. Being from Mississippi, I always loved going to SXSW and running into folks. Soak it all in for better and for worse and channel your careerist existential despair into writing better music when you get home. My advice to the music industry is give me lots of money.
Punchland: Last year you were featured on a Pell track, how did that collaboration come about?
Dent May: Pell is the real deal. Mississippi is his second home after New Orleans, so it’s the kind of thing where we were friends and we talked about collaborating for so long that it actually ended up happening.
Punchland: There was a big sonic shift between your first album and second, and Warm Blanket seems to push the concepts of Do Things into bigger more lush territory. Will we see any big changes on the fourth LP?
Dent May: Songwriting is still the most important thing to me. I want to write something that matters to a lonely kid in 50 years. Don’t expect any drastic sonic leaps, but I’m writing better songs and always expanding my production toolkit. I’m just a student. I try to ignore the end result and focus on the process. Have fun making it, finish it, learn from your mistakes, and move on. So much art is too calculated. They focus on the buzzwords in the press release and forget about the craft. It doesn’t matter what you sound like if you channel everything you have into it. I promise this album will be bigger and better.
Punchland: I think Born Too Late is a criminally underrated song. How did that song come about?
Dent May: I wrote it so fast I barely remember doing it. I was recording Warm Blanket in St. Augustine, and I was worried the album was too heavy on the ballads. I needed an uptempo number. I worked super hard on it, then tripped over a cable and dropped my external hard drive. I lost an entire day’s work and had to start over. I recorded it better the second time, so it all worked out. It’s about feeling like you don’t belong, like you’re lost in time, and it’s about embracing the blissful melancholy of unrequited love.
Punchland: Is Dent May still a solo project or is there more collaboration?
Dent May: I’m more open to collaboration than ever before. I want to get a bunch of great musicians to come through and put their stamp on my tunes. I think with recording the last two albums in solitude, I got that out of my system. I’m also itching to write with other artists and work on projects that have nothing to do with me. I have this fantasy of helping develop younger artists, contributing to their songwriting and production and encouraging them to take certain risks. I’d like to work more in the mainstream pop world.
Be sure to catch Dent May at SXSW this year including Carpark’s 16th Anniversary Showcase!
Dent May @ SXSW:
3/19 Carpark @ Swan Dive – 10:15pm
3/20 Panache @ Hotel Vegas – 1am
3/21 Bird Dog @ Wonderland – 4:40pm
3/21 Panache @ Spider House Outdoor Stage 2 – 8:30pm