Mammoth sound

Metal heavyweights Mastodon set to obliterate Senator Theatre

Unearthing the beast: Mastodon. From left: Braun Dailor, Troy Sanders, Bill Kelliher and Brent Hinds.

Unearthing the beast: Mastodon. From left: Braun Dailor, Troy Sanders, Bill Kelliher and Brent Hinds.

Photo by Travis Shinn

Mastodon performs Thursday, Oct. 22, 8:30 p.m., at the Senator Theatre. Intronaut opens.
Tickets: $25, available at Diamond W Western Wear, Blaze N J's,
Senator Theatre
517 Main St.

There’s no better metaphor for Mastodon’s current place in the music world than guitarist Brent Hinds, wearing a full Los Angeles Dodgers uniform, getting kicked out of last year’s Grammy Awards for dropping a fat bag of weed on the red carpet. No matter how far Mastodon has come—even rubbing shoulders with Taylor Swift—the band is still made up of four misbehaving metal dudes.

For the heavyweights out of Atlanta, it’s been a long ascension to becoming one of the biggest metal acts in the world. Since their debut album, 2002’s Remission, the first in a series of loose concept albums exploring each of the four elements, they’ve drawn praise from metal critics and scruffy kids in cargo shorts alike for their cohesive records, varied influences, world-class chops and utter heaviness.

But starting most notably with 2011’s The Hunter, a glossily produced record more in line with Foo Fighters than early Metallica, they’ve gravitated away from the fringes of extreme sound-making to something more palatable for the masses. Drummer Brann Dailor has been integral to that transformation. On a break between tours supporting the group’s latest album, Once More ’Round the Sun, and fall dates in support of metal icons Judas Priest, he spoke with the CN&R from his home in Atlanta in advance of Mastodon’s headlining show at the Senator Theatre on Oct. 22.

Dailor began contributing back-up vocals on 2006 album Blood Mountain and has been featured more prominently on subsequent albums, even taking lead on a handful on songs. His voice just doesn’t have the capacity to growl or shriek, he said, so his singing is naturally less gruff than his bandmates’.

“I think it’s better to look for some melody,” he said. “The screaming has to make sense in the song, and we realized that, album after album, we were moving away from the super-heavy stuff. … We wanted a broader spectrum, to have different facets of our musical personalities represented in there and be part of this thing called Mastodon. As time goes on, we’ll have this really vast musical experiment.”

And whereas the identity of many bands is tied to lead singers, Mastodon’s sound is characterized to a great extent by the vocal contributions of all four members. Any one of them might take the lead on a given song, but it’s still instantly recognizable as Mastodon.

“We’ve been able to maintain that because it’s the same four guys making the noise,” Dailor said. “There’s little we can do to alter our DNA. No matter what format it’s in, it’s going to sound like us because we have our DNA all over it.

“We’re not the best singers, to be honest,” Dailor continued. “I don’t think that’s any big secret—we do the best with what we have. It takes all of us to get it done. We’re a band in the truest sense because we’re extremely collaborative.”

As one might imagine, singing and drumming simultaneously poses a challenge, even for Dailor, who’s recognized by some as the most technically proficient member of the band. There are some instances where he has to pull back his drum patterns in order to focus on vocals.

“I have to pick my moments,” he said. “Sometimes a simpler beat lends itself better to the song, anyway, so I’m not bummed out when I could be doing a lot more technically. I’m trying to serve the song, even though it seems like I’m trying to show off.”

As for what fans can expect next from Mastodon, Dailor doesn’t foresee any break in writing, recording and touring.

“We haven’t stopped in 16 years,” he said. “I don’t know how long we can keep it up. Everybody gets tired out there, understandably. You go on no sleep. Everyone starts crying, and then we get off tour and a few weeks later everyone is ready to go again.

“We’ll go until we stop, I guess.”