Bandleader Greg Sullo talks about George R.R. Martin, Prince, and the group's new album Control

By Alex Heigl
October 26, 2014 12:00 PM

That headline might not make any sense until you listen to “Zeitgeist,” the soaring single off Brooklyn band Dinosaur Feathers’s new album, CONTROL. But once you hear the massive drums, vintage synths and rollercoaster vocals on the tune, you’ll realize that this album is the best collection of ’80s jams … of 2014.

Dinosaur Feathers have been making idiosyncratic indie rock that’s veered between surf, world music and rock influences for years now. (Their extensive touring schedule earned them the title of “hardest working band in Brooklyn” from at one point.)

But according to their record label, for Control, the band “look[ed] to Janet Jackson for spiritual guidance.” We talked with the group’s architect, Greg Sullo (bassist/vocalist Ryan Kiley is the band’s other half), for a look at the world of CONTROL.

Your label’s site mentions Janet Jackson, but who else were you listening to when you put this album together?
I was listening to a lot of Prince, especially Dirty Mind. Also, a lot of Chaka Khan, Marvin Gaye’s Midnight Love and anything they’d play on Kiss 98.1, the [San Franciscso] Bay’s Old School.

You played most of the instruments on it, correct?
Yeah. But my buddies Michael Coleman and Jacob Fiss-Hobart helped out. Michael added a bunch of keys and Jacob did all the sax parts.

Was that a big change? Do you prefer working that way at this point?
It wasn’t a choice to do it that way from the outset, it’s just sort of the way it ended up.

How did you get involved with [producers] Naptimes?
We’ve known those guys for a long time and we reached out to them about doing some production work for us. Luckily, they had some studio time after finishing up work on the new Peter Gabriel album down in Mexico and were able to help us out.

There are some heavy lyrics on this record, that are kind of glossed over by how buoyant the music is. Was that purposeful – juxtaposing the lyrical themes with the music’s tone?
I think it was more a matter of telling the stories I wanted to tell. And perhaps not realizing just how buoyant the music/production would end up.

The guys in Touching – who were your backing band for this most recent tour – are some serious musicians, like a lot of the session players on those classic Motown albums. Was that why you wanted to work with them, or was it more a matter of who was in your Rolodex at the time?
It was at the glorious intersection of those two things. It was probably the easiest, most convenient solution, but Erik and Moses were the perfect musicians to play with us and help us approach this material live the way we were hoping. I’m incredibly lucky it worked out the way it did.

Dino Feathers’s sound has evolved in a really interesting way throughout your releases. How far out in advance did you plan those changes and what’s next for the band?
Nothing was ever planned. It’s always really been a matter of logistics over anything else – who was playing with us at the time, what equipment was available to us, what we happened to be listening to. So, as to what comes next – it probably depends on some of those variables. But we have a lot more recorded music that we worked on while writing CONTROL, so hopefully we’ll put out some of that soon.

Perhaps most importantly: Has George R.R. Martin responded to you yet?
No! But we’re pretty sure he’s just waiting for the final season of the HBO series to have us do “The Rains of Castamere.” We’ll be ready.

CONTROL is available digitally on iTunes, Spotify, and directly from the band’s Bandcamp page, though we seriously advise you pick up the gorgeous pink vinyl edition available from their label.

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