Not Afraid to Play the Pop

Indie-popper Dent May expands his musical repertoire on a new disc

July 19, 2012
Dent May spins tunes as a wedding DJ when he’s not recording and says the cheesy, fun pop music he plays ended up influencing his newest record, “Do Things.”

Most indie musicians would be embarrassed to be caught DJing at a wedding reception, spinning Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” for dressed-up crowds dancing awkwardly in church basements. Not Dent May.

When he’s not touring, the Oxford, Miss., singer-songwriter books reception gigs on the side “to pay the bills,” he says. He shamelessly embraces the cheese factor and finds inspiration in popular dance tracks.

“I really love the stereotypical wedding jams, the old disco tunes and the songs that everyone in the world loves to hear,” he says. “I wanted to tap into that and make super-accessible music that makes people feel good, but with a twist.”

His second album, “Do Things,” is a sugary indie-pop confection, frosted like a cake with sweet-tooth synths and slow-jam vocals. Songs such as “Best Friend” and “Wedding Day” portray an artist with a busy brain and an impulse to go against the flow.

“It’s really frustrating to hear indie-rock bands that just straight-up sound like Joy Division,” May says. “I want to bring in [sounds and influences] that people think are cheesy, whether it’s the Bee Gees or Beyoncé. I listen to all kinds of music. Most people do. I want my music to reflect that.”

“Do Things” is a big change for May, who is perhaps most famous as a pop ukulele player. On his first album, 2009’s “The Good Feeling Music of Dent May & His Magnificent Ukulele,”

he crooned Sinatra-style and strummed out simple chords. But after touring for that album, he abandoned his signature instrument.

“I was sick of it,” he says. “I never wanted to be the ukulele guy. I didn’t want to die and have people say, ‘Oh, that ukulele guy died.’ I want to show people that I can do anything.”

That’s his credo as he begins writing his third album, which he says will be corny and weird in completely new ways. “I want every album I make to be totally different from the one before it,” he says. “That way, it’ll be fun for me and it’ll be fun for listeners, too.”

Inside Track: With its chipper bass line and chintzy drum-machine beat, the unabashedly catchy “Wedding Song” sounds as if it’s going out to all the bridesmaids hoping to make it to the altar one day.

DC9, 1940 9th St. NW; Sun., 9 p.m., $10; 202-483-5000. (U Street)
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