This entire interview was a plot to steal Callie's banana bread recipe, but it didn't work. I urge every person that reads this to call or write their state representative and request that Callie share her banana bread recipe with me.
Honestly, I'm so excited about this interview. I know I say that about every interview, but Dad Bod is one of my favorite bands. It's still crazy to me that I get to talk to all the bands I like. Why do people keep agreeing to do interviews with me?? I first heard of Dad Bod through their single Rot, and I've been listening to them non-stop ever since. The Minnesota-based indie band recently signed to No Sleep Records, which is no doubt a testament to the band's talent. Dad Bod consists of Callie Marino, Wilson Zellar, Noah Topliff, and Alex Gray. I talked to the band about their beginnings, their music, and about banana bread recipes. Check it out.
1. What have you been listening to lately?
Wilson: The sun is just starting to come out here and it’s feeling like spring, and as soon as that happens I find myself listening to the album ‘Car Wheels On A Gravel Road’ by Lucinda Williams a lot. It’s an album reaching back to my childhood that I just equate heavily with heat and sun and I get such distinct, pleasant sense memories when I listen to it. Plus I feel like I take a lot of personal influence from the guitar playing and tones on that album.
2. Opinion on Eric Clapton? (I heard he’s a big influence on Wilson )
Wilson: I will admit to being somewhat confused when I found out that Eric Clapton was such a huge guitar influence on me. I have alway felt I identified more with guitar players like Ira Kaplan from Yo La Tengo, for instance. However at the end of the day I really can’t blame that particular interviewer because zoom interviews are hard and, listening to my playing style I can definitely see the influence I take from lethargic white guy blues music. (fuck eric clapton lol)
3. Do you think you could eat more bees than Macaulay Culkin?
Noah: Hell no. But, if Macaulay Culkin ever wants to have a bee eating contest I will cancel any and all plans to take part.
4. How do I make banana bread?
Callie: I ACTUALLY HAVE A REALLY GOOD RECIPE - the boys can attest to this. It’s my grandma’s recipe, but that’s a secret I’ll never tell.
Noah: This is me attesting. Callie is an A1 baker.
5. I invested all of my money into AMC stock and now I’m broke. What is the best scam I can do to recover my money?
6. In what ways has Ray Romano impacted your life and inspired you?
Wilson: Some years ago I was hanging out with a friend who was laying on his couch, very stoned, and he randomly told me, “You know what celebrity you look like? Ray Romano.” I decided not to dignify the comment with a response, but then he followed it up with, “You know who I always thought I looked like? Matt Damon.” Not cool.
Alex: I’m more of a Brad Garrett guy myself.
7. Y’all think Shrek can do a kickflip?
Callie: Honestly, no
8. On a scale of 1-10 how much do you regret agreeing to do this interview?
Noah: Zilch, nada, noodle.
9. Y'all think Shrek can dunk a basketball?
Wilson: Google tells me that Shrek is between 7 and 8 feet tall. So probably, unless he’s got, like, Nikola Jokic athleticism.
10. Any local Minneapolis bands that you think we should check out?
Callie: Bugsy, Keep for Cheap, Miloe, Marmalade, ivers
Noah: I really like Just Grey (specifically their song “Any More” is great), and Fragile Canyons (their frontman, Andy “The Stache” Canyons relocated to Switzerland recently so they’re no longer active in the Twin Cities) but they’re a band from the scene I still listen to regularly.
Alex: I love anything that MN drummer Dave King is involved with, including The Bad Plus, Happy Apple, and Halloween, Alaska.
To start things off, can you introduce yourselves?
Noah: Hey, I’m Noah, I play guitar. I grew up in Red Wing, Minnesota, I’ve been playing music my whole life in various capacities but starting playing in bands when I was 14. I played drums at a 7th grade talent show in a cover of “Holiday” by Green Day and that’s the moment I really knew I wanted to do this stuff forever. I used to be really afraid of dying. Like really afraid of it, cripplingly afraid, like convincing myself I was having heart attacks and stuff only to go to the hospital and have them tell me everything was fine. 10-12 years old was a weird time for me.
Wilson: I’m Wilson and I’m from St. Paul, Minnesota. My dad is a musician and has had a really successful career in music so I’ve been super fortunate to be around music and the “business of it” my whole life. However music was never forced upon me, I just remember I was really into The Beatles at that age and we had a big fakebook of their songs and I decided I wanted to pick up a guitar and play them but I could never figure out how to read any of it, until my Dad taught me how to play a D chord then I was able to turn the book and decipher what the tabs were trying to tell me to do and then I’m self taught from there.
Alex: Hi, I’m Alex. I’m from the northern suburbs of MN. I’ve been playing drums since joining the jazz band in high school. Growing up I took piano lessons, as my dad has played the piano his whole life and my grandma was an amazing ragtime pianist. Like Wilson, I’m thankful to be from a supportive musical family.
Was there a particular moment, or maybe an album that made you fall in love with music?
Noah: Aside from the Green Day story mentioned above two things come to mind. I remember my parents having a CD of The Beatles hits called “One” that I listened to on a walkman on repeat on a drive to and from Duluth to see my grandparents on the way there and back that I sang along to the whole time. And I remember my dad playing the album Dance of Death by Iron Maiden for me and that being the first time I listened to something I knew my mom hated and it made me feel very very cool at the time.
Alex:: The first CD I bought in high school was by a MN band called the Bill Mike Band. It’s called “Better News.” I was drawn to their high level of musicianship and how much fun they were clearly having while playing together. I hoped I’d be able to be in a band like that someday.
How would you describe the Minneapolis music scene, and what was it like coming up in that scene?
Noah: People in the scene have been super super kind and supportive of us from the outset and I think that’s something a lot of bands here experience. The house show circuit here is really strong and the whole community around it is super supportive.
Callie: I think it’s an entirely new wave of people that are making it what it is right now, even within the past year and a half. It definitely wasn’t a place I always felt comfortable in (and I know a lot of people felt the same way). There are a lot of cool bands right now making space & supporting each other.
You formed in late 2019, before the pandemic hit. What has been the most difficult part of being in a band and creating during this pandemic?
Wilson: Obviously not being able to play shows and really feel in touch with the performative aspects of playing music is super tough. It’s hard to get the same amount of satisfaction and warmth from just having people tell you how much they enjoy a recording or something (although still very nice!). However we formed in November 2019, played two shows, went our separate ways for a month for winter break and released ‘Rot’, then in January of 2020 we hit the ground running and basically started playing, like, three or four times a week until the pandemic started. I think it kind of took us all by surprise how fast things were moving and, ultimately, maybe wasn’t something we were prepared for both mentally and physically. So, solely in regards to the band, I think things shutting down was oddly beneficial in some ways. It allowed us to slow ourselves down, assess what we were doing and what we wanted to do, and just process our experience so as to understand how to handle things in a healthier way going forward.
Are there any (surprising) benefits of being a band during a global pandemic?
Noah: I think for us we’re super lucky in the fact that we do everything DIY and that Wilson records and produces all of our music so we’ve been able to record and workshop stuff all through quarantine.
The first song of yours that I heard was “Rot” and I immediately fell in love with it. Can you give us some background on the song?
Callie: Rot was one of the first few songs I finished. I was in a major depressive episode and was having a hard time leaving the house - even to get groceries. It was one of the first songs I wrote that felt honest, and made me want to keep writing.
This was also one of the first songs we worked on full band, and Wilson had the brilliant idea for the shoegaze at the end. Before it was just a lullabye, but Wilson and the rest of the band brought something really powerful - the start of Dad Bod.
I read in a previous interview that you (Callie) drove 3 hours away to play your first solo show in Chicago because you had a fear of people you know linking personal songs with you. Do you feel like that fear still exists, or has it subsided?
Callie: I think the fear of being perceived, period, still exists. However, I’m not as afraid of the linkage anymore. I’m really proud of the music I make and a large part of that is due to the boys’ love and support.
I also read that you chose the name “Dad Bod” kind of on the spot from a list on your notes app. What were some of the other band names that were on that list?
Callie: It’s a horrifying list to look at and I think it reflects my overconsumption of pop punk in high school... I still stand by Acidic Pussy though.
Talk to us a bit about your latest EP “Precursor” Is there anything that you want your listeners to feel or take away from the EP ?
Wilson: Callie and I started recording ‘Precursor’ not too long after the pandemic hit as a way to continue working on things during shutdown and quarantine. Back when Dad Bod was just Cal’s solo project the plan was initially for me to record and accompany her with more of a stripped down, singer songwriter-y vibe. So in that sense ‘Precursor’ is kind of a look into what I think Dad Bod would have looked like had Cal not decided to bring us all in as a band.
When you’re working on music, do you usually have the listener in mind? Or is it more of a personal process that you later share with the world? (Does that make sense? I worded that weird) Wilson: I think because I produce and record our stuff I end up toggling back-and-forth a lot between the more personal mindset of playing the songs with the more, I guess, objective way of how it’s presented to the world? Objective isn’t the right word but I think when you are in the playing and writing phase of a song you will oftentimes come up with something you think is incredibly cool or have a certain idea of a way something should be, then when you go to put it down in recording it just doesn’t work or it’s too much and makes everything messy. As a guitarist my tendency might be to come up with as many cool guitar parts as I can but ultimately once I have to go engineer and mix the songs I come to realize that we have quite a bit going on, so as time goes on I’ve tried more and more to think about these things as we’re in the writing and rehearsing phase so once we go to lay it all down we’re just a little more fleshed out and organized.
Noah: I personally don’t. I’m mostly just focused on making something that myself and my bandmates can be psyched on. I feel like if that energy is there it’ll come through for the listeners.
What were you listening to while working on the EP?
Wilson: I find it incredibly hard to listen to music while working on music. I still love music obviously, however I think up until maybe two or three years ago it was mostly a hobby and never something I thought I’d be able to take on in any professional sense. So now that I find myself in that position I think in my spare time I’m trying to numb my brain with anything but. When we aren’t recording I get back onboard but while we’re working on stuff and recording I will happily sit in silence for hours on end when I can.
Was there a song on the EP that you were afraid to put on the EP?
Callie: Honestly, no. They were all songs that felt really honest, and that’s something that’s really important to me.
Do you ever have songs that are just too personal to release?
Callie: Sometimes I have songs I need to sit on a while before I can show the band, just so I can distance myself from it a little. But once I reach the place where I’m comfortable enough to show the band, I’m comfortable enough to show the world.
What is most important to you, or what do you like to focus on the most when working on a song?
Wilson: I think for me it all comes down pretty simply to making sure things are very pretty and melodic. Cal makes that very easy as her songwriting style and tendencies naturally veer into that territory. I’m not necessarily a fan of complicating things just to complicate things, so just making sure that we aren’t diminishing a song’s natural emotion or beauty by adding in extra chords or notes or left turns just because we might perceive it as ‘too simple’ in the moment. I think listeners can sense sincerity, whether they realize it or not, and the more you stray away from the original piece of art as it was written and experienced by the writer the more that sincerity fades into something a little more technical and robotic feeling.
How often does the song that you end up recording sound like the idea that you first had in your head?
Noah: Does that happen to people? Things don’t ever come out sounding exactly like you imagine them to, but a lot of times they come out better, or at least different in a way that’s still beautiful and meaningful.
Where do you usually draw inspiration from?
Alex: I am inspired by my bandmates. Callie, Wilson and Noah are all wonderful songwriters. I love hearing the new melodies and ideas they bring to practice, and they push me to be a better musician.
Do you have to be in a certain mindset or environment to be able to create ?
Callie: Not anymore. For a long while, I convinced myself I had to be really really sad to be able to create. I sort of pinned myself into the 2 dimensional ‘sadgirl’ archetype because honestly, I was really sad haha. My songs are a reflection of what I’m processing, but I am capable of creating so much more than sad songs. I guess what I’m trying to say is I’ve learned to write what I’m feeling/felt without bringing myself back down to rock-bottom every time I open up a can of emotional worms.
Noah: Not particularly. As long as I’m around people I love and I’m comfortable with enough to feel like I can let my guard down and be myself and just try things, even if they might not be “good” or the “right” choices in the end I can make something I’m happy with.
You also recently released a full band version of 4/9! Can we expect a full band version of “Precursor” anytime soon?
Wilson: We will see, I think, for me at least, some of the songs off Precursor (Elliott, Milkdrinker) are best suited in their Precursor form. However maybe as an exercise for fun at some point I could see us going back and reworking all of them.
Dad Bod has only been around since late 2019. Something that stands out to me is that you seem confident in your sound as well as your songwriting. It just feels like you’ve been doing this for years and years. Were you involved in other musical projects before Dad Bod?
Wilson: Noah, Alex, and I are all in another band together and Noah and I have specifically been playing together for some time now. I think as far as Dad Bod the sound came together pretty quickly because it had to. I had plans to record Callie as a solo project but it was sort of ever-evolving. One day Noah and I got together with Callie to listen to the songs and flesh them out. So Cal played songs for us while I noodled around on guitar and Noah played bass and it sounded good enough that Callie asked if we wanted to play a show with her in two weeks which we agreed to. So we called up Alex, practiced twice, and played our first show. I think ultimately our sound is very confident because we all allow ourselves to play to our strengths. I just play the way I play, Cal the way Cal plays, etc. I feel like sometimes as a musician you can get caught up in trying to make a specific ‘thing’. Whether it be hearing a song or album you like and saying, “I want to do that.” But it often ends in disappointment because it can never really live up to the thing that you love and idolize. I think we all caught on pretty quick to the fact that we’re all very different players and we just let each other do our thing it ends up being pretty cool and unique.
Do you ever go back and listen to your old music once it is released?
Noah: I do, just to check in with it and see how it sounds after I’ve given it some distance. Sometimes I’ll listen to put myself back in the moment of when it was created and reminisce.
Callie: I do too. I think it’s a combination of what noah said + trying to imagine what other people are hearing when they listen to it for the first time.
Ideally, what would you want Dad Bod to be known for?
What does success look like to you as far as music goes?
Noah: As long as I’m psyched on what I’ve made that’s good for me.
Callie: Honestly, every step feels like success. Playing my first show? HUGE. Playing a basement show as a full band? HUGE. Signing to No Sleep? Fucking HUGE.
Alex: We are excited to play more shows once it’s safe to do so. Personally, the thought of playing out of state or going on a tour is amazing. It would also be great to play on the First Ave mainstage someday.
Who do you consider your musical influences?
Noah: Big Thief is probably the most important band to me that’s working in this present moment. Live shows are super super important to me and my favorite part of playing music so I take a lot out of seeing a band with a lot of energy. The three best live bands I’ve ever seen are Big Thief, Parquet Courts, and Deafheaven. All of those were profoundly influential experiences for me and examples of the kind of feeling and environment I want to create in a live setting. Aside from a live setting, Big Brother Wilson put me on to basically everything I’ve been influenced heavily by in my adult life as well as an influential force in me feeling fully confident in my abilities as a musician. Also, as it is so loves to be pointed out in private, I really liked Walk the Moon when they first came out in high school. I distinctly remember listening to “Anna Sun” with my friend Austin over and over again one night at a sleepover. A good memory, regardless of the band. And no, Dad Bod will not ever have a facepaint phase.
Callie: Keaton Henson is a huge lyrical inspiration for me. His music is so emotional, tender, and brilliant I once ran 8 miles listening to ‘Prayer’ on repeat. Julien Baker was also a huge inspiration for me to start making music & performing. Her vulnerability as a solo artist gave me the courage to play my first few solo shows.
Alex: My favorite musical artist is D’Angelo. His sense of rhythm, feel, and time is incredible - definitely something I aspire to as a musician and performer.
I read in a previous interview that during a show a band member tried to throw a can of beer to the back of the room and accidentally hit someone in the face. What kind of beer was it?
Noah: Fuckin’ hell. Not my brightest moment. It was a can of Budweiser. We were playing this house show and I was getting super into it and for some reason it felt like a “cool” thing to do (extremely not cool) but the can was empty and so it didn’t have any velocity and just dropped as soon as I threw it and hit this girl in the face who was right in the front. I feel very very bad about it and if you’re reading this I am very very sorry and if our paths are to ever cross in the future you can hit me in the face with anything you’d like to make things right with the universe. Wilson: When talking about that moment Noah likes to say stuff like “the can was empty” and “it didn’t have the velocity” or whatever. The fact of the matter is: That is just how far he is able to throw a beer can.
Do you have any other memorable show experiences?
Noah: First show we played together as a full band which was at a house venue here called Alley Gators where they have a ton of old TVs with animations and camera feeds of the stage and stuff was awesome. Specifically playing Rot at that show was a great feeling. The big part at the end hit really well and we could feel that the audience was into it. Our first show at 7th Street Entry here with Slow Hollows was a huge step for us in terms of getting to play a bigger venue and one that has a local representation as a stepping stone for bands. We played really well that night and it’s a memory I think about a lot.
Ideally, where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Noah: I’m very lucky in that I’ve basically achieved more in my personal and artistic life than I ever really thought I could or would, so as long as I at least maintain where I’m at I’m happy.
Callie: I just want to tour!! I hope we will be at the place where we can all safely place & go to shows. I just want to travel w the boys & play some music.
Do you plan on touring when it's a possibility again? And if so do y’all want to grab some tacos when you’re in Dallas?
Noah: The answer to both of these questions is: most definitely.
Wilson: Hell yeah, I lived in Austin for a while when we come through we’ll hit up some local gems like Taco Cabana. (I understand and accept that, between that joke and admitting to being a long time Austinite, I’m just ensuring we never book a gig in Dallas.)
What can we expect to see from Dad Bod in the near future?
Wilson: Well we just announced our signing with No Sleep Records, which is super exciting and also means we should be trying to have our first full length out as soon as possible. Our sound has expanded and evolved so much since we first got together so I’m really excited to start showing everyone what we’ve been working on in the shadows *spooky*.
Is there anything that you want our readers to know?
Wilson: An easter egg for our fans is that Noah has a tattoo over his heart with the lyrics: “You’re only as tall as your heart will let you be, and you’re only as small as the world will make you seem” from the song ‘On The Brightside’ by Never Shout Never.
And to wrap things up, do you have any questions for me?
Noah: How many bees we puttin’ on those tacos in Dallas?