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Stopover: Dent May

Dent May

At midnight Saturday, March 9 at Hang Fire

Move over, Todd Rundgren. Dent May is the new president of the one-man overdub club.

In fact, the Mississippi-born May remembers a photograph of Rundgren, inside the gatefold of the classic Something/Anything album. The artist is standing in the middle of a messy home studio, arms outstretched, surrounded by guitars, drums, keyboards, amps, microphones and miles of audio cable. Master of all he surveys.

"That image has stuck with me forever," May says. "And I've always kind of had this romantic idea of being the home recording guy who makes these weird home-made pop tunes."

After a wacky one-off debut LP called The Good Feeling Music of Dent May & His Magnificent Ukulele, he recorded the psych-pop masterpiece Do Things in 2011. It's an intoxicating cocktail of ‘60s pop and rock, ‘70s soul and disco, and deliriously futuristic musical musings.

With very few exceptions, May - who left NYU Film School to concentrate on music-making - played and sang every note on the record himself.

"Since I was 13 years old, I've been in a bunch of bands, and I just found it hard to deal with other people," says the Oxford resident. "I'm sort of a control freak.

"Even the most simple melody, I feel like I can play it in a way that's different - I'm not saying better than the way other people play it, but it's like I can hear the final product of my song. What it's going to sound like. So it's a lot easier for me to just do it than teach parts to other people.

"Sometimes I get a horn player, or somebody coming in to play an instrument I don't know how to play. And sometimes they're really good at picking stuff up; sometimes they're not. And I'm like ‘God, I need to learn how to play the saxophone!'"

Inspired by the clever pop/rock of Elvis Costello and the Attractions, the Cars and XTC, May was always musically hungry for more. Growing up lonely in a small Mississippi town, he says, his "best friend" was the Internet. "I was always reading about music and musicians, and art in general," he explains. "So of course, I would go back further and further - Burt Bacharach, Tin Pan Alley ... I've always voraciously digested as much information and music as I could. I try to learn about everything with an open mind. That's where I started hearing ‘80s soul and disco."

With its addictive disco flourishes, "Best Friend," a standout track on Do Things, could be a long-lost jukebox hit from the 1970s. "As soon as I hear someone say ‘disco sucks,' May enthuses, "I'm like ‘Yeah? I'm gonna show you that it doesn't."

"Because I was on the Internet all the time, I think I was inspired by all that's out there. I wanted to just consume it all, and vomit it into whatever I came up with myself."

Ever-restless, May has just taken temporary digs in St. Augustine, Florida, where he intends to fully nurse the muse (between tour dates with his band) and record his third album (for Paw Tracks, the Animal Collective-owned label).

"Something changed between that last album and now, and I feel like I'm more productive and stuff like that," he admits.

"There's definitely going to be some funky elements and some disco elements, but there's a grand piano here - that's a big part of why I rented the house - so there's definitely more of a piano-ballad feel on some of the songs. And maybe not as overbearingly, relentlessly happy."