D.D Dumbo’s music sounds like a group effort, but it’s just the work of one Aussie wunderkind. And although Oliver Hugh Perry performs alone onstage, he’s not a DJ. Perry is part of the emerging movement that uses loop pedals and other gizmos to morph into literal one-man bands. His music, however, extends beyond snazzy gadgets and futuristic riffs.
“I don’t do too much with the looper, like it’s mainly just the beat,” says Perry, who has described his music as a modernized, globally-resonant version of the blues. “It’s just a way to write or to help the song—rather than being [known as] a ‘looper.’”
But titles be damned—this is distinctive music. Loop pedals tend to introduce mathematical precision to music, because artists have to establish musical phrases that’ll bind them for entire songs. Some big names of the looping world, like Merrill Garbus and her tUnE-yArDs project, have adopted living bands to help them sound more organic. Others, like Indiana’s Mylets and D.D Dumbo, make listeners wonder why the world will ever need ensembles again.
Perry concerns himself less with the intricate possibilities of looping—he only turned to the technology when his Melbourne-based band fell apart, forcing him to make music alone. “I think of the loops as blues backing tracks,” Perry says. “I keep them reasonably simple, so I can do more with the live stuff.”
He mostly draws inspiration from time-honored favorites: vintage folk-blues, psychedelic freak-outs, and eclectic world music. Perry’s 2014 Tropical Oceans EP synthesized those sounds, and his forthcoming debut album promises to do the same. In recent shows, he’s even started to throw panpipes into his loopy concoction for the unreleased “Cortisol”—a frenetic song named after one of the body’s stress hormones.
Perry shared some of his touchstones with EW to help listeners get inside his unique musical headspace.
Leadbelly — “Alberta”
“I don’t know as much about the blues as I would like to know. But I definitely got into Leadbelly. I suppose that’s more folky blues. I don’t want to sound pretentious, but the loop pedal has limitations [that can facilitate meditation]. That’s sort of the goal and it’s very much like blues or other more basic music. I like that idea.”
Lightnin’ Hopkins — “Lonesome Dog Blues”
“I’m into Lightnin Hopkins, especially guitar-wise. Howlin’ Wolf, too. I’m a big Captain Beefheart fan. He’s bluesy in some parts of his career and he was very heavily influenced by Howlin’ Wolf.”
Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band — “Bat Chain Puller”
“It’s probably annoying to my friends, because he’s the one artist I really happily crap on about. He’s probably my favorite. It’s so unique, and it changes so much. It’s almost like a novelty thing, because it’s kind of stupid at parts, but at the same time it feels like there’s actual soul in it. I think that’s because it’s based in blues. It’s more expressive than Frank Zappa’s goofy noodling. It’s more soulful.”
Ali Farka Touré — “Mali Dje”
“African blues influenced me as well. I don’t know a huge amount, but I got into Ali Farka Toure and that kind of desert blues sound. That’s just really seeped into my music. It’s very similar to [Western blues], mainly just pentatonic kind of stuff.”
Pikelet — “Toby Light”
“When I found out about tUnE-yArDs I thought she was like probably one of the best I’ve seen. There’s another woman in Australia called Pikelet, who’s really cool. She doesn’t do too much looping now, but used to when she started. Do you have pikelets in the U.S.? She’s like named after the sort of floury, pancake thing. They’re kind of like little pancakes. I recommend checking them out.”