Oxford karma

As odd and eccentric as Dent May’s sun-soaked soul tunes might read, they are firmly planted in pop territory — just not the one most of us are accustomed to.

“When we are on tour, we only have the radio. It’s either oldies or contemporary pop radio, and I’m an FM pop junkie. In my delusional mind, I’m making music for mainstream radio … but I’m totally not,” May said, laughing. “Maybe it’s my warped version of what you’d hear on the radio in an ideal world?” 

Like the weirdo second-cousin of Brian Wilson, multi-instrumentalist, singer and producer May has found a perfect home in Paw Tracks, a small imprint started by Animal Collective and now home to Ariel Pink and more. The D.C.-based label has released each of May’s three records, including Warm Blanket, which hit shelves in August.

May recorded the album in self-imposed isolation in St. Augustine, Fla., away from his dude ranch in Oxford, Miss., home of the University of Mississippi.

“Living in a college town, there’s a lot of partying, and I wanted to get away from that and inside my own head,” he said. “It was a difficult process. I didn’t have anyone there to tell me if they liked it or not. It felt like I was losing my mind a little bit. Maybe I was.”

The nature of the recording process lent itself to a more mature and open record.

“In the past, I was scared to put myself out there in ways,” May said. “I kind of wanted to strip the bullshit down and present myself as openly as I could … and that’s what being alone was about. It’s a very personal statement of a record. It’s the most personal and emotionally honest songwriting I’ve ever done.”

The music comes just a short year after the release of Do Things, in contrast to the three-year gap from his debut album featuring mostly ukulele ditties.

“I was kind of lost, and I knew I didn’t want to make ukulele music anymore, so I dilly-dallied,” May said. “Working a little on songwriting and production ideas every day became something I was really focused on. The next one should come just as fast.”

For now, though, May is focused on a big national tour — including Sunday’s show at Opolis — and subsequent trip across the Atlantic in support of Warm Blanket, which he hopes will provide a little comfort for those who seek it.

Warm Blanket was kind of born out of watching Netflix, wanting something that was sort of uplifting and simple to watch. It became a phrase that indicates a work of art that has a healing property … you can snuggle up with it and it won’t leave you feeling worse than you did before,” May said. “I love weird, fucked-up movies and dark shit so much, but for me, songwriting is a healing process … kind of meant to pick someone up.”

Joshua Boydston

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