Bent-pop duo goes its own way

Andy Clager, the self-designated “song and dance man” in local duo Son of Dribble, thinks of his music as “strangely bent pop.”

“I like a cacophony of sound. I like it to be a little confusing,” Clager said recently in an interview Downtown. “I like to experiment.”

That experimental tendency is apparent on Son of Dribble's debut LP, Dabbling in Hell, which the band released in February on World of Birds Records, the label run by Clager's bandmate, Darren Latanick. Leadoff track “Contusion Rant” is a 60-second ditty coated with swirls of gauze-y guitar and semi-buried vocals, followed by 30 seconds of what sounds like distant screams emanating from a wind tunnel.

“The best compliment I've got so far on the album was a friend who said, ‘The first time I put it on I had to take it off and make sure it wasn't warped,'” Clager said.

Clager, who's also a visual artist, applies a similar philosophy to Son of Dribble's live shows, which rely on a seamless, 20-minute sound collage of drum-machine beats and other sound effects, over which Latanick plays guitar while Clager sings (and dances). But even though the backing track is preset, the band embraces spontaneity.

Before Son of Dribble's release show at Cafe Bourbon Street in February, Clager took inspiration from the natural world during a stroll in Woodward Park on the North Side, but the resulting performance-art project was far from a Fleet Foxes homage. “About a year ago I was out there walking in the woods and I found a dead deer. It was probably hit on [I-71] that week,” he said. “Then the day of the show, I got done with work, and I thought, ‘I'm gonna go see if that deer is decomposing.' And I found all these bones.”

“I took the bones for the show,” Clager continued, “and I asked Darren, ‘Do you mind?' And he goes, ‘Do whatever you want.' So I had this ripped-up leather jacket, and I took all these deer bones and stuck them in my jacket and didn't tell anybody. And when I was singing, I'd go into the audience and hand out these deer bones. Then the next band was playing them onstage. There were probably 40 bones.”

Clager and Latanick met years ago when Latanick (who also plays in local acts Fizzed and the Fours) was still a teenager, but the musicians both moved around for years and didn't live in Columbus simultaneously again until the fall of 2015. The two had already been sending each other voice memos with song ideas, and they decided to turn the rough sketches into real songs as Son of Dribble.

Some of the songs on Dabbling in Hell grew out of a traumatic period for Clager and his family. “My son will be 3 in October. He was a micro preemie. He was a pound and 5 ounces when he was born. He was on machines for eight or nine months of his life,” Clager said. “It was a tough time. I kind of quit socializing and started working on all these creative projects. ... That was a life-changing thing. It was survival mode. It made me think, ‘What do I want to do? What's going to be important to me?'”

While re-assessing his life, Clager found comfort in painting, writing songs and spending time with family members, whom he incorporates into his art. Clager's wife sings on Dabbling in Hell, and some of the piano on the record is courtesy his son, at 1 year old, banging on the keys with a drumstick.

Much of Clager's inspiration comes from “people who did things their own way,” he said, which is an approach he hopes to model for his son. “You want him to look at you and say, ‘Dad is an individual.'”