Doug Tuttle is a fellow who is clearly punctuated by great loss—the end of his band, psych pioneers MMOSS hit as he simultaneously ended a long-term relationship. But instead of wallowing, the songwriter packed up from his native New Hampshire and settled in Massachusetts, where he poured himself into crafting kaleidoscopic gems, ones that nestle somewhere in between pop and classic '60s psychedelic comps one finds collecting dust in a college radio station vinyl closet.
Tuttle's self-titled solo debut finds him reaching for clarity, maybe even truth. These fuzzbombs and paisley-tinted earworms, while timeless, alter with every listen, expanding and shrinking into alternate dimensions. The strength of the record is a testament to the keen, abstract mind of Tuttle himself, a songwriter who possesses a talent for building expansive universes out of just a guitar, a handful of pedals and sparse percussion.
Over the phone, Tuttle is just as self-assured as his record might suggest, but is somewhat taciturn. Thankfully the divine self-titled LP, which drops today on Trouble in Mind, speaks for itself.
I've been noticing this album finds you at a reflective state—the end of MMOSS and the end of a long-term relationship. Is it difficult to go back and listen to these songs now, after the fact? Are you happy with the result?
I'm . . . somewhat happy with it? I think the circumstances were a good thing in the long run. Tricky at that point, but yeah. [Laughs]
I bet. The themes of loss and leaving make up the meat of this record. But it's bookended by the optimistic “With Us Soon” and “Better Days”. Are you an optimist?
No, not really. [Laughs] Not so much. The song titles might be a little more along those lines than the lyrics. But no one can really tell what I'm saying, so it doesn't really matter.
Yeah, you're very good at hiding it behind gorgeous melodies.
Well that's good! I don't want to bum anyone out.
How did you work on setting parameters for your solo work, instead of conceptualizing songs within a group on MMOSS? Is it easier or more difficult?
It was easier, I think. I moved to Boston at the beginning of last year, and I didn't have anything to do so I recorded all the time. When I had thirty tracks done, I picked some for an album and that was that. It was pretty clear which ones were terrible and which ones were okay.
Come on, I'm sure they're not terrible.
No, no. There are some bad ones out there.
Like, never going to see the light of day bad?
Probably not, no. [Laughs]
I read that you set up camp in Somerville, MA, to record this album. Crash any Tufts parties while you were recording?
No, I can't say I did. That's the other side of Somerville. It's a pretty big city. I think it's the most densely populated city on the East Coast actually. Tufts is kind of on the edge of Somerville and another city, Medford—it's a different place. But it's a weird town.
What kind of weird?
Hm. It's hard to explain. But it has some weird history. Marshmallow Fluff was invented here, and the “Monster Mash” was written here.
That's hilarious. Do you ever find that you're lumped in genre-wise with your contemporaries who play psychedelic rock, especially of the West Coast variety?
I haven't heard anyone compare me to anything yet, so I don't know. Do I sound West Coast?
I get Bay Area vibes sometimes with your warpy, psych-pop stylings, especially those of White Fence, early Thee Oh Sees.
I'll take that comparison. I think that's fantastic! Maybe it's time to move out to the West Coast.
Have you ever thought about it?
I lived out there in the early 2000s, in L.A. It was alright.
L.A. is an interesting town. It's changing really rapidly, gentrifying quickly.
Yeah! It was unrecognizable last time I was out there. I hadn't really explored since about 2001. I was out there this past spring and it was totally, totally different.
Speaking of the West Coast, are you planning to tour extensively on this album?
Yeah, I'm hoping to tour in the spring. Still trying to work things out, maybe some places in the summer too.
Cool. Do you think this record is a good representation of who Doug Tuttle is?
You have very straightforward answers to my questions. That's a first for me as a reporter, it's refreshing.
Yeah, I'm not good at this [laughs].
I mean, it's better than people pausing for ten minutes to think really meticulously about their answers.
True [pauses]. I mean, I'm happy with the record, I think it came out the way I intended it to.
That's all you can ask for, right?
So what have you been listening to lately?
What have I been listening to lately? I like to go listen to songs on YouTube, then click on everything that's related to it and listen to that. That kind of thing. Nothing in particular, really. I've been listening to the Morgan Delt record that Trouble in Mind's putting out later this month. That one's fantastic. Bach. Nothing too crazy. I kind of have like ten things I listen to constantly, that never changes.
What might some of those be?
I listen to Creedence [Clearwater Revival] all the time. Neil Young. Uh . . . now here are those long pauses. I listen to Pisces a lot. A bunch of comps. The Byrds.
Nice. Do you dig those Nugget comps from the '60s?
Oh yeah, definitely. Those have been on heavy rotation for a long time. There's a comp called the Electric Coffeehouse I listen to all the time too.
I haven't heard that one.
Yeah, it's a bunch of Byrds wannabes. Worth listening to though.
What did you grow up listening to?
Oh, wow. I guess it depends what age we're talking about.
True. Okay, here's a better question: what's your earliest memory with music?
Well, when I was a really little kid I was really into Billy Idol [laughs] and hair metal. I had a Poison poster above my bed.
So can we maybe hope your sophomore release is going to be a hair metal record?
Maybe, maybe. We'll see.
Doug Tuttle's self-titled debut LP is out tomorrow on Trouble In Mind.