D D Dumbo is a dumb name.
Which isn’t really a problem. After all, if dumb names were a problem there’d not have been careers for Englebert Humperdinck (who kept the Beatles from number one in 1967 and still fills Vegas rooms) or Hoobastank (who, admittedly may not have deserved a career on other criteria), and you could put aside Porno For Pyros, Panic! At The Disco and Limp Bizkit.
But one thing about D D Dumbo is it could suggest Oliver Perry – who makes all the sounds and produces it as DDD - might be some kind of thick-skulled offshoot of, say, Limp Bizkit. A man with more buffoon in him than toons.
The truth, like the music – a cerebral and complex blend which has ‘80s jazz funk and ‘70s art pop rather than ‘90s rap metal and can thrill with its deft musicality - is nothing at all like the name.
Perry is quietly intense and nervy, stutteringly hesitant in his answers, which can double back on themselves as he has second and third thoughts, even as he brings an obvious intelligence to them.
“I think a very large element of my stuff is fairly usual human expression of wonderment and confusion with existence in a general sense,” he says, in a comment which is about more than his music really.
Not surprisingly perhaps Perry is still blinking a bit in the spotlight that comes with accolades such as having his debut album, Utopia Defeated, being named Australian album of the year by triple J, reviews which sparkle with excitement at his willingness to be like no one else out there, and a world tour kicking off in August.
If this is fame early doors, it’s not like Perry was built for it. He lives in Newstead, 20 minutes out of Castlemaine, itself more than out hour out of Melbourne, which suggests a man more than happy to be off-off-Broadway.
“I’m not particularly social,” he concedes, though he would like to refute one of the wilder stories swirling around him that he is some “hermit” hiding in a cave
“It’s taken me a little while to realise that I’m much more comfortable in environments with good oxygen and greenery. I’m a little less anxious and more happy in these sort of areas,” says Perry.
Maybe some of that intensity also reflects that deeply personal nature of music he makes alone in a small, isolated space. Perry says that he tends to respond to “some form of blues or folk with what I feel is really genuine, raw emotional stuff, not to be confused with dramatic or sad songwriting”.
Which is an interesting answer as while I found his album fascinating and engaging, there wasn’t an emotional connection, for me at least. But as with the misjudgement stemming from his name, what feels almost Steely Dan in its clinical attention on the album is nothing like the man himself.
“I probably feel quite similar in a way,” Perry says of my failure to emotionally connect with Utopia Defeated. “There have been live demos that felt so much more real, emotionally.”
But if he has any disappointment with the end product, Perry’s intentions are still clear and go back to a life lived closer to green than concrete and more personal than technical.
As much can be told by the fact that while his proficiency and musical intricacy has had some comparisons made to Frank Zappa, Perry cites an artist Zappa championed, Captain Beefheart as more of a key influence, preferring Beefheart’s emotional rawness to Zappa’s intellectual approach.
“Maybe it’s been interested in different kinds of music but also being a millennial with a short attention span,” he says. “I’m torn between instinctively wanting a song to be coherent and simple but at the same time I have the spirit to be not limited.”
And certainly not be limited by a name. Any name.