With a title like Dissed and Dismissed and emotionally exasperated song names like "Nowhere to Go," "Nothing I Can Do" and "Don't Come Back," at first glance Tony Molina's 2014 power pop offering seems like your basic breakup listening. However, due to his varied background in San Francisco hardcore bands like Caged Animal, Dystrophy, Scalped (etc.) and leading forever-intriguing indie bands like Ovens, Molina's debut solo record continues the musically rebellious veteran's rejection of songwriting convention.
"It's not necessarily about songs, but about an exercise in melody or instrumentation," Molina says. "I've never had a lot of things to say, but have always been interested in wanting to explore melodies and different kinds of instrumentation."
Molina says the songs aren't personal, except for "See Me Through," which is actually about coping while his mother suffered a near-fatal illness. This can shake fans who traditionally seek to connect with the lyrics more than the melodies, but Molina had a particularly odd encounter with a stranger who read further into Dissed than anyone probably ever should.
"Aren't pop songs usually about heartbreak?" Molina says. "I was really just playing by the rules, and none of those songs were about me or any situation that I was in at the time of writing them. The weirdest thing is some dude went up to my best friend and told him 'I know the person Dissed and Dismissed is about,' like maybe an ex or something, and my friend had to convince this person who I've never met that he basically made that up or someone gave him some wrong information. Weird situation. Also my mom recovered and is super healthy nowadays, which rules."
While the lyrics and the vocals on Dissed intentionally follow a formula (nestling safely into pop convention), behind the scenes Molina artfully experiments with expression via controlled, stunted melodies over 12 songs that conclude in less than 12 minutes. Your fling is with the music. So if you must see this as a breakup record, it's maybe the equivalent of texting "it's over" but in demented emoji speak.
"I definitely think there is a formula for all the songs on the last record, which is the same formula in a lot of the old Ovens material," Molina says. "It's basically not about having a 'real song,' but more of an exercise in melody or groove. At some point I realized that it wasn't necessary for me to force parts onto a track once I'd pulled off whatever I set out to do melody-wise or riff-wise. I realized I could just put a simple idea into a song and end it there."
The range of his body of work suggests it never actually ends, of course. It's too soon for him to discuss new music in set terms, but after rushing Dissed and Dismissed (it was tracked and mixed in 12 hours), Molina's plan is to slow down to meet his exacting recording standards. He says he's tracked 25 new songs in the same studio where he recorded Dissed, though, and at the end of this tour, he's headed back to Portland to record for a different project. His ambition is to release two full albums back to back, a daunting task but a feat more accomplishable due to his stripped-down approach to songwriting.
"I don't think I would have ever recorded so much music over the last 10 years if I hadn't figured that out," Molina says.