Dr. Dog (Treasure Island Music Festival, 2008)

by Meghan Logue

Dr. Dog on SomaFM

Meghan: This is Meghan with Justin and Scott from Dr. Dog. How you guys doing?

Justin: Fantastic, thanks for asking.

Scott: Awful.

Meghan: I'm sorry.

Scott: Just kidding.

Justin: And I was just kidding, too.

Meghan: Well, are you okay, though?

Justin: I think I'll live.

Scott: There's a fork in the road.

Meghan: It's a crossroads, kind of. Just like the Britney Spears movie. So what do you guys play?

Scott: I play drums and guitar and I'm teaching myself piano very slowly.

Justin: I play guitar and sing.

Meghan: How do you guys split up duties in the band? Is it just whoever has whatever skill?

Justin: Well, in the live sense, everybody's pretty set. Everyone is guitar player but we're getting into taking turns when needed, but everybody's pretty set in what they're doing. Scott just this tour started doing piano and guitar duty. Zach does piano and but then sometimes guitar. Everybody else is pretty much steady. Recording-wise it's totally different. It's like if you're there before someone else that day and you have an idea, y'know, I'll throw a guitar down even though I don't usually play guitar or anybody can do the drums, and yeah, if you get an idea and you're inspired, just do it. Get it on tape.

Meghan: So you guys are from Philly, right?

Justin: Mhm.

Meghan: I hear the creative scene, the music scene over there is kind of blowing up right now. What's your take on that?

Justin: Well, I can't say that it's blowing up or not, I mean maybe it's always been there. Maybe people are just starting to realize it outside of Philadelphia but yeah, there are a lot of really cool bands and a lot of people dong a really weird and interesting things. A lot of straight up rock n' roll bands that are really good, too.

Meghan: Do you guys have any buddy bands back in Philly that you like to hang out with?

Justin: Yeah, there's a band called the Teeth that we all love dearly, but they stopped playing recently, so who knows what the future holds for those guys. We'll see them around and hang out together, here and there. Who else are you thinking? I mean, we see everybody everywhere.

Scott: There's a lot of bands, yeah. I mean, the list goes on. There's a friends of ours band New Planet Make A Rising. Buried Beds. The National Eye and the Capitol Years. Drink Up Buttercup.

Meghan: That's a pretty hefty list.

Scott: This is just the tip of the iceberg, really.

Meghan: I'll have to have you write those down for me later.

Scott: Okay.

Meghan: So you guys released 'Fate' two months ago, right?

Justin: Yeah, July. Late July.

Meghan: How has life been since then?

Justin: Now we have an extra album to sell on the road. I mean, other than that, we feel good about getting another nice album done that we're happy with. But, you know, shows are the same. We're still touring pretty much the same hectic schedule. Not quite too crazy or wearing us out but just enough to make us really appreciate home by the time it's done. Yeah, it's pretty great. We're going to go to Europe, though. I don't know if that has anything to do with anything, but I figured I'd tell you.

Meghan: Is this your first time to Europe?

Justin: No, we went to open once, about two years ago. Maybe three.

Scott: We went twice, actually.

Justin: Well, to Europe proper. With Clap Your Hands Say Yeah.

Meghan: Oh, cool. Are you guys label mates with them? How do you know them?

Justin: No, but since that period we've become really good friends with those guys.

Dr. Dog on SomaFM

Meghan: Cool. I read on Wikipedia that you guys all have special nicknames for each other. Is that correct?

Justin: Yes and no.

Scott: No....

Justin: Special nicknames for each other, that sounds funny. Like he calls me 'Tickle Tickle' sometimes in the middle of the night. And he's 'Pumpkin Tush.'

Meghan: Are you guys still at the phase where you have to share hotel rooms?

Justin: Oh, we never had to. We just prefer it. Five in one bed and the other is empty. We put all our cell phones on the other bed to charge.

Meghan: Do you guys ever get tired of touring? Do you think you ever will?

Justin: Oh hell yeah. Playing shows is awesome. I could do it every single day. It's just driving for eight hours staring at your knees.

Meghan: Do you have to drive?

Justin: Yeah. We all do.

Meghan: You switch off.

Justin: Yeah. We have a van and a tiny little trailer that has too much stuff it in. We all take turns. It's good and bad. It's totally awesome but at the same time, you can't go and eat what you want every night and you can't make your own salads. You're on the road and you have to deal with whatever you can get. You miss your bed and you miss your kittens and stuff like that.

Meghan: At least you get to bring the other four with you, right?

Scott: Kittens...That's why you got Tickle Tickle.

Justin: I know, but at the same rate, we're not like a band. We didn't find each other in the classifieds in the paper. We're friends which makes it so much more tolerable than if I started a band with my little brothers or something. It'd be crazy. But totally awesome, too.

Meghan: Right. Because you guys are all friends, do you feel like that....How long have you guys been together, I guess would be my real question?

Justin: Different stages. We've been touring....

Meghan: How long has Dr. Dog been around?

Scott: Well, it's kind of the culmination of a long time. Toby and I, who write the songs so far, everybody writes songs, but we've been kind been tackling the Toby and Scott pile of songs since we've started but that'll change eventually. We've been friends and playing music since we were very young. I guess it was, like, 1998 or 9 that we had a name for this idea of what we were as this pair. And from there the first two other people joined who have since left. But Justin was the first to join. Actually Zach was the first to join and then Justin and then Frank after that as those two original people sort of....

Meghan: You guys held it down.

Scott: Phased out. But it's been a great building. There's no bad blood in our previous members. It just didn't make sense for their lives. And that's fine and they're doing far better now that they would be if they had to deal with this in their life. And not only that, each addition to the band has made us that much stronger. So I guess it was probably about five or six years ago that Justin joined. Frank joined about three years ago, I want to say, and Zach joined pretty early on. More or less, I guess you could say the band started in about 1998.

Meghan: So you guys are at your decade mark.

Scott: Yeah, I guess we are.

Meghan: You should throw a party or something.

Scott: Let's throw a party in San Francisco, and have lots of bands, and let's play too.

Justin: On an Island.

Meghan: With a beautiful view of the San Francisco bay.

Scott: What a way to celebrate a decade of madness.

Meghan: Sounds like an excellent idea. So when you and Toby work together, tell me a little bit about that process. Do you guys write together or is it you just do your own thing and then come together and work on it together.

Scott: Yeah, more that. More that. We don't actually sit down and write songs. We both sort of have song writing as a personal thing that we do in our time that allows it. Then we bring the songs to the band and everybody, like Justin was saying, can approach it from whatever angle they want. If they have an idea about it, how it could go, what it could sound like, what instrument, what part, whatever. It remains open after that point. But they do come in more or less completely written from start to finish, lyrically and structurally ,for the most part. And everybody just kind of puts their little dressing on it. But I always do like to point out, because it's one of the more fortunate things that I'm happy to have in my life, is Toby, as a musical partner in that way because although we don't really write together it's been very much like the influences have been so strong upon one another I do feel often times that he has a hand in the songs that I write.

Dr. Dog on SomaFM

Meghan: Even if he's not present there helping you write it.

Scott: Yeah, you know, it's been so long. We were kids when we started. We learned - We wrote our first songs, while in each other's lives. I know what he likes and I know what he doesn't like, and naturally I want him to like my songs so often times I will sacrifice things that I might think are cool just because I know he won't. So in a way he's got a hand in it. I also just sort of feel that when he writes a song and it's time to deal with it and address it, record it, learn it, whatever, I don't have a different feeling about his songs from my own songs. I feel very connected with his songs, too, almost as though I wrote them. They don't feel like I'm doing someone else's songs.

Meghan: Somebody else's work.

Scott: Exactly. So that's our deal, me and Toby.

Meghan: Where did you guys get the name 'Dr. Dog?'

Scott: Aw, just out of thin air.

Meghan: So it has no basis in the Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg kind of thing? I was really hoping for that.

Scott: No, what would that say?

Meghan: Some really interesting things about you guys. But while we're on the topic of other musicians, who would you say are some of your major influences?

Scott: Well, as far as contemporary music goes, I think there's a lot of great ones. R. Stevie Moore, My Morning Jacket, M. Ward, and Ariel Pink, and Joanna Newsom and who else? A lot of our friends from back home. Older stuff, you know, it's just such a vast catalogue of older stuff. Tom Waits and Neil Young and the Beatles as well as more obscure music from those periods, the sixties, seventies, eighties. And even earlier like really older blues and jazz musicians that sort of embraced the role of the musician better than anybody has been able to do, even in the sixties. That full integration between what they do and how they live. It's a lot of stuff.

Meghan: You guys played Lebowski Fest last year. Who's idea was that and how did it get started? And are you all fans of the film?

Justin: I think we're all fans of the film, for sure. I think they just approached us and asked us to come down and play and we did and we're real happy about it. We learned a bunch of songs from the movie. Then somehow we met these kids, these really funny brothers down there and the one kid is like 'We're going to play this song by Kenny Rogers, do you want to come up and sing it?' He's like 'Ah, I know that song but I can't sing, man.' 'We got lyrics.' 'Alright,' and he disappeared and went and studied it for fifteen minutes and then came up and sang it on stage with us and it was pretty great. Pretty special.

Dr. Dog on SomaFM

Meghan: I heard a rumor that a couple of the guys from Rogue Wave were going to come out and help you with your set later on today?

Justin: I heard that rumor too.

Meghan: Is that correct, perhaps? Or is that just floating around?

Scott: We will see.

Justin: I just heard it from you.

Meghan: Well, now you know.

Scott: No, they've worked out some acoustic guitar and percussion so it'll be nice.

Meghan: How do you know them? Was it a last minute thing? Do you have any special band relationship?

Scott: Like a lot of bands that we've become friends with, what we have in common is the same booking agent, our booking agent Jackie Nalpant. She's always putting us on the road with bands she thinks would match well and she's got a knack because we've met so many cool people and gotten to know so many great bands and see the back sides of how a lot of other bands are working...the back sides [laughter]. I regret saying that. Saw a lot of backsides.

Meghan: Thank you, Jackie.

Scott: But they're booked by Jackie too. The first time we met them was South by Southwest this year. We played Jackie's showcase, three or four of the bands she books, Tapes and Tapes and Nada Surf and Dr. Dog and Rogue Wave and that's when we first met. They're very charming lads, very nice very easy to get along with. Fast friends. Then we've seen them a couple of times since jsut passing by on the road and stuff and this idea came up. We played with them at Shooba's before Lolapalooza and Graham had the idea of sitting in and they're very thorough musicians. I haven't heard what they've been up to but I expect that they're very well prepared.

Meghan: Can we talk about the album "Passed Away, Vol. 1"?

Scott: Sure.

Meghan: If I'm not mistaken you released it track by track on your website and then decided to turn it into a full record, right?

Scott: Well, we knew the whole time that it was going to be a full record but we knew that it was going to be ten weeks every Monday put out another. Just a different way to release an album. One song a week.

Meghan: Where did you get the idea for that?

Scott: I don't even remember at this point. I think it's something we'll do more of. That's why it's called volume one, we'll do volume two and volume three. Those ten songs were pulled from a mountain of old stuff. So there's plenty more where that came from and we can keep doing that.

Meghan: Everywhere I look I see that you guys are labeled as a psychedelic folk band. Do you feel like that's a valid sort of tag or label for you guys or is it something that you really care deeply about?

Scott: No. You know, whatever we do, whatever results that produces in people's minds, in terms of this kind of semantics of it always makes sense. I hear the psychedelic elements. I hear the folk elements. I hear the Beatles. I hear all this stuff that people point out. It's less of a proactive way of thinking for us, though. It's less of a pursuit. It's naturally the result but not part of the pursuit. It's just, you go on intuition and instinct. Maybe our intuition and instinct have been so well informed over the years by psychedelic music and folk music. But we don't have those kinds of parameters that we work with when making music.

Meghan: So you don't strive to be a psychedelic folk band. It's just natural.

Scott: No, but if we are, awesome. It also depends on what folk music means to you. What folk music means to me barely has anything to do with Dr. Dog in my opinion. Psychedelic is such a vast term that I think is often times very pigeon holed. Psychedelic to me is just a sort of transcendence that can ideally occur in music and that isn't just confined to the sixties version of psychedelic, you know, the free form or the echoes or the special effects or the very obvious drug reference, whatever. It's in fact not a drug related thing to me at all. I hear psychedelic aspects in probably the least expected places in music. It's possible to really perceive any music as psychedelic. It's more of a filter with which you're going to look at something, not so much something built into the music. So both of those words are very broad and vague, but also very important to me in music. Probably the most two important terms: Psychedelic and Folk. That spans the gamut. You got the folk, which is the tangibility of music, the actual humanity behind it. Then you've got the psychedelic which is the imaginary, the intangible of it, the part of it that is going to be unique to every listener. That pretty much spans the gamut for me. That's what I love about music, those two things: the natural and the unnatural that can exist side by side. So hell yeah, we're a psychedelic folk band.

Meghan: Cool, thank you.

Dr. Dog on SomaFM

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