Dog Is Dead
Sam Lee 15/08/2010
Although their debut single only came out two months ago, Nottingham five-piece Dog Is Dead have had one heck of a year. Following their performance at Glastonbury, a load of Radio 1 airplay and even an appearance on TV, I caught up with bassist and vocalist Rob to talk about gospel choirs, 'dad music' and, of course, canine eradication.
So it's the obvious question first, how did Dog Is Dead form?
Ok, Dog Is Dead has been together properly for about two years, but we were all best friends at school, apart from one of the guys who met one of the other guys at a rehearsal for a play... but we all used to hang around in the same skatepark and mess around and write some songs.
You're from Nottingham, which isn't exactly regarded as a musical hotspot; do you think it's unfairly overlooked?
Yeah, totally, occasionally you get someone like Late Of The Pier who goes out and does really well for themselves but, erm, it's strange because Nottingham's a great place for musicians at the moment, but it's frustrating because not many of them are properly getting out there. But there's a great bunch of bands here that we all get along with and who are just incredible - it feels like the bubble's going to burst; hopefully sooner rather than later.
You mentioned that you know a lot of other good bands in the area, which obviously results in some competition; do you think this helps you?
Oh yeah, I think it's friendly rivalry; all the bands are a similar age to us and went to kinda rival schools, so we spur each other on, but I think you need that friendly rivalry.
There's quite a lot going on in your songs, it sounds like you've all got pretty eclectic music tastes. Are there any bands in particular that you think influence you?
Well, I mean, we're all pretty much influenced by the stuff we grew up on, which was really all old pop music, in so many different forms, y'know. I listen to a lot of 'dad music', like Dire Straits and The Police, bands like that, but even stuff like musical theatre has an influence on us. But primarily it's all pop music. We seem to get tied down to this whole 'indie-jazz' thing a lot, and, although jazz is a huge influence to us, we're not a jazz band.
Are there any new bands that you're into at the moment?
Erm, I'm really into Summer Camp at the moment, I managed to see them at Truck and they were really good. Erm, who else...there's Is Tropical, and I'm really into La Shark too, they're amazing, the strangest thing you'll ever see live. I think there's quite a few good bits and bobs coming out at the moment.
How do Dog Is Dead's songs come about?
I write the basis of most of the songs, and I'll have a rough structure and everything, then I'll bring it to the guys and they all kind of put their bit into it. So I guess it comes from me primarily, but after that the other guys do the work.
Your songs feature quite a few unconventional instruments, like saxophone and glockenspiel; do you find that you have to consciously make room for them in the tracks?
The thing is, when we first started we didn't use a saxophone and that felt more forced than when we brought the saxophone in. I think I prefer to write with more unusual instruments. I feel a lot more comfortable doing so.
And what's your recording process when you're in the studio?
Ooh...er...(laughs)...the thing with recording is, like, the hardest part is getting the vocals down how I want them, 'cause I'm really picky about that so I take a long time over it. But generally we'll do a live take, then just gradually re-do everything, I guess.
Big group harmonies play a large part in your songs, how did they come about?
Well, I wanted to do something like (laughs) - I pretty much wanted to be a gospel choir (laughs again), and I'm trying to gradually get my way with that. I wanted the vocals to be nice and huge and... choir-like, stadium crowd-like.
Although 'Young' seems quite cheery, there's something of a melancholy edge to it, with lyrics like 'We're losing touch, we're losing friends.' Is this based on true feelings?
Well... yes and no. It's partly autobiographical, but, the thing is, I love to write songs with, erm, more morbid or darker undertones to them. Quite a lot of the time people will just assume it's a bright, happy pop song, but I like to keep the darker edge; it switches things around a little bit. And yeah, I guess it was a thing at the time, it sounds a bit cheesy (laughs), but at the time we were just leaving college... but it's not really about that.
Dog Is Dead - Glockenspiel Song by charmfactory
You put out your debut single, 'Glockenspiel Song', on your own label, 'Your Childhood Records', and your next single, 'Young', is coming out on it too; why did you decide to do it yourselves?
We were surprised by what we could actually do on our own, like, we've done so well from our first single so we just thought, why not do the next one on our own? There's no rush to push for some massive big-money deal, not when we've managed to get such a good response off our own back.
You've got your biggest headline show to date at The Bodega in Nottingham on 25th September, how are you feeling about that?
We wanna - well, we need to sell it out really, it's like our favourite venue in Nottingham. It's our hometown and every show we play here is brilliant, it's not like when we travel up to play in, say, London, where it's more hit-and-miss, y'know - well, it's more hit than miss now - but it's really refreshing to come back here, so you can only be excited about things like that.
What are your plans after the release of 'Young'?
Well in September / October we've got - I can't really call it a tour, but it's a series of dates in close proximity to each other or whatever, so we're going to be pretty much getting around the country.
Are there any album plans for 2010?
Well, like, we don't want to rush ourselves, but at the same time I'd love to do an album more than anything, so, erm... I guess it's inevitably going to happen sometime soon, so I'm guessing it'll be kind of early-to-mid next year that we start actually thinking about putting it out. But, erm, I could never say really. We'll see how the next single goes and play it by ear.
And finally, have any of you ever actually killed a dog?
Dog Is Dead release their second single 'Young' on Your Childhood Records on September 20th.