Today I talked with Scott McMicken of Dr. Dog to discuss their new LP, some band history, their recent lineup change and their upcoming show at the 40 Watt on November 15th . Mr. McMicken is verbose to say the least, equipped with a near endless stream of thought that can makes any interviewer’s job easy. During our 44 minute conversation, I managed to sneak in just about 6 or 7 real questions and from there Scott ran with it, filling each answer with detail after detail and a true sense of enjoyment in taking time out of his day.
We started out the interview talking about Be The Void, a completely finished album which Scott described as borrowing stylistically from Shame Shame, but with a hearty injection of their live shows. Instead of a more studio feel, the band lusted after “the immediacy, looseness, loudness, chaos, fast tempos and dirtier” nature of their live performances, where they leave behind any “perfectionist attitudes” in favor of spontaneous passion. It is often said that effort is the great equalizer, and Scott takes this axiom and twists it, replacing effort with enthusiasm, an ingredient that he claims when present can never fail to produce something special.
Another element that was added to the album came from their “new” member Dmitri Manos, a reoccurring friend that once filled in as the drummer for an entire tour, getting the nod just a day before they left on the tour. Scott described Dmitri sitting down with an iPod for hours, listening to their live performances as he crammed for his surprise performances. When asked what Dmitri’s contributions were, Scott responded with “what doesn’t he do” reflecting his multi-faceted nature as a percussionist, guitarist and producer whose ideas and tinkering shape their sound. Usually, Dmitri’s schedule working with Golden Boots, his own band, as interfered with a true collaboration, but this time after constant prodding from the band, he was able to bring his creative talents and “meatball palace” to the mix. While “meatball palace” may sound like a bad Italian restaurant, it’s actually a series of cassette tape players ran through mixing devices and pedals, providing all kinds of different psychedelic, atomspheric sounds and noises, like odd distortions of “inspirational and nature cassette tapes from thrift stores” peppered into the songs. In the end, the result is a “marriage of a classic rock sound…with a more abstract feeling,” giving the audience a different perspective where “suddenly [they] can see and hear the space around the band.”
With their four trip to Georgia this year (Masquerade in February, Midsummer Music Festival in June, and 40 Watt in April and soon November), their love of touring is no secret and Scott revealed some of his passions about touring, talking about how “nothing is like playing a show, the thrill of just setting it up is special and everyday the stage is your new living room.” And with close to a thousand shows under the belt, its amazing that this love can still shine through in their energetic live shows, an outpouring of repressed emotion by both the audience and the band. If you have never been to a Dr. Dog show, its hard to describe the emotional translation that occurs, from the more placid sound of the record to a volcanic crowd, resulting in an all-out party that isn’t foreign to a mosh pit or two.
For Scott, while he may admit its “corny,” this love of touring comes from “being with the people you love,” as touring offers the opportunity to just hang out “as a band together, without distractions,” as well as the chance to meet and form relationships with the other supporting bands. Just “observing how other bands work” is an interesting perspective and the relationships these tours have yielded have never failed to leave him “feeling strong about the [supporting act] as a band and as people.” This tour should be no different for Dr. Dog in that sense, for they will hit the road with Quiet Life and David Vandervelde, two acts that they already have deep ties with. After finding out that two of Scott’s cousins were in Quiet Life, I held back the urge to joke about nepotism issues but Scott assured me that both they and friend and former label-mate on Park the Van Records David Vandervelde were top-notch musicians they were excited to tour with.
What struck me most about the interview was the down to earth attitude the band and Scott seemed to carry, along with all their stories of humble origins, like their involvement with Jim James of My Morning Jacket. In this improbable tale, Scott’s girlfriend at the time slipped Jim James a mixtape that later became Toothbrush, a CD that inspired Jim James to invite Dr. Dog on tour. In our interview, Scott talked about how this catalyzed the development of the band, forcing them to “decide who was even in the band” and to ask questions like “who has a hi-hat we can borrow.” Even most of the band members materialized in chance opportunities, like meeting their current drummer Eric Slick when he was 16 and asking for an autograph from the band after a show. Or even their keyboardist Zach Miller who saw them “live in a barn” and told them “it was the greatest show he has ever seen,” a comment that Scott jokingly responded to with “well clearly you have to join the band.” Unfortunately, Zach’s guitar skills were not in demand from a band who already had two capable guitarists, so he joined the band playing keyboards mainly because “his sister or someone had a keyboard he could use.”
In our interview, we also discussed their symbol, three triangulated orange dots, whose evolution was from a “knee-jerk” reaction of sorts, based on the appearance of Hunter S. Dog, their aptly named dog who looked like a “glam rocker” with heavy eye shadow that resulted in a triangle between his eyes and his nose. Even the T nicknames each band member carries results from their former drummer Ted, whose nickname Today emerged from his relatives whose Pennsylvania Dutch accent pronounced his name as closer to Today than Teddy.
On November 15th, Dr. Dog will hit up the 40 Watt with another one of their hectic shows, a spectacle you shouldn’t miss for the world. If not even for their wonderful music, come for the packed shuffling, jumping and yelled choruses that functions as the fan’s dance party love letter to the band who is more than happy to reciprocate the love. Tickets are available online or at Wuxtry Records.
To hear the full interview, listen to WUOG at a date TBD. Thank you to Andrew Roach for organizing the meeting and Scott McMicken for talking his heart out.