Fun Fact: Singer Toby Leeman had to cancel the first few shows of the band’s latest tour due to a freak tubing accident that damaged his esophagus.
Why It’s Worth Watching: Roosty guitars, soaring harmonies and trippy melodies rustle throughout the band’s latest album, Fate.
For Fans Of: My Morning Jacket, Wilco, the Grateful Dead
All bands have different ways of disappearing into their music, different methods of preparing themselves to bridge the gap from reality to stage performance. For Dr. Dog, it’s all in the name.
“It’s a calling card outside of real life, something to bring you into this other world that you are trying to create for yourself and for other people,” says guitarist Frank McElroy referring to the “t” nicknames the entire band has adopted for this exact purpose. He’s Thanks, along with Taxi (singer/guitarist Scott McMicken), Tables (singer/bassist Toby Leaman), Text (organist Zach Miller) and Trouble (Juston Stens, on trapset and harmonies). “The names are signifiers that we exist in something other than the reality at hand.”
When Dr. Dog plays, the reality at hand is a musician’s dream world that conjures images of psychedelic jams, old-timey dance-alongs and smart instrumentals that draw inspiration from ’60s acts while still creating a fresh sound. You can hear echoes of classic acts such as The Band or the Beatles in Dr. Dog’s music, but what emerges from the band’s records and live performances is a new way of being modern while still, as F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote, being born ceaselessly into the past.
McElroy has mixed feelings about the constant comparisons. “There’s no denying that we are influenced and have influenced. At some times we are surprised by how often they come up,” he says. “But then again when people think you sound like a certain band and they get that in their heads they keep looking for it…sometimes it seems like laziness.”
Although it was originally intended to be thematic, Dr. Dog’s newest album, Fate, turned out that way, seemingly driven by the exact force by which it is titled. Train motifs pop up frequently, and musings on destiny, age and idealism are common. The songs are concise in rhythm and harmonious in composition, catchy but not cloying. There’s an embrace of showmanship and keen imagination, a bit of pomp, a lot of circumstance. And of course, fate.
“I’d describe it as a concept that we fell into or realized, towards the end,” McElroy says. “It wasn’t like we set out to make this concept; it kind of fell into out laps and felt like it was destined to be there, which kind of lends itself to the concept itself being fate.”
On a recent tour, Dr. Dog has been taking the stage amongst a full gathering of fake trees. It’s funny to look at, but at the same time it’s perfectly apropos: the contrast of bright, constructed concert lighting with the whimsical nature of sunglass-wearing bandmates taking their places in American Apparel-come-country flannel get-ups. It’s this mix of the old and new, done with a sense of humor and a lot of soul, that defines the band. “If nothing ever moves / Put that needle to the groove and sing,” go the lyrics on “The Breeze.” Dr. Dog does just that.