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Dr Dog

Put down that cheesesteak, close your unabridged biography of Benjamin Franklin, let your DVR pick up the late night Rocky marathon, and enjoy this Dr. Dog interview. —Peter Wenker
What is it about Dr. Dog that allows you to churn out
records so quickly?

There are two main things that have allowed us to do what we’ve been doing: having two prominent songwriters instantly doubles the amount of material available, and recording all of our albums in our own studio. We can record whenever we want without having to find a place and trying to coordinate schedules, or finding the right person to work with, or any of the other things that other bands have to deal with. The other thing to throw in there is that while we have only been a band who has “officially” released material for the last four years, we’ve actually been writing and recording for 10 years,
just without the identity and structure of Dr. Dog. For years it had just been Toby and me writing songs together, but now that we’ve solidified a band, we’re sitting on a pile of hundreds of songs that had been fully realized at the time. Now we’ll never have a shortage of songs. If Toby and I were never to write another song starting today, we’d probably still be able to put out five to six more albums. Plus, it helps that Park The Van is such an awesome label. We can put out whatever we want and whenever we want, and Chris will help us market it and get it out there.
Does it ever worry you that with such a steady output of material you’re not giving your fans enough time to digest the previous release?

I really appreciate the whole sense of taking your time and really taking in an album, but honestly I still think we’re not putting out enough. I understand the whole rationale of pace and allowing an album to have its own lifespan and allowing it to trickle down from friend to friend, hand to hand, but that’s not the structure the band has been built on. Once we record something, we want it out there so we can move on to the next thing. You develop a strange relationship with your music if it has to sit around for too long. That’s why we did releases like Toothbrush and Takers And Leavers—just to get it out there. With Toothbrush we had no audience at the time those songs were recorded and they weren’t recorded as demos or anything…they were things unto themselves. As we started to gain more of an audience, we started to think about recording them, but instead we just put them out there. We appreciate a more documentary-style of recording, where the songs are an uncensored view into what we were recording at the time. In the minds of the band, it’s more about releasing music not so much to retain a certain level of interest, but instead just because it’s what we do.
Dr. Dog made its debut into the skateboard community with “The Girl” in Bobby Worrest’s part in Especial. Do you have any thoughts or reservations about your music being used in skateboard videos?
No way! That’s cool. We have plenty of reservations for all other places for our music, and we’re constantly grappling with the commercial use of our music. No one is selling albums anymore, so the two main ways to make money and support yourself is touring and advertisements. Advertisers will pay you this ridiculous amount of money, but there’s so much bullshit to deal with. And it’s such a polarized issue right now. It’s either complete acceptance or such opposition. We’ve been on the fence about the whole thing, which is ultimately reluctance. But we haven’t done an advertisement, and it’s really tempting. The important issue is the ethical question, and it challenges your integrity. In any sense of it, we’re still five people with a deep-seated distrust of commercialism and the corporate umbrella. We all grew up as skaters and punks and my upbringing is filtered through adolescent feelings of hating society, the government, and everything. But then you get older and it becomes a little more settled, but you still have to go with your gut. And while thousands of dollars from Dell sounds cool, we don’t feel cool about it. But there is something inherently connected between music and
skateboarding. Both are an expression of yourself. I grew up watching skate videos and one of the best things about them was always the music. I found out about so much music that I would have never listened to if it hadn’t been for skateboarding. I never got to that point where I was motivated enough to push my skating to the next ability level, but I just love to cruise—just rolling around the streets is the best. There’s an abstract rhythm to skateboarding that isn’t in the public limelight. Most people just think skaters are hooligans, but I think skateboarding is on the same level as a lot of today’s contemporary art and just urban culture in general. Skateboarding absolutely belongs with music. Selling a cheeseburger with music just doesn’t have the same connection.
Bobby Worrest part from Especial
The band has definitely been gaining momentum and notoriety with each album’s release. Have there been any real sobering moments where you sort of turned to each other and thought “Umm...when did this happen?”

Yeah, I think so. But it’s strange because as a band we don’t see ourselves the way our friends and family see us. They’ll tell us that we’re blowing up or getting huge, but I always see things as what needs to be done for the day-to-day shit. I mean, we’ve had some serious benchmarks of a successful band with being in Rolling Stone and playing on national television, but I don’t know how to apply those things to my own feelings about the band. If it were someone else’s band doing these things, I could acknowledge it, but I don’t know how to feel about it. The practical side of it is that the bigger you get, the farther you have to push your shows. You have to have more energy to
play a space that holds 500 instead of 100. But it inspires you to find new ways to play your songs in a way that can create the illusion in someone’s mind of seeing a band just like the way I see a band on stage—as something intangible. Last night may have been one of those moments because we played a free show in the middle of Philly and the PECO building had scrolling words across it announcing the show. It’s the highest fucking building in the city, it was getting out of hand. It seemed like the mayor was going to have a Dr. Dog Day or something. And the show was such a crazy experience. There were thousands of people there and it felt like such a hometown triumph. It was a great milestone as a band, especially when it was on our own turf.