The dedication and determination of Dr. Dog
The dedication and determination of Dr. Dog

Two years after our last meeting with Dr. Dog, the vibrant quintet are still to make significant waves on this side of the pond. That’s despite Clash’s patronage and commendation with every new album the Philadelphian psych-pop wanderers deliver. Perhaps this time, as they return with new outing, ‘Be The Void’, you might just heed our approval.

“I can honestly say the major kind of benchmark for our own success comes from within our ideas of what we’re doing,” says singer and guitarist Scott McMicken when Clash asks about their current level of fame and the freedom it allows. “We’re able to have all these great opportunities and do things in increasingly different ways, as well as having new members in the band which has changed things immensely. But, at the end of the day, it all comes down to basically we are the ultimate judge of our own success.”

It’s a personal philosophy and insular ambition the band pursue - one where creating music is paramount - and stems from the original aims of McMicken and bassist Toby Leaman, who have been friends and played together for almost twenty years. “It never seemed to be based on people hearing it,” he admits.

Their shared history of recording (which began on Toby’s uncle’s four-track) has led them to an intimacy of their craft that sees them push their own frontiers with every outing. ‘Be The Void’ continues Dr. Dog’s experimentalism, which began on 2001’s homespun debut ‘The Psychedelic Swamp’ and picked up some pastoral Americana on 2008’s ‘Fate’, and finds the band venturing in a louder, dirtier direction that’s entirely reflective of their current live performance and band dynamic. This is due in part to the addition of new drummer Dimitri Manos: “He has unknowingly forced us all to become better musicians,” Scott acknowledges, because he is far and above a way more technically proficient and fast working creative musician.” This tightening of screws has found Dr. Dog expressing themselves across an album of spontaneity and energy that has quite obviously been made by - and for - touring.

From the bluesy stomp and chain gang chorus of ‘Lonesome’, the effervescent pop of ‘That Old Black Hole’, the summery sway of ‘Do The Trick’, and the bucolic acoustic trip of ‘Turning The Century’, ‘Be The Void’ is clearly an album that attempts to get its hooks into you. It’s pop, but not as you know it. “We’ve never really seen ourselves as shameful of pop or that side of ourselves,” Scott reasons, “and I feel like in many ways that’s been the big part of the criticisms that we’ve received: our unabashed love of a lot of obvious musical ideas.” But there’s no reason to be shameful; Dr. Dog arrive in a historical context that lately has seen (close friends) My Morning Jacket and The Black Keys tap into a creative vein that has appealed to a greater and more varied audience. Maybe now it’s time for Philly’s finest?

Words by Simon Harper
Photo by Austin Hargrave

This is an excerpt from a feature in the April 2012 issue of Clash magazine, out 8th March. Find out more about the issue HERE.

Read Clash's review of Dr. Dog's 'Be The Void'.

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