Ruth's Manuvas


My musical ramblings – gig and album reviews, music news and views

Dog Is Dead – Interview

Dog Is Dead

A canny knack for five-part vocal harmony is an impressive feat by anyone’s standards. And it’s definitely an accomplishment that achieves a chunk of individuality for Nottingham’s Dog Is Dead.

Gigwise caught up with abashed bassist and vocalist, Rob Milton, to chat Glastonbury, sax and the band’s revolt against style over substance.

Rob introduces Dog Is Dead as five 19-year-olds from Nottingham, most who grew up together through school. They all sing in harmony sharing the vocal responsibilities, they have one bassist, two guitarists – one of those on keyboards too – a sax and a drummer. And that mix is reflected live, as Dog Is Dead have a mish-mash of influences that just seem to fall into place. The shouty lyrics, saxophone, beautiful vocal harmonies and glockenspiel are just part and parcel of their unit – nevermind fusion food, this is fusion music.

And it’s no accident that their voices wouldn’t sound out of place coming from choir robes, as Rob explains, “We’ve always been into choirs and gospel groups as the sound is so clean, so we wanted to do our own, modern take on it. The problem was we’re not natural singers so it’s taken a lot of practice to get them right.”

Then there’s that saxophone – synonymous with jazz, infamous for dodgy 80s power solos. Dog Is Dead flip the concept on its head, using the instrument to inject warmth and melancholy into their indie pop sound.

“To be honest the band set up just evolved out of the fact we were just good mates, and Trevor was a saxophone player so we just thought, ‘Right, we’ve got a saxophone player’”, Rob adds shruggedly, while taking time to vehemently confirm they are ‘definitely not a new jazz band’.

That carefree attitude to playing whatever they’re into is a refreshing contrast to the self-consciousness that a lot of their indie counterparts expose over their image.

Rob explains, “We’re not conscious of having an image or an image to uphold and I think our personalities come out in the type of music we play. It’s not like you have to take heroin to be memorable anymore in music – that feels quite old now – and I think that’s where bands go wrong when they put all their energies into their look.”

The five are also no strangers to festivals, having played their home town’s Dot to Dot Festival the last two years on the trot, as well as the Bristol and Manchester legs in 2010. Among the rest, playing the Glastonbury BBC Introducing Stage this year set the Dog Is Dead name alight, gaining them critical acclaim in the music press.

Rob admits, “Playing Glastonbury was pretty scary. We felt like small fish in a big pond but you have to take what you can from it. It’s hard to tell whether it’s been a catalyst for us yet, but the single sales are a giveaway. At the moment though, we still feel very much like a grass roots band.

“Having said that, when you get a band like Mumford & Sons who were playing small pubs in Nottingham not that long ago going on to headline stages at the big festivals, it is encouraging, so I think we all draw a lot of confidence from that.”

In June, the band released their first official single, ‘Glockenspiel Song’, after an initial EP in 2009 and have ‘Young’ out for release on 20 September. It’s testament to how far they’ve already come that they have a headline tour this autumn visiting cities including London, Cardiff and Manchester. And beyond?

He adds, “We’ve got the material for an album and although we’re hoping to have one ready next year, we just want to see how everything goes first so we’ve just got to keep our heads down, play it by ear and see what happens.”

Interviewed for Gigwise

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