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Saturday December 20th 2014

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Getting Back to the Old Days

By Sarah McCartan

In a world where everything seems to be largely overproduced, it is refreshing to find the few and far betweens that have fully committed to not following suit. Dr. Dog just might be the very antithesis of overproduction. Defining a sound that is undeniably their own, this Philly-based group merges retro-pop vibes and soulful harmonies with stripped down rock ‘n’ roll.

Dually led by diversely talented songwriters, Dr. Dog has grown in a remarkably cohesive fashion, added a couple of new faces into the mix and is cruising right along doing what they do best—igniting their sound on stage. Their newly released, self-produced album, “Be the Void” sets out to recapture and recommit to the lo-fi origins of their early days of recording on cassette tapes, and does so in a raw yet upbeat, spirited manner.

Midway through their current tour, Dr. Dog is heading south and making a stop in neighboring Mobile. Bassist and songwriter Toby Leaman painted a picture for the IN of what controlled chaos looks like as well as the revived energy driving the band.

IN: How has the tour been so far? Any particular show highlights?
LEAMAN: The shows have all been well attended with some sell-outs. It’s good to see people moving to the new stuff. Then again we are playing a shit-ton of old stuff, too. We had an insane show in Santa Ana where kids were going bananas—crowd surfing, jumping on stage and girls trying to kiss Scott, our lead guitar player. Fortunately, people weren’t really hurt. Well, they probably woke up a little bruised. It was young kids, too. Usually security nips it in the bud pretty quick. When girls started grabbing Scott it got crazy. We have rowdy crowds sometimes, but not that rowdy. That was definitely a scene.

IN: How has the direction of Dr. Dog changed with the new album?
LEAMAN: It feels more like how we used to do things when it was just me and Scott, which was sort of this attitude that we were not recording for anybody but ourselves. It felt fresh. Everything felt really easy and we had so many songs, if a song wasn’t working we could just toss it out.

IN: Last time you worked with an outside producer. How do you feel about the shift back to producing this album yourself?
LEAMAN: It’s about pushing ourselves. The thing about doing it on your own is you can go the way you want to go. And the whole point is to grow. There’s no point in doing anything if you are going around in circles. Getting better is always the intent—it’s about wanting to be better and doing everything better. We are not going to put anything out there that we are not ecstatic about. The only conscious decision is growth and then people can perceive us however they want. Our job is done at that point.

IN: What was it like going into recording this album with new-member additions?
LEAMAN: We knew what kind of band we were live. We still had to figure out with this band what we were capable of in the studio and what we sounded like before we let anyone else hear it. I feel like I have a much better understanding of that now.

IN: Where did the title of the album originate?
LEAMAN: “Be the Void” is from a song that didn’t make it. It’s a great song that didn’t come together quite the way it should have, but we still really liked the lyric. It sounds like a dark lyric but in the context of the song itself it’s a very positive message of letting go and appreciating what is real and true.

IN: Would you say this is sort of the theme of the entire album?
LEAMAN: Definitely, in the way we did the album and the decisions we made. We picked the songs that felt the best. It was less about the lyrics, more about the attitude of the band when we made the record.

IN: How does this album compare to your last album, “Shame, Shame”?
LEAMAN: This is more of a party record while that was more of a pining record. There was interpersonal stuff going on at that time and the stuff just wears on you. That definitely influenced some of the songs. This time the band is in a totally different place. Everyone was ready to go and very excited.

IN: What is one of the best descriptions of Dr. Dog you’ve heard?
LEAMAN: I like the ones that focus more on the controlled chaos of whatever we do. At any moment it could give out but it never does, and it never will.

You can purchase tickets to the show locally at Revolver Records, 9 E. Gregory St.

DR. DOG
WHAT: Dr. Dog, with GIVERS
WHEN: 8 p.m. Wednesday, March 7
WHERE: Alabama Music Box, 455 Dauphin St., Mobile, Ala.
COST: $16 plus service fees in advance; tickets can be purchased locally at Revolver Records, 9 E. Gregory St.
DETAILS: drdogmusic.com; alabamamusicbox.net or (251) 441-8934