Showcasing some of their most mature, streamlined and soulful writing to date – Philadelphia’s Dr. Dog are back into the swing of things with their new album, B-Room. Shortly after it’s release last week, we sat down for a quick chat with Zach Miller to talk self-built studios, homely advice and re-thinking the recording process.
By Meghan Player
Congratulations on the new album – are you excited that it’s finally out? You must be keen for fans to hear it.
Everything seems to be on track. Very psyched for it to finally be out. I hope our fans love it!
The process behind making the album is an interesting one – as you actually built a studio to record it in. How did this effect the sound and overall outcome of the album?
It got us in the rhythm of working together. It was cool to do a massive non-musical project leading into the making of the album, and it got us excited about recording. I’d be sanding a drywall or wiring outlets, doing mundane stuff, and thinking about how we needed this to actually record! But we built it to our liking so it’s very comfortable for us, and there’s always something that can be done; some project that can improve things. That’s exciting too: the malleability of it.
The move to build your own studio came about after the lease ended on a previous home studio – while I can imagine it’s hard to leave a space that’s been a part of your career for such a long time, was there a draw towards being able to start a clean slate with the new space?
Not really. We saw it as a necessary move. (It wasn’t actually a home studio, it was another industrial space). We were looking for a house, some place in the country, but it was really hard to find and we lucked into this situation. It wasn’t what we thought we wanted but it turned out it was.
Did you find that you approached making the album with a fresh perspective?
Oh yeah, it was so nice to be able to record full band and track live – having a good headphone mix and have everything sound good. We hadn’t really been able to accomplish that before.
For all intensive purposes, the album is being described as a ‘soul album’. What inspired the sound?
We were really trying to keep things simple and serve the song. It’s funny how songs like “The Truth” and “Nellie” came together after several more elaborate arrangements frustrated us. As soon as we pared it down, it felt right.
The band has been around for a while now, how do you think it has changed and evolved over the years/How much do you think the band has changed in terms of sound since your debut?
We’ve become a much more competent live band. In the early days, we were much more ragged, actually in the studio too. It’s a bit weird because people would come up to us after Easy Beat and say “don’t ever change the lo fi thing, man!” but that wasn’t what we were going for, necessarily, we were just working with what we had. We still love lo fi stuff for sure but we can’t stay like that forever.
If you could go back to the beginnings of the band [or even when you first picked up an instrument], and give yourself one piece of advice about the future, what would it be and why?
My mum plays piano and is an incredible singer; I always wish she had forced me to take piano lessons like so many other people’s parents did. At least I would have a better technique or better pitch or a stronger voice. But I say that only half seriously; maybe the rigor would have turned me off. I was still playing a lot of music in my free time but I’ve never been very disciplined about it (and am still struggling with that). My wife is a violin teacher so I get scolded all the time for not being consistent. So long story short, I would say: practice, practice, practice, record, record, record. Don’t worry about wasting tape or recording something stupid. That’s practice too. Be as prolific as you thing you can be. Don’t save it up. You always come away learning something.
How will 2013 wrap up for the band?
We’re doing a tour in the states that ends in November. Don’t think we have anything on the books after that. Another tour in early ’14.
Are you planning on bringing the live set to Australia at some stage?
I hope so! We love Australia.
Many thanks to Zach for taking the time to chat to us. You can check out Dr Dog and the new album, B-Room at: http://www.drdogmusic.com/home/