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Dr. Dog Embraces The Void

Philadelphia rockers Dr. Dog have come a long way since their self-released debut album, The Psychedelic Swamp. Formed by childhood friends Scott McMicken and Toby Leaman, the band has since been through multiple lineup changes and released seven full-length albums.

Their most recent album, Be The Void, was released Feb. 7. While stuck in a snowstorm in Colorado, Leaman discussed the new album and how the band maintains their signature sound when adding new members.

CR: What were some of your goals while working on Be The Void ?

TL: It was definitely a goal to make a more upbeat record. That was something we talked about before we even started recording the record. The songs that were working were those types of songs, so those are the ones that got put on the record. But there was kind of a purposeful thinking behind it.

CR: Are there any specific themes on the album?

TL: No, I would say that this record is sort of more like our earlier records in that it’s really just a collection of songs. There’s no real thematic thread between the whole thing. Which I’m fine with, as long as all the songs sound good. There might be something you can read into. Just because we didn’t intend it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. So people that come up with something, it’s there.

CR: Can you break down some of the songs you wrote on the album? “Lonesome”?

TL: That song was a fun one to write. I was just thinking about all of the imagery that is traditionally associated with being alone and lonesome in songwriting. Things like trains, whistles and whippoorwills and the moon at night time and stuff like that. That’s been sort of the stock and trade in American songwriting, I’m so blue, I’m so sad, I’m alone, that kind of stuff. I was thinking about it in a different way. Where you’re not really embracing those things to express yourself, you’re just sort of mocking them, and you’re just sort of totally fine with being lonesome. 

CR: “These Days”?

TL: I was going to a party with my buddies, and I knew I was going to see a bunch of people I didn’t really know anymore. I had a bunch of people I hadn’t seen in so long. I’m 32 years old, there’s people I’m friends with but I might not have seen them for five years. I don’t even know what’s going on with their life or anything. I feel kind of shitty about it but at the same time it’s like, “Well we don’t really hang out. I mean, I like you, it’s fun to talk to you and stuff but…” Where is your relationship with these people? Who knows? You just sort of grow apart, and that’s what that song’s about. And it’s also about how sometimes you go to a party, even though you might not be having a good time you don’t want to leave. Because it’s still a party, it’s still got that aspect to it. That’s probably the most dicky song I’ve ever written. But I mean, there’s a point in everyone’s life where they’re kind of an asshole. Most people don’t write about it, but I did.

CR: “Get Away”?

TL: When I first started writing it I was sort of writing it for Scott, because he had this girlfriend he was really into. I was just thinking about how it is when you’re into somebody and the rest of the world just sort of recedes behind it. But then as I was writing it, I decided it was best to write it from my own experiences of what that was like. When you meet somebody and you realize they’ve been around for all this time and you didn’t even know they existed, but all of a sudden they’re the most important thing in your life. 

CR:: Your studio albums have a live feeling to them. Is that something you strive for?

TL: I’m a firm believer that anything that’s recorded or documented should be just that, a document. It should be a representation of the reality of what was actually happening. I feel like for a band like us, we put out records and we tour. So what should our record be? It should be what we were doing when we were making the record.

CR:: Have you ever considered making a live album?

TL: Yeah, we’re sort of picky with that stuff. It’s something we’ve obviously talked about, but I don’t know. It’s never anything anybody has actively set out to do. Nobody has really taken the reins on that one. But I imagine it will happen at some point. 

CR:: It seems like a lot of pop bands are infamous for not having a good live show, but you guys have seemingly escaped that stereotype. What’s the secret?

TL: Well first of all, we really like what we’re doing, and we really want to have a good time doing it. I mean, we’re not up there to pretend we’re something that we’re not, and we’re also not up there thinking about our next move. I mean this is what we are, this is what we do. Whenever you see us as a band, there’s no pretense behind it. It might be the stupidest thing in the world, or you might love it, but it’s real. And also, not to sound cocky, but we’re better players than most bands. We’ve been playing longer, we’re older, when we practice we practice with real intent. I mean, all joking aside, we’re just better. That’s my belief. 

CR:: What’s with the child’s voice at the beginning of the song “Do The Trick?”

TL: That’s Scott’s nephew. If you listen he says, “Hey, Uncle Scott.” It’s a phone message that he left for Scott on his answering machine. He just wanted to know what he liked and what he wanted for Christmas. Scott did a demo of that and that was on it, and everyone was sort of endeared to it. I mean, we all love his nephew and family and stuff. The question is so funny too, because it’s that kind of thing that little kids will say that’s actually so much more logical than what an adult would say. “I just want to know what you like, and also what you want for Christmas.” Those are two separate questions. That’s sort of kind of what the song is about too. 

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