Dog is Dead Interview

Dog is Dead Interview – Left Lion, October/November 2010

Dog Is Dead

They smashed it at Glastonbury, ripped up the festival circuit, dropped a critically-acclaimed debut single and got a huge leg-up by the BBC this summer – so could Bridgford boys Dog Is Dead be the first Notts band in ages to take it to the next level?

You’ve been busy this year, then…
We’ve played about seven festivals this summer. We’ve done the Dot to Dot equivalent in a few cities and a few nice little festivals. We have some dates in October across the UK,
including one in London with Someone Still Loves You, Boris Yeltsin. They’re an American band – really good.

You were the only unsigned band that the BBC covered at Glastonbury. Did you know that in advance?
No, we didn’t. At about 2 o’clock on Sunday morning when we were off on a little mission to an obscure part of Glastonbury we got this phone call from Joss’ mum. He was singing and dancing and when we asked him what was going on he told us that we’d been on the telly!

Had you been to Glastonbury before?
First time. It’s the best place in the world. It’s…big, and scary, and full of hippies. We were quite lucky that we got the one year when it hasn’t rained. It was a lot of fun but a bit too hot.

How does it feel when you are playing at a festival with established names, but knowing that hundreds of people have still turned out to see you?
We had Plan B on after us, which was the only reason anyone was there. He’s quite scary, although you can’t be too scared of someone in a suit knowing that there is always a trumpet nearby….

What’s been your most rock n’ roll moment to date?
We played at a venue called The Fridge and it was absolutely freezing. We were stuck in a dead cold dressing room, so when no-one was around, like giggling idiots, we snuck into the headliner’s dressing room and stole their heaters. We’re like a punk band with no balls – a punk band full of Mark Corrigans off Peep Show.

We hear you aren’t ashamed of being called a ‘pop’ band.
At the end of the day, we’re a pop band who write pop songs. Most of the world listens to pop, so we don’t see why so many bands say; “Well, we don’t want to be ‘pop.’” It’s quite
pretentious and dismisses what most of the world are listening to. It’s pop – ‘popular’ music. It’s a bigger thing, changing the face of pop music. When you try and do something leftfield, it isn’t innovative at all – it’s making a mess for the sake of it.

There’s a lot of 80s influences in music these days, yours included. You also use the saxophone a lot. Could you be the new Spandau Ballet?
[Laughs] Rob loves his 80s music and always has done. We don’t want to be lumped into the niche that is the ‘nu-pop-80s’ thing, it’s very ‘now’ and will go out. Having a saxophone in the band is nothing to do with sounding like the 80s. We started having a sax in the band as that’s what Trev was best at – and what he’s still best at!

You don’t really write traditional ‘verse/chorus/verse/chorus’ songs…
That’s just what we started off writing, and it helps to be different. Trying to write the perfect pop song is a bad idea – so when we’re looking at structures, what happens, happens.

The reviews of your singles have been almost universally positive. Is there already an album taking shape?
We put our single Glockenspiel Song out in June off our own back as an experiment – and the response we got was overwhelming. So much more than we expected, really. We have no idea how Young is going to do. So, let’s see how it escalates and let the album draw itself out. We have the material, but let’s see what we can do off our own back.

What’s your favourite tune in your repertoire at the moment?
There’s one called The River Jordan which we play mid-set. We get to rock out – it’s like being in Slayer for a period of time, which we like. The songs we write are meant to sound their best when played live – that’s what music’s about. It’s always important to make a show out of your live performance, not just be a band reeling off their records.

People round here are starting to expect big things from you…
A couple of years ago we were playing to mates and maybe a few other people. And now, eighteen months on, we’re at Splendour, with all these people at the front waiting for our set and we hardly know any of them. There are loads of people that none of us know wanting to hear us and wanting photos with us. We’re a Nottingham band, obviously, but you don’t realise that when you are played on Radio 1, XFM, and 6 Music that people around the country now know about you. It’s good to go down to London now – as it’s not as hard or scary as it used to be. There are people who know who we are, which is such an amazing thing.

So how much of that is down to luck?
There’s always an element of luck with that. but you have to force people to be interested. If everyone is talking about your band, then people can’t ignore you. Keep playing until people are forced to like you!

We have to mention the ‘Nottingham doesn’t have a huge list of famous bands’ thing…
For a while there was a lack of good bands, but it’s a bit unfair to say that nowadays. There was a huge metal scene in Nottingham, when metal was nowhere near as well-known nationwide as indie or pop. Now, though, there are a lot of bands in Nottingham who are a bit more ‘indie’. Bands like Swimming are doing well, so it’s a bit harsh on them. We’ve actually found it easy being in Nottingham as an up-and-coming band, due to the fact that bands here are all really supportive of one another, venues have supported us way beyond what they have to, and it’s smack bang in the middle of the country, which
makes gigging really easy. It was tough when we first started out, and the politics of it all get really complicated, but when we became a ‘serious’ band, Nottingham was behind us straight away. Nottingham is a bubble – and soon, it’s going to burst.

We heard there was a plan to defer your university entrance for a year to see how you got on as a band. That year must almost be up now…
We took a year out to see if anything happened, and it’s gone a lot better than we thought it would. So, we figured we’d take another year. You can go to Uni at any age – so if, in ten years time it still hasn’t worked…

In another year’s time, what would you consider to be success? Are you ambitious?
We are ambitious. We’d like to be able to charge you to do the interview! We know that in the next year we won’t be rock stars, but we will have got to play some gigs in big stadiums. Last year, Stornoway got the same coverage from the BBC as we did this year and they ended up on Later with Jools Holland. They’re going to be big – they played the Park Stage at Glastonbury this year and to be honest, that’s something we’d love to do by
this time next year. If we’re not at that level we will almost be disappointed.