Indie newcomers The Dogs release self-titled album

By Tatiana Craine

A new band is emerging from the outskirts of Chicago, rising out of grarge-rock and folk ashes. The Dogs released their debut album on November 17. The self-titled album is the end result of a series of EPs put out over the last few years. A fusion of indie, rock, and folk, The Dogs have been playing gigs around Chicago for years. Despite their youthful appearances, the band members write songs rich with musical and lyrical wisdom.Matt Bachmann adds depth to the album by playing bass and assorted percussive instruments, including cowbell. James Krivchenia contributes his percussionist, guitarist and vocalist abilities to the band. Peter Walters supplies his vocal skills to all The Dogs’ songs in addition to his guitar-playing talents. Backup vocalist Rivkah Gevinson also makes memorable appearances on the album with her haunting, pitch-perfect voice.

One of the highlights of the album, “Headed for the Mountains,” is a blend of The Dogs’ talent. Walters echoing Gevinson’s dreamy vocals adds a level of complexity to the song. The lyrics showcase an idealistic view of hitting the road and abandoning societal pressures. Bachmann and Krivchenia also contributed heavily to the song, an anthem for restless souls begging to escape.

I had a chance to sit down with the three main members of the band and talk with them about the release of their debut album, “The Dogs.”

Tatiana Craine: You guys started out when you were pretty young. How did you three meet up and form The Dogs?

Matt Bachmann: Well it really started in junior high for me, but Pete and James have a long, long history. [The Dogs] really came out of two bands: The Frogs and Broken Parasite. James wanted to start playing guitar, and so we all decided to switch instruments. But my rhythm was so bad that I had to stay on bass and Pete played on drums. We just started making songs that we thought were funny. Songs like “I Want to Fuck Your Mom.” We were very much a punk band in the beginning.

James Krivchenia: Don’t forget “Fuck the Government.” We had some great tunes.

MB: Oh, of course, how could I forget?

JK: Even though we sucked, we developed this mythical self-image.

MB: If it wasn’t for that, we wouldn’t be here today.

JK: We always thought of ourselves as much more grand than we actually were, and that attitude has stayed with us a bit.

Pete Walters: It was really just a break from the high stress life of 8th grade rockstars.

TC: What artists inspired you most when you were recording this album?

MB: There is some definite Neil [Young] inspiration. You can really hear him in songs like “Smell the Rain.” My roommate is convinced that’s a Neil tune.

JK: Yeah, a lot of Neil. We were all really into Fleet Foxes, too. Some Dodos. I see both those bands as role models. They just kinda made it. Just like we’re going to do. [Laughs.]

PW: At the same time, I think we had written a fair amount before we got into those bands.

TC: How would you describe your music to listeners unacquainted with The Dogs? What makes you different than the rest of the indie bands out there?

MB: It’s unique. Very playful. It’s hard to describe your own sound.

JK: There are a lot of elements in our music, like folk.

PW: How many indie bands beat a cowbell into the ground mercilessly?

MB: True that.

JK: But we really like to have “hard parts,” you know, to really rock. Like folk-garage rock.

MB: It’s not really either of those. Maybe garage rock revival?

JK: [Laughs.] It’s pretty hard to describe.

Matt: It really is playful with lots of screams and outlandish things to get people’s attention.

TC: So, should I just say it sounds like “indescribable bliss?”

MB: That sounds good.

JK: Perfect.

TC: There are three official members to The Dogs, how does that work with song-writing? Do you collaborate as a team on your songs? Or are the responsibilities (lyrics, rhythm, etc.) divided between the members?

MB: James and Pete are a great song writing combo. They work really well together.

PW: I’d say that James has a fair amount of the initial ideas.

MB: We tend to write the lyrics very, very, very democratically.

PW: Too democratically. We can get into the dirty details, but at the end of the day, I’d say we collaborate on most songs.

TC: You guys attend three different colleges across the country, how do you keep writing songs and collaborating when you’re so far away from each other?

PW: We figured out we all live on the same line of latitude. Perhaps it’s the jet stream that carries inspiration.

JK: Yeah, I feel like with the album over the summer it was a matter of bringing in the material and finishing it. I think we work well like that. It’s nice to have a break too, [because] then you get really into it when you are together.

MB: I yeah, I feel like we develop ideas on our own and then bring them to the band.

PW: The downtime keeps our ideas fresh.

TC: You’re going very independent with your latest album, The Dogs. What was the process of self-recording and self-producing your work like?

JK: I think it was really good. We couldn’t have done it any other way.

MB: It was really hard. We had no understanding of how long it would take. We set out in the summer with the idea of recording two albums and we thought we’d have them finished before September. We had no idea.

TC: You’re releasing your album for free on TheDogsMusic.net, much like Radiohead did with their album “In Rainbows.” What are your opinions on the free downloads in the music world? And what made you decide to release it this way?

JK: The comparisons begin.

MB: It’s worked amazingly, so many people have listened to it. The amount of people who have contacted me today has been amazing. The album’s only been out for 10 hours.

JK: It’s just a matter of getting our music heard at this point. Anything that gets in the way, like money, has no place right now. But I don’t think all music should be free.

PW: This is a great way to get our music to people who otherwise wouldn’t have heard it. I’ve been getting really genuine compliments, even from people who I haven’t talked to very much before.

MB: We owe a lot to Radiohead.

JK: I would suck their dicks.

MB: Second that.

PW: I would do more than suck their dicks, but I guess I’m just trying to one up you guys now.

MB: We’re a funny band. We lose a lot of money on what we do. We had a gross [income] of $30 this summer.

JK: Breaking even is the main goal.

MB: But it’s priceless.

TC: You’re from the Chicago area, and you get pretty good reception out there, playing at The Elbo Room in Chicago and Scoville Park in Oak Park. What kind of fans do you have, and are you interested in branching out more with a potential summer tour?

JK: Hell yes. Our new philosophy is “Go big or go home.” Well, for me at least. I think that’s the way you’ve got to view it.

MB: Go big.

PW: Go big and go home. I wouldn’t mind playing more shows in Chicago as part of a bigger tour. We’ve had some good times at home.

TC: I’ve heard rumors The Dogs are going to pack up and head to South by Southwest this spring. Is that somewhere we can look forward to you guys playing?

MB: God, I hope so. That would be a dream.

JK: Yeah, we probably will be. We are in talks with some people and places right now.

PW: The real question is if we’re going to be playing on a stage or a streetside.

TC: Your music is really starting to take off, especially with the album release. Would you guys be willing to drop everything (i.e. college, work, etc.) if the opportunity for bigger, better musical horizons opened up for The Dogs in the future?

MB: I am, but at the same time, I realize it’s different for everyone else. I mean I barely have any scholarships, so I’m not at risk to
lose those. It may be smartest to see what happens after we’re out of college. That way we can mature musically and age-wise.

JK: I think it depends on the opportunities. Yeah, I mean I definitely want to graduate from Berklee.

PW: I think it would have to be a pretty big break; I have a lot at stake here at Macalester.

JK: But in the end, I don’t know. I really just want to go for it in the moment.

TC: Though The Dogs have an underground following, are you going to try advertising your work to a more mainstream audience? Or perhaps try and entertain record labels, blogs, or music reviews?

JK: We are going crazy sending the album out everywhere.

MB: We need some indie cred.

TC: Still sending Pitchfork seven albums and seven hot sauces for seven days to get them to check out your album?

JK: No lie, I love Pitchfork. I don’t think they are always right, but they are my favorite magazine by far.

MB: Yeah, I just got into a huge Pitchfork argument the other day. They’re so funny.

PW: That doesn’t mean we can’t bribe them with our homemade mango habanero hot sauce though.

MB: No doubt.

TC: Do you have any favorite Dogs moments over the past few years?

MB: Wow. Where to start? I guess I would have to say all of it. It’s all fun.

JK: Some of the concerts are unforgettable.

MB: Wildcat [Music Festival] was a great experience. That weekend was so fun.

PW: I really liked our concerts in Scoville Park this summer. We just set our stuff down and gave the people what they wanted. People stopped and listened. It was great.

TC: Any last words?

MB: I don’t think we can comment on The Dogs before it’s all said and done. Talk to me in four years.

PW: I’m just excited that we’ve been able to share a little bit of what we spent most of our summer on. It’s a good feeling.

JK: Yeah, I’ve honestly never been more proud of something I’ve worked on.

The Dogs’ eponymous debut album can be downloaded for free at www.thedogsmusic.net.