It's been five years since the London band Dogs burst onto the music scene and released their debut album 'Turn Against This Land' through Island Records. They've been through some trials and tribulations leading to a break from the industry, but they are back this year with an EP, an impending tour and a new album on the horizon. Contactmusic.com caught up with Johnny from the band to chat about their experiences and their plans for the next year.
Like many new bands at that time, Johnny says they too were naive, not only about the business side of things but about the music itself. 'The whole spirit of punk is that anyone can do it and you just bash out a few chords' he says. And although The DOGS' ambitions and inspirations were way beyond some of their peers, Johnny admits they did overreach their ability at the time. They have since tucked a second album and a number of singles under their belt, all the while developing into the band they are today. Now they've caught up with themselves, and with new members Paul (Warren, drums) and Kev (Iverson, guitar/vocals) who Johnny describes as 'masters of their craft' the band are ready to re-launch themselves. 'Yeah it's been a while, we've had a year away, two new members and certain other f*cking hurdles but we really do feel like a new band now' says Johnny. Although in an ideal world, the band would have released an album a year, life doesn't always play the game. They are hoping to release their third album next year and are confident it will be well worth the wait.
Meanwhile, their EP 'We Are The Dogs' was released in May to give fans a taster of the future for the band. 'I think it's going to be seen with posterity as a stepping stone of what there is to come. It's got moments on it that are really satisfying for me, which really point in the direction that we want to be' says Johnny. 'There's a magical side to what we're doing now, and a darkness and a creepy macabre side' he adds. It's clear that for the Dogs' return, they are hoping to take their fans into their world, to escape reality for a while. 'Perhaps it's just that we're so f*cking sick and tired of what's happening in the world around us that we're withdrawing into a fantasy world' explains Johnny. 'We're not into capturing the f*cking times because the times can f*ck off!' It's not hard to imagine why, with an attitude like that in the current climate, the band connect so well with their fans.
Dogs' influences are wide ranging, but it would be remiss not to mention Paul Weller. A vocal advocate of the band, they have continues to take inspiration from him, though not in the way most people would think. The band have their own identity and don't care about trends. 'We don't want to be tied to a mod ethic, we're much more of a rock band, we've always been a f*cking rock band' says Johnny, but what the band do take from Paul Weller is that sheer passion and drive and that really shines through. On hearing his description of the darker nature of their songs, it's not surprising to hear that their musical inspirations include the likes of The Smashing Pumpkins, Kyuss and The Pixies. But their music is also pretty diverse, Johnny describes it as having dancier moments, similar to 'Off The Wall' Michael Jackson as well as a tough, almost metal-like sound. So, what will surprise a lot of fans is the band's mutual love for Fleetwood Mac. 'There are some things that Fleetwood Mac did that were just fantastically beautiful and melodic, some incredible song writing and the driving magic of that band is what we take inspiration from' explained Johnny. He again stressed the point that his job as a singer and front man was to encourage the escapism that the music creates. 'We are starting to hypnotise people, we want people to just f*cking lose themselves, mesmerise them with a beautiful beat that is incessant and just takes you away' he says.
However, Johnny has always been uncomfortable with the 'singer' label, despite his talent and presence on stage; 'I was a bit of a talk-shouter, now I'm more of a shout-singer' he laughs. As lyricist for the band, he values what he is saying much more than the way he delivers it. Taking inspiration from poets like Edgar Allen Poe and John Cooper Clarke, Johnny's lyrics always veer towards a darker side. 'I keep trying to lighten them but they won't go there, they're little f*ckers that I can't control!' he laughs. Despite the darkness, he does manage to inject humour into his songs and occasionally the lyrics are tongue in cheek, but they are always delivered with emotion. What allows him to get this emotion into his delivery is writing songs that are personal to him, 'I'm quite a still performer but what I've got comes wrenchingly from my gut, it has to f*cking mean something to me and then it translates' he says.
This translation has led to the band developing an ever growing army of very loyal fans. 'They are like dogs, they are extremely loyal, and we're pretty blessed with that' he says. Having had experience of releases and touring under major labels before, the band are much preferring their new DIY approach. They saw their major label experience as being mollycoddled and directed and were constantly pulled in different directions depending on people's agendas; describing their tour as them being 'quintuplets in one of those huge f*cking posh prams being pushed around Europe by a tour manager!' So it's no wonder the freedom and personal touches of the DIY approach appeal to them. 'We're pretty satisfied digging our own paths and calling all our shots and its brilliant, its f*cking brilliant, we love it' Johnny beams. And perhaps it's because of their loyal fans that this path works so well. The fans have allowed the band to utilise Pledge Music to fund their most recent EP, a system by which they ask their fans to 'pledge' money for the band to record. The joint creativity of the band and the loyalty of the fans meant they easily raised enough money for the recording and were also able to give a significant amount to their two chosen charities, Macmillan Cancer Care and Animals Asia, both of which are close to the band's hearts. In order to encourage the fans to pledge money, the band offered an array of goodies for fans, as Johnny explains. 'We went and played round people's houses in their kitchen and their gardens, I wrote lyrics out for people and personalised them, I put little care packages together with books that I love and little personal things'. The whole experience also bought them closer to their fans.
The Dogs' creativity doesn't stop there. They are now launching their own night 'Dogs Music Presents' at the Mc Queen in London's Shoreditch. Promising an extravaganza of different acts but keeping the details well and truly secret, the only thing that is certain is that the band will be headlining this special evening, which will also hopefully be one of many. And it doesn't stop there. The band have a UK tour booked and are planning to release their third album on their own label 'Moths' in Spring next year. So their loyal fans will be pleased to know they will be seeing a lot more of them in the future, now they are back there seems to be no stopping them. We'll watch this space!
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