Interview: Dog is Dead

Fresh from releasing one of the brightest debut albums of the year, Nottingham quintet Dog is Dead head out on their biggest headline tour to date. Brum Notes Magazine, in association with Academy Events, brings them to Birmingham’s O2 Academy 2 on Wedesday. Tom Pell caught up with the band ahead of the show to talk All Our Favourite Stories.

Five years of writing and growing up together has yielded much change. Twisted are the youthful tales of summer nights out on the lash, now tainted with words of regret and lessons learned. We caught up with frontman Rob Milton, to check everyone was alright.

First track, Get Low starts so jarringly that the departure from DID’s usual joy hits you like a swig of MD 20/20. Aggressive drums and quizzical bass tease until frontman Milton arrives on scene with the pearler, “A fear of the dark is a walk in the park when you’re wasted.” Bang. Now we’ve started. The sound is brave new ground, with even hints of big hitters like Kasabian in parts. But unmistakably, this is Dog Is Dead.

“I guess it’s that other side of growing up; the more miserable things,” explains Rob. “The record is all about the natural highs of growing up, but you always get the dark comedowns too. There is a lot of relief in it, and I think it’s a really interesting one to start the record with. People by now think of us, melodically a least, as this crazy, happy summer band, so it straight away throws a spanner in the works opening with Get Low.”

The evolving sound was tweaked with the release of summer single Two Devils, seen later on the record. A darker tone and a more detailed lyrical emphasis allowed Milton to stand out as a leader, rather than sit amongst the wall of sound harmonies that had been heard before. Though, fear not as, “…we haven’t ditched them by any means! But it is more of my unique experiences. It’s very much me telling my stories with the other guys coming in, rather than that original wall of sound. We wanted to be more dynamic, and we wanted to write great songs.”

TV montage producers will delight in the euphoric chorus of Teenage Daughter, a song similar to Two Devils in structure but ending with a challenging mixed vocal where Milton seems to borrow Matt Bellamy’s megaphone from Muse’s take on Feeling Good. Time after time on the record a knack for melody is shown, if not from the vocal, then from a witty bass fill, subtle summer keyboards or Paul Roberts’ ever-jangly Rickenbacker.

Starting subtly, new single Talk Through The Night is harmless fayre, but it’s far from wet. Glorified pop with an indie stamp, ticking all the right boxes and making all the right noises in all the right places. Bigger venues await such anthemic tunes, and a brave band is one which writes songs unbefitting of the tiny clubs they will first play their way around.

“I feel it’s a real friends’ song,” continues the frontman. “A really geeky, least coolest song in the world, song. But one that has its own merit, and hopefully someone can have a barbecue to it before it starts raining.”

The previous single heavyweights sit in the middle of the record. Two Devils, like Tyson — moody, coiled and finally all arms swinging — shows off Milton’s range as he glides up an octave half way through. Euphoric chorus number 426? Check. David Haye would be Hands Down. Brilliant, but due to its glossy appeal, finds its home in the most bizarre places on your tellybox. Point in case, last year’s Barcelona vs Real Madrid highlights.

“I’ll say to people from school, ‘Oh, we played Glastonbury’ and they’re like, ‘Yeah, whatever.’ Or I’ll say, ‘Hey, we’re going on tour, or we’ve made this album..’ and still it’s, ‘Yeah, yeah…’ still looking at me like a douchebag, but then we’re on the FOOTBALL, and suddenly we’ve made it!” he laughs.

Finally, 2011’s Glockenspiel Song is Ali. It may be old, but it’s still the greatest. It’s been trimmed down and had its edges rounded, but Trev’s sax solo remains. If you listen to one song today, make it this.

To tick all the ‘album staple’ boxes, you have to have a good ender. It has to be slow, acoustic if you can manage it, and understatedly epic. The boys follow the formula with Any Movement, an emotional waltz through a broken relationship, knowing there’s life ahead. It’s 80s as hell, with an outro very reminiscent of Brand New’s youthful farewell Soco Amaretto Lime.

“It wasn’t a conscious 80’s move, but we are big fans of bands from that era, like The Cure, The Police and stuff. It’s nice to make some noises we hadn’t made before, and use string machines, electronic drums and all that. It means way more to me, having something that sounds a little oddball but is still mine, than having a huge pop hit.”

Think Out Of This World by The Cure or I Know It’s Over by The Smiths. It’s about a broken relationship, but sonically, it’s almost a goodbye. A nod in the direction of girls lost and scars gained. The end of an era. Not unlike Whatever People Say I am, That Is What I Am Not, where Arctic Monkeys left behind a part of themselves, you wonder what direction future DID releases will go. Hopefully they won’t just hit the real world, ‘cause no one likes an album full of council tax, Tesco clubcards and an illegitimate pregnancy.

Six months ago a tour was about to start, alongside hopes and dreams of playing “a few festivals”. It’s safe to say the boys found home. Their headline tour bled into a summer compromising no less than 25 festival appearances, and now almost straight into a second tour starting October 23.

“It was a big thing to go on that 30-day tour, with so little rest days. To see people at the shows was just unreal. And since then, having such an incredible festival season, we’ve just caught the fever. But with this tour it’s going to be so much more fun, because, with the record, people will actually know the lyrics and the songs. It should be something really, really special.”

With our DID flags waving proudly in the air, Brum Notes will co-promote the 02 Academy gig in Birmingham on the 24th. Ooh, get us. Last time was a memorable first trip to Birmingham for the group, and the lucky few that where there enjoyed a short and sweet set concluding with actual real life band crowd surfing, whilst still playing. Like in the films, and all that.

“That was our first Birmingham show! Oh, it was a ridiculous night. It had a lot to live up to as the first dates before that had been randomly brilliant, and we had no idea what to expect. I remember, there were people who had masks on with our faces on! I remember singing, quite solemnly, into my own face, at one point. Staring into my own eyes and really going for it,” he chuckles. “So, yeah. We absolutely can’t wait to come back…”

Masks at the ready, a fever is coming.

Dog Is Dead are live at the O2 Academy 2, Birmingham, on October 24, presented by Brum Notes and Academy Events. Tickets are available here. Debut album All Our Favourite Stories is out now on Atlantic.

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