Band Spotlight: Chicago-based ‘Dogs’ release their third album, ‘Free Write’

caitlinhardee

As the joke runs, Whitman wildlife is mostly ducks and squirrels. Fortunately, we also have a Dog. Junior Matt Bachmann is the bassist and supporting vocalist for Chicago-based band The Dogs: a group that knows what beastly good music is all about.

The band, comprising Peter Walters on guitar and lead vocals, James Krivchenia on guitar, vocals, percussion and production, Rivkah Gevinson on vocals, and Bachmann on bass and vocals, grew up playing music together in Chicago and formed The Dogs in 2004. Their latest album, Free Write, was released this December.

Bachmann and Walters took us into the lives of The Dogs: everything from naked studio sessions to Neil Young, and the deep love that holds the band together.

“I think what’s great about us compared to most bands is, I can’t imagine a group with a tighter friendship than us,” said Bachmann. “We spend all our time together.”

Fan and friend of the band senior Grace Harnois confirmed this. “I think that, for The Dogs, friendship and music are deeply intertwined, and I wish more groups today shared that bond,” said Harnois.

Walters explained in an e-mail the process of creating songs through “free writing,” the method that inspired the album’s name.

“It is essentially stream of consciousness writing: letting your thoughts flow onto the page without reservation,” Walters said. “We would look at the clock and write non-stop for 10 minutes. What came out were the spontaneous thoughts that were lingering deep in the backs of our minds. Then we would extract lines that worked well together, or had a specific sound or rhythm we found appealing.”

The results of this unusual method could not be more different from the disorienting, structureless experimental music one might expect. Free Write is a collection of shockingly well-crafted and immediately appealing songs. The opening track “In My Room, Not Alone” begins with quiet acoustic guitar, then rises into a throbbing intro that had me nodding along instantly. The track showcases the beautiful harmonizing abilities of a band with so many capable vocalists and the true poignancy of their lyrics.

Meanwhile, the bridge of “Youngstown, OH” strongly recalls the Juno soundtrack. Sweet, whimsical male and female vocals build in an acoustic round, before a burst of plugged sound recalls the rock. The ease with which they incorporate elements of ethereal acoustics, hard rock and electronic effects into a cohesive sound speaks to a musical maturity beyond their years.

Senior Alex Miller offered his take on The Dogs’ musical chops.

“They are a really dynamic band; they use dramatic changes in tempo and sound to great effect – there’s nothing like going from a soft solo guitar and a lone voice to a big group screamathon to make things exciting,” Miller said in an e-mail.

Walters further illuminated their intensive recording process, which involved all-night sessions and long retreats to Palatine, Ill.

“Much of the vocal takes were done naked behind a makeshift booth we set up in the basement that we dubbed ‘The Cove,'” said Walters. “The scream takes in ‘Bread Letters’ were absolutely insane. We all huddled around the microphone with our shirts off hopping around and screaming our lungs out. After the first scream take, we came to the conclusion it wasn’t intense enough and proceeded to absolutely lose our minds on the next take.”

Bachmann explained The Dogs’ musical influences and heroes, ranging from Fleet Foxes to The Microphones and Neil Young.

“‘Be The Rain’ is a Neil Young song that we’ve worshiped since we were freshmen in high school,” said Bachmann. “We close every set with it.”

While the members of The Dogs are all studying at separate universities, they are currently in the midst of a strong promotional push towards online exposure. Are these young students truly trying to make it in the music industry or just having fun?

“Getting signed isn’t what it was once. That’s not the end-all-be-all,” said Bachmann. “We’re trying to get published on big blogs. I guess in a weird way we are trying to make it, except none of us say that, because none of us want to get our hopes up.”

To take The Dogs one step closer to their dreams, check out their songs on iTunes  or download the album for free at their Web site, www.thedogsmusic.net.