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Interview: Tony Leaman from ‘Dr. Dog’

Dr. Dog

Dr. Dog are once again biting the proverbial bone with new single Bring My Baby Back from their upcoming album ‘Psychedelic Swamp’. We caught up with bassist Toby Leaman about the new release, the awesome music video, and the origins of their psychedelic sound.

The band started out with just you and Scott, how did you decide to start a band?

He [Scott McMicken] and I have been playing together since we were about 13 or so. It was sort of just always me and him. Then in the last 10 years or so we started putting a band together.

You all have nicknames starting with ‘T’, what’s the story behind that?

Yeah, that was a thing very early on, like back when we were teenagers! The whole concept of Dr. Dog was sort of escaping the very definition of your own reality, the idea that you don’t necessarily have to be yourself, you can be this other person that’s defined by the band. When you’re in the band you’re a separate entity

What would you say has had most influence on the band?

Ahh, Jesus, everything I’ve ever heard pretty much. Especially writing and making records, everything you hear influences you in some way. There’s obviously things I’d never want to do in my entire life, then there’s thing like “Wow they did that, can I do that? Is it possible to do it? Do I want to do it?” I wouldn’t say there’s been one influence or even a couple. So to answer, I don’t know, a bunch, a tonne, a million, all of them.

What about Dr. Dog’s psychedelic sound?

That was more an equipment kind of scenario, the first time we did ‘Psychedelic Swamp’ was in ’99 maybe 2000, a long time ago…we had a 4-track cassette tape, you get a couple of those guys and you can start bouncing stuff down and moving shit around. Pretty much our only other piece of equipment we had was a blade pedal. If you’re 19 and you’ve only got a microphone and a blade pedal you’re only really going one way and we went for it! [laughs]

So the new album is mostly reworkings of your original ‘Psychedelic Swamp’ album from 2001, is that true?

Part of the story of the record was that we were always going to redo it to make it super accessible because the original record was anything but! The plan was always to do it in a much more pleasing way.

Your new single Bring My Baby Back was inspired by Engineer Says, what happened there?

Yeah yeah, they share some lyrics. I was trying to rework Engineer Says, I wanted to get it away from the darkness of it, it wasn’t working out so I thought I’ll just write a totally different song.

I really love Bring My Baby Back’s film clip, what was the inspiration behind it?

I actually did that! We were bouncing around ideas and we thought yeah let’s shoot it in black and white. I wanted a VHS camera because I used to shoot videos when I was a kid on it, those are kind of hard to find actually. But we found one, so it was really easy to shoot on and transfer from. So we said if we’re going to shoot it in black and white we should probably go for a Film Noir kind of movie. The other influencing aspect was if we could somehow marry that with sort of glam. That was the plan, like here’s two great things, the concept of glam, which is fuzzed out super colour but still kind of Janky. That’s what great about the glam visual stuff, it looks incredible but it’s still pretty janky. It doesn’t look completely finished, just looks like a concept more than  something that was nailed in the creation of it, but it’s still kind of beautiful and otherworldly and it puts you in a different place. I’m not saying that’s where we got to, but that’s definitely the other side of it. So yeah, we said we’ll have Film Noir and glam!

Can we in Australia expect a visit from Dr. Dog any time soon?

Yeah, we’re working on it, it’s tough man! Maybe the end of this year, maybe the beginning of next…but yeah we’ve been trying to get over there, we love it there, nobody doesn’t want to be there!”

‘Psychedelic Swamp’ is set for release on Friday 5th February.