Interview: Dog Society (New York, NY)

Please extend a warm welcome to Mike Olinger (Musically Mad Mike to you) our newest writer out of Southern California!    Mike is completely “batty” over music and in his spare time is found catering to his record collection (in the thousands!), digesting through dozens of music magazines, and blogging over at Modern Visionaries

Dog Society, the famed NYC rock quintet, is releasing their second album after a self imposed 20 year hiatus.  Their first release, “Test Your Own Eyes was released in ’93 on East-West / Atlantic Records to critical acclaim. Then with little explanation the boys packed up and disbanded leaving a growing fan base puzzled by their disappearance. I had the chance to speak with the three principle songwriters: Rich Guerzon, Brian Schnaak, and Bruce Brauer about their long awaited second album Emerge that they will be independently releasing on November 19, 2013.

Co-produced by Rob Schnaapf and Tom Rothrock (Beck, Elliot Smith) Emerge is the sound of the band recapturing their spirit.  Those who knew of Dog Society back when they were touring the country opening for Sheryl Crow, Stone Temple Pilots, and Mighty Mighty Bosstones will find that their patience was well worth it.  New fans will be amazed at the fluid mix of psychedelic rock and raw pop sensibility from such seasoned musicians. This time around it seems nothing is holding them back and they have an arsenal of life experience to offer.

So give us the scoop… we would like to hear it from the horse’s mouth. What happened with Atlantic Records after the release of Test Your Own Eyes?

Rich: Test Your Own Eyes was released in April of 1993. The management company Motorjam Records, had set up a national tour to support the release. We hit every major city in the country at least 3 times within a year. We performed at large festivals, medium sized venues and small clubs. The singles “When You’re Dead” and “Love is Gone” were getting modest airplay on both commercial and college radio. Everything was moving along, but it all comes down to sales, and unfortunately we just didn’t meet the quota.

Brian: Our A&R Director left to go to another record company.  When that happened we were left to succeed or fail on our own.  If we succeeded everyone could take credit.  If we failed to succeed no one from the label needed to take the blame.  It’s too bad because “Test Your Own Eyes rocked!

Rich: Dog Society continued to write and record obsessively sparking much of the material that would become “Emerge.”

 Speaking of the new album, both “The Fuse Before” & “Salt” seem to reference the perils of growing older. Can you talk about how your songwriting has matured to speak on more worldly issues?

Rich: We had written quite an abundance of material by the time we did our first CD; musically we matured, but lyrically not so much. It was when we were recording “Test Your Own Eyes” that we began to put more effort on writing meaningful lyrics. I personally have remained on the same path ever since. I believe we all have. Getting back together for “Emerge,” I wanted to write a song that expressed my outlook of the world at that moment in time. The result is “The Fuse Before” which is exactly that -the perils of growing old.

Brian: “Salt” wasn’t so much about maturing as it was the bitter disappointment of selling yourself short and giving people only what they want to take from you. 

The beautiful rocker “Scraped” seems to speak on our childish needs for fulfillment. Then the chorus points to turning to the soul for true fulfillment… Can you speak on the spiritual nature of these themes?

Rich: I wrote “Scraped” from the perspective of a helpless soul looking for his purpose in life. At the time I felt like a child, something we all wish we could be again. It is very easy to fall into the traps of immediate gratification through sex, love and drugs, things we did not think of when we were children. It is a song about soul searching, finding ones true purpose in world gone mad. I believe we are all forever searching for this spiritual enlightenment for peace of mind.

You are playing this Fresh Fest this October at the Beacon Theater with the Fray, American Authors and Daughtry. Clearly you can hold your own with industry heavyweights. Do any of the members ever get tense with big shows like this one?

Rich: Every show is the same for us. We always perform our best for whoever is there at the moment and no matter what other bands we are on the bill with. None of that ever affects the way we perform.  

Bruce: We’re all professionals and we’ve done these types of shows often. I quietly pray that I don’t pop a string.

You guys do seem to really lock in when you’re playing together. Is there any pre-show ritual’s the band does to get in the right head space?

Rich: Yeah usually the other guys are stressed ’cause I show up late, it’s just who I am. As soon as we start playing the ritual begins and all our worries just go away.

Bruce: We goof around and simply hang out waiting for call time from the stage manager. Joe twirls his sticks and paces back in forth getting locked and loaded. 20 minutes before hand I quiet down and focus on the set list and mentally picture the changes of gear and equipment for a smooth flow on stage.

Is there any other songs/albums in the works for this next stage of your career or do we have to wait another 20 years for the next gem?

Bruce: We have something in the works releasing first quarter 2014.

Rich: We are currently writing and getting ready to go into the studio to do a follow up. We are striving to make it as well if not better than the latest release “Emerge.” I am hoping we have it ready within a year.

If Dog Society were a cocktail, what would it be?

Rich: A “Dark and Stormy” for sure.

Dark and Stormy
2 ounces dark rum
3 ounces ginger beer
1/2-ounce fresh limejuice

Thoughts?

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