An industrial warehouse is the last place you’d expect to be the birthplace of a roots-rock album steeped in soul, but that’s just the case with American collective Dr. Dog’s soon-to-be-released eighth LP, B-Room. According to keyboardist Zach Miller, putting together the studio itself was a hands-on job. “We started completely fresh on this one, by building the studio we were to record in.”
“Everything was covered in black dust – silver dust? – and we had to tear down walls, build a control room and tracking room, haul out all the debris; it was a pretty big job but it was a real bonding experience, and it really got us into the rhythm of working together on a physical level which then morphed into the recording process.”
A new recording studio and a new take on their sound sees B-Room bear a distinctively soulful element, most notable in lead single ‘The Truth.’ It’s a new direction for a band better known for its psychedelic rock tendencies. “There are lots of elements of soul music on this record,” Miller explains. “I’m starting to see that thread run through the whole album.”
The bluesy overtones of the album are sprinkled throughout as well, from the aforementioned lead single to ‘Minding The Usher’ and the haunting harmonies of ‘Too Weak To Ramble’. In fact, they come as no surprise when Miller starts talking about the band’s biggest influences. From industry heavyweights like Jeff Lynne, Isaac Hayes and Phil Spector to relative newcomers such as Californian rock musician Ty Segall, it’s clear Dr. Dog pull from those who do their craft well, regardless of genre boundaries.
Another overarching theme of B-Room is the creation of a sound that is transcendent, raw and real – and the group again altered their habits to record using a new approach. “We’ve become tighter as a band, for sure,” Miller says. “So much so that we actually recorded a fair amount of this album live.”
At last, then, Dr. Dog have figured out what works best for them creatively. They’ve survived through quite a transformative time for the music industry, and according to Miller those years have taught his band how to gauge their success in their own way, despite the labels’ downhill slide. “Everyone’s selling fewer and fewer records each year. So we’d sell, say 50,000 records in 2008 and 2010, and it would still be progress because record sales had gone down so much in that time.”
Record sales aside, touring and live performances worldwide have helped the band endure and master their sound, despite increasing competition from the new generation. Of Australia, Miller offers, “We love it” – although it’s not yet clear whether they’ll be touring Down Under again off the back of the new record. It is, however, obvious the band now understand what creative cycle works best for them. “By the time we’re done recording, we’re ready to hit the road and play live for people, and when we get burnt out on the road it feels really good to get back in the studio.”
BY KRISTIE NICOLAS
B-Room out Friday October 4 through Anti- Records.