BY DOUG WALLEN In Dr. Dog’s Kensington studio hangs the painted and stitched fabric piece that became the cover of Fate. The guys saw it behind the bar at Chicago’s Rainbow Room, where artist Ken Ellis tends bar. The piece—which depicts a woman holding a man at bay with a shotgun in front of a dead tree—watches over them eerily.
I ask Miller how Fate differs from previous albums. “It’s partially, I think, in the fidelity,” he says. “We didn’t have to compromise in the mixing process. We All Belong had more arrangements and was on a grander scale, but the way we recorded these songs made it feel more fleshed out and beefier.”
Fate’s not just beefier; it’s foreboding and thundering. When I mention the word “prog,” though, Leaman stops me. “I’ve heard a couple people say that. I guess my definition of prog is just slightly different from other people’s.” When I tell Leaman Fate is a more dark and expansive Dr. Dog album, McMicken seems intrigued. “You think the record’s dark?”
Leaman to McMicken: “I think it might be dark. I was thinking about that the other day.”
McMicken: “I didn’t ask as a challenge. It’s just hard to really see that sometimes.”
Whether Fate is darker than past albums, the band’s still brushing up against Beatles comparisons. “I think it’s more about the intelligence behind their music. That’s more of a compliment than an insult,” says Raccoon’s Rory Connell.
Doug O’Donnell seconds that. “I think they get a bad rap for being derivative, especially of the Beatles, but … that’s just good music. I don’t think it’s a character flaw.”
Some may look down their noses at a band that aims to live up to the Beatles’ ambitious yet bouncy pop—Pitchfork has taken visible joy in ripping apart each of Dr. Dog’s last three albums—but an unexpected byproduct has been growing affection from the jam-band scene. Dr. Dog recently graced the cover of the genre’s bible Relix Magazine.
While McMicken says, “It makes absolute sense,” he adds, “we’re not virtuosos; we’re just stylists. And that will only take us so far. We’re never gonna be playing 17-minute songs.”
Leaman chimes in, “We’ve played some of those festivals, but I don’t think we ever really killed.”
“I think we’re a bar band,” admits McMicken on that note. “Whatever happens, we’ll try to be our best, but to be honest, we’re best at the Khyber.” MORE