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Melodic skills are there, but Dr. Dog resists analogies

By JACK W. HILL SPECIAL TO THE DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE

This article was published November 15, 2012 at 3:58 a.m.

dr-dog

Dr. Dog

— Dr. Dog has earned comparisons with The Beatles on a couple of fronts: not only for having a name involving another species, but also for having melodic sensibilities and musical skill to an advanced degree.

So there are bound to be songwriting duo comparisons between John Lennon and Paul McCartney and Dr. Dog’s Scott McMicken and Toby Leaman, right?

Not so fast, Leaman says: “We’re our own thing, we’re not all of that.”

McMicken (lead guitar) and Leaman (bass) — both now in their early 30s — have been friends since they were in the eighth grade in a suburb of Philadelphia. They admit to having been influenced by bands from the 1960s, but name no one. Veteran music fans, however, can hear traces here and there of what at times sounds similar to, yes, The Beatles, and also The Beach Boys. But both of Dr. Dog’s founders are mum on such matters. They will talk about who does what.

“We started out writing collaboratively,” Leaman says, “but now we mostly each write a song, then the other one will write a song, and the others in the band will contribute to the songs. We ‘demo’ it and once the band gets a hold of it, it becomes an entirely new animal.”

The other band members are Zach Miller on keyboards, Eric Slick on drums, Frank McElroy on rhythm guitar and Dmitri Manos on a multitude of instruments.

In 2001, Dr. Dog released its first album, Psychedelic Swamp, followed by Toothbrush in 2002, Easy Beat in 2005, We All Belong in 2007, Fate in 2008, Shame, Shame in 2010 and the latest, Be the Void, in February.

As for the evolution of a band that has frequently been called “quirky” from the early days to now, Leaman figures the band’s recordings have more of a “live” feel these days.

“We try to get that feel and the songs are done relatively quickly,” he muses. “They now have a rougher edge, they’re not so tinkered over, maybe because we produce them ourselves. We’ve had our own studio for years, but now we’re looking for a new one.”

The studio is in Philadelphia, but the band members have scattered, Leaman says. He now lives in Delaware, McMicken is in Connecticut, Manos lives in Tucson, Ariz., and the others are closer to Philadelphia.

The band has also contributed songs to tributes to Shel Silverstein and R.E.M.

In 2007, Dr. Dog opened a Wilco concert in Robinson Center Music Hall. Dr. Dog has also opened for My Morning Jacket and The Raconteurs.

“We opened shows for a few folks, but opening acts only get 30 or 40 minutes,” Leaman says, “and we prefer when we get our normal hour and a half shows.”

Dr. Dog

Opening act: Cotton Jones

8:30 p.m. today, Revolution Room, 300 President Clinton Ave., Little Rock

Admission: $20

(501) 823-0090

revroom.com

Weekend, Pages 36 on 11/15/2012

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