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11th September 2012

Interview: Dog Is Dead

“Some bands make magazine covers right from the start – we’ve never been that type of band.”

If nothing else, starting a band at an early age is going to encourage some serious creative thinking. “We struggled to get a gig anywhere because we were so young,” Dog Is Dead frontman Rob Milton recalls. “We ended up playing anywhere we could, even tourist attractions – we used to play in the banquet hall at this museum in Nottingham called The Tales of Robin Hood.”

It’s not the sort of environment where you’d expect Dog Is Dead’s sound to originate; they’re known chiefly as purveyors of tightly-written, melodic indie pop songs, with emphasis on the pop, as evidenced by multi-part harmonies and soaring choruses. It’s been a slow-burning progression for the quintet; starting out at school back in 2008, it’s taken them until now to find themselves in a position to put out their debut record and tour behind it – All Our Favourite Stories is released next month, the band’s first full-length release since signing a major label deal with Atlantic Records.

“We try not to pay too much attention to that, really,” reflects Rob on the issue of signing to a major, “we’re definitely a very ambitious band, but the main focus is to make records that mean a lot to people; we’re not worried about going to number one in the first week.” The album release marks the culmination of a journey that’s seen the band rise from local obscurity in Nottingham to touring with the likes of Bombay Bicycle Club and Tribes, and also saw the band, in the recording of the album, come full circle, swapping their humble beginnings for more glamorous surroundings in the capital – then going back again.

“Originally, we were really excited to go down to London and see all the studios there, and being able to go to studios where The Cure recorded Disintegration and Radiohead have done bits and bobs, which seemed really cool. It wasn’t until after we did a few tracks with David Kosten – who’s a genius – that we realised that they weren’t really what we felt Dog Is Dead is about, so we went back to Nottingham and recorded it in a council estate with a local producer. It made it a lot more natural, and our main aim with this record really was not to do anything that felt too laboured.”

The band have benefited from considerable exposure on Radio 1, with Huw Stephens and Fearne Cotton in particular championing their music. Asked how the steady build-up of mainstream support has treated the band, Rob speaks favourably, another signifier of the band’s ambition. “We never have been the sort of band to be all over magazine covers from the first week they start, and it’s taken us a long time to do anything. The way we’ve been able to grow has been brilliant, and that kind of support is incredible, especially when we were putting out our own singles in the early days.”

Rob singles out this year’s Reading and Leeds festivals, where they packed out the Festival Republic stages with the backing of a full gospel choir, as a career highlight. “The festival season’s always great, with the diversity you get playing the big festivals and then the weird and wonderful smaller ones, but Reading and Leeds were the ones that meant the most to us. We’ve been going to Leeds for seven years now and it was the one thing you looked forward to for the whole of the summer holidays. It was our first time on the bill rather than being there as punters.”

The band will kick off their headlining tour in support of the new record at the Academy 3, and Rob spoke fondly of Dog Is Dead’s history in the city – albeit at two different ends of the size spectrum. “It was incredible to play the Deaf Institute for the first time last year because it’s an amazing venue and a place we’ve grown very fond of, if only as a bar,” he recalls. “On the other hand, before that we played at the Apollo with Bombay Bicycle Club, which was mindblowing, probably the biggest indoor venue we’ve played.”

Moving forward, Rob states that the band’s main ambition is to nurture, and enhance, their own live reputation at headlining shows, moving away from playing a supporting role to more established acts. “Now that there will be a record out, there’s going to be nothing more incredible than going out on our own tour. We’ve got a very dedicated fanbase – people will know the lyrics and be singing along, and it’s going to heighten the experience for us so much.” Such a balance of quiet confidence and lofty ambition can only serve them well – the band’s future looks considerably brighter than that of their eponymous dog.

Dog Is Dead play Academy 3 on October 23

Joe Goggins

Joe Goggins

Music Editor.

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