What's That Sound?

Indoe-rockers pile on the noise, but nobody's sure what to call it.

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If Dr. Dog’s lo-fi, jam-band, harmony-filled retro rock leaves you at a loss for descriptive words, you’re not alone. Singer and guitarist Scott McMicken can’t really narrow his depiction of the band to a single catch-all term either. “My totally self-indulgent [description] is just as confusing as what you would come up with,” he laughs. “I just want to make music that I would listen to.”

On the group’s new album, We All Belong, the Philadelphia fivesome combines Guided by Voices indie-pop, Beach Boys harmonies, and quite a bit of instrumental noodling. “We keep messing with sounds,” says McMicken. “But I don’t like to hear too many unnecessary details.” McMicken, who formed Dr. Dog with bassist Toby Leaman in the late ’90s, says the musical explorations come naturally -- they’re usually not something the group pursues during recording. “We don’t stick nine microphones on a drum set,” he says. “The experience of an instrument has more to do with being in a room with it than covering every tiny nuance.”

Still, McMicken says he and his bandmates want to expand their sound. Just not yet. During the recording of We All Belong, the plan was to abandon their trusty old 8-track machine for a fancy 24-track model. “But we took all of our new equipment and slowly eliminated it,” he says. “By the end, we were using the same one microphone that we’ve used since we were 15 years old.” The result is a record that drifts in and out of consciousness. It’s sort of like a fragmented dream, but with killer harmonies. “There’s more depth and layers this time,” says McMicken. “It’s challenging for us to pull it off live.”

Nobody’s really sure which direction Dr. Dog is headed, says McMicken. But he’s pretty certain it’ll at least involve more studio gear. “Technology adds a different mind to the music,” he says. “It forces you to stand behind your decisions. But it can be counterproductive. It’s important for us to keep it simple.”
Mon., March 26, 9 p.m.

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