Dr. Dog guitarist Scott McMicken acknowledges that the group’s new “Shame, Shame.” due out April 6, was “a risky one” for the Philadelphia quintet, taking it out of its home studio environment and bringing in outside production help.
“It was…doubt-ridden and rocky along the way,” McMicken tells Billboard.com. “There’s a lot of changes. We all just kind of took a step off the cliff and hoped we landed on our feet. We did, thankfully. It was a growth opportunity. We’re all a little bit older for having made it and all happy for having made it and happy to carry on with what we learned and already looking forward to digging in a little deeper into the new insights we have about recording and playing live.”
McMicken says that making “Shame, Shame,” the group’s debut for Anti- Records, was not entirely smooth, however. Dr. Dog started working with producer Rob Schnapf (Beck, Elliott Smith) in August at Dreamland Studios in Hurley, N.Y., but were unable to finish in the allotted month of recording time. Nor were the band members entirely happy with how things were sounding or the working environment in general, feeling that their input was too limited. “Not all of it was ideal,” McMicken explains, “but even the stuff that wasn’t, I think, helped us to further understand what it is that we work the way we work. We learned a whole lot. We saw our boundaries and how far with were willing to go in collaborating with an outside source. I don’t think recording music will ever be the same for us after that experience.”
Dr. Dog finished “Shame, Shame” on its own back in Philadelphia during October and November, trimming the nearly 60 songs it had written down to 12. “The album…feels like two worlds colliding,” McMicken says, “and ultimately the reconciliation of those two worlds. So all the negatives that might have popped up in the process became…positives in the end.”
McMicken says fans will notice some heavyweight and personal emotional fare in the new material — “A more consistently desperate or dark tone exists in the songs,” he explains — though the music is more direct and immediate. “They’re really short, concise pop songs,” he says. “The average length is about three minutes, which is really short for us. It’s not this kind of sprawling, atmospheric, moody thing we’ve done in the past. It’s a 1-2-3-4-go! kind of record. It’s gonna provide a lot of energetic material for the show, which is always cool.”
Dr. Dog is, in fact, previewing songs from “Shame, Shame” on the road when it opens a four-month North American tour on Jan. 27 in Troy, N.Y. European dates begin in May. The group is trying to lure 20,000 Facebook friends by promising to leak the lead track, “Shadow People,” once that goal is reached, but McMicken says he expects the song to be released in the near future regardless.