Black Dog Prowl

Interview: Black Dog Prowl

I recently had the opportunity to chat with Washington, DC-based band, Black Dog Prowl, in their practice space in the heart of Maryland. They will be releasing a new series of EPs this Fall, and will headline the DC Music Rocks Festival on August 18th at the legendary 9:30 Club. In this interview, we chatted about each of the four band members’ influences, touring plans, and what this next gig means to them.

I’m here with Black Dog Prowl, who are from the Washington DC music scene. Tell me how each of you would describe your band’s sound? How has it evolved since your debut album?

Josh Finver (JF): I’d say Rock N’ Roll, with a little bit of a grunge twist.

Pablo Anton (PA):: I incorporate more of the stoner-rock elements into our sound.

Seth Spaulding (SS): I think its mostly grunge mixed with stoner metal.

Enzo Ferroggiaro (EF): Alternative Rock.

JF: It’s kind of evolved as we’ve had members change…we’ve circulated between about a dozen bass players. When we started out, we were more in that “blues rock” vein and we’ll still listen to that stuff, but now we’ve kind of come back to my grunge roots. Especially that early 90’s heavy Soundgarden/Alice in Chains-type influence.

Do you still play anything from that debut (Half Truths and Lies)?

JF: Um, yeah there are a couple tunes. “Gallows” and “Locked and Loaded” that make their way into a set occasionally.

What are each of your core influences that you have incorporated into BDP?

EF: Definitely the 90’s drummers and those type of drum fills, rather than solos. play a big influence on my style. A little bit of Tommy Lee, and Matt Cameron, all the way to a bit of Dave Grohl. So yeah, all the drummers that I listened to growing up played a big part in my influences.

SS: A lot of punk rock is what I cut my teeth on for bass. Also, some “church music” from the idea that I follow the vocal patterns as much as possible with the bass.

PA: I’ve always been into all types of metal: prog-metal, speed metal, black metal. For this band, I draw more on stoner bands such as Opeth, Elder and Graveyard. That’s where I draw my inspiration from.

JF: So, everything I grew up listening to has found its way through, from classic rock like The Beatles. I think there is an element of the Doors and Jim Morrison in the way I sing, since I spent a lot of time singing along to the Doors growing up. But also into the 90’s with Nirvana, and Soundgarden and all that type of stuff. Yeah, it’s a rich tapestry (Laughter).

You guys recently have “climbed the Mt. Everest of DC Venues” by being booked at (and headlining) the illustrious 9:30 Club in downtown DC. How did you pull that off, and what does this mean to each of you at this point in your artistic career?

All: (Laughter) That’s actually a great way of putting it, though.

JF: I think this venue means a lot to all of us who grew up seeing bands there. First show I ever saw there was Mudhoney during the “Tomorrow hit Today” tour in ’98. I plan on wearing that shirt that I got there at our show on the 18th. But yeah, it’s also the culmination of a decent amount of hard work as far as networking and all that stuff. The way we got this particular show was we were kind of talking with folks and trying to make something happen at 9:30 as far as getting on opening bills, but we kind of played a bit of a part in helping to facilitate last year’s DC Music Rocks Festival. So there was that bill, we were kind of looking to be on, but we happened to be unavailable, but it ended up becoming that festival.

PA: So yeah, what happened was, 9:30 club finally offered us a date, but we were unavailable for that weekend. However, we are very good friends with Brian and the rest of the festival organizers, so we were able to facilitate that connection between DC Music Rocks and 9:30 Club.

JF: That festival was a success last year, and we’re hoping it’s even more of a success this year, since we’re on this year’s bill.

SS: Same thing as the other guys, I grew up in the area, but didn’t’ start going to the shows in DC until relatively late in my music loving career. 9:30 club was like the first places I was seeing shows at as a teenage. But for me, I was like, if I can get on this stage, I’ll be alright. This is the biggest place I’ve ever been, but if I can somehow find a way to make it on this stage…10 years or so later, I need to send a note back to college Seth… It was worth all the work.

EF: I think it should be a fun gig.

JF: Remember when we saw Them Crooked Vultures there?

EF: I remember! It was about two months before that record came out. First gig I saw there was The Cult, and they sounded so amazing.

PA: My first show there was Ani DeFranco.

SS: First show I saw was Delirium. They were kind of Brit-pop, kind of trance/house music.

What goes into preparing for a show? Did you take any different approaches towards the DC Music Festival gig at the 9:30 club?

SS: Lots of practice. We pride ourselves on being very, very tight and well-rehearsed when we play.

PA: Especially the transitions, between songs and the stage banter in between songs as well.

JF: Well, particularly for a show like this, we want to make sure we’re not doing necessarily the same setlist that we would be playing, and ya know, this is a special gig for us, so we want to do something a little bit different and make sure it flows in a way that is high-energy and also showcases some of the new tunes, some of the old tunes and hopefully playing in front of a lot of people who may not have seen us before. So, we’re going to try and give a nice snapshot of where the band has been, where we’re going and where we are now. We want to be “tight” we want to put on a good show and we want to sound good.

How would you describe your songwriting process?

JF: We just finished tracking a couple months ago [for our new record] and it’s in the mixing phase now.

EF: It’s a pulling teeth factor.

All: (Laughter)

PA: More like, passing kidney stones. (Laughter)

SS: It’s been fun this time around, hearing from these guys, since Pablo and I are new to the process (and band), like most of the new album was written before we joined. So it’s been a mix of writing a new album, which is fun for any band, and then figuring out everyone’s writing style, since half of us are new to the band. I joined in July and we pretty much were immediately writing. Everybody really brings something to the table and there was very little “jamming” as far as figuring out what style we wanted. I can say pretty definitively, we are not a Jam-type band (as far as songwriting). It’s more, “hey, I got this riff, let’s figure this out.”

JF: But yeah, the writing process is…um…

EF: It’s special (Laughter).

PA: The end result is worth it.

JF: Yeah. Sometimes one of us will bring a near-complete song idea, then we’ll kind of play on it then say, “Hey, maybe let’s just keep the verse,” or something like that. Sometimes, it’s as simple as I wrote this song, let’s see how it goes.

SS: It’s very rare for one of us to come in with a fully written song, and the reason for that the song got “chopped up” or we change up the tempo, put a new bridge in, because when you’re writing with other people, you’re not writing for yourself, you’re writing as a band with three other people in it. So even a song that does come in fully formed is still almost unrecognizable at the end.

JF: It’s a very collaborative effort with all of us, it’s very rare that a song is just “done” by the time that we bring it to practice.

Tell me how your writing style has evolved for the “TBD-titled” next album?

JF: In the early stages of the band, it was kind of, we’d play around with an idea or it would be canned right away. But now, it’s become more of that collaborative effort, like these guys have said. There really isn’t a tune that was just a unilateral approach and there right from the beginning.

PA: In terms of the songwriting process, this project compares very little to my past projects. Basically, with us, the whole aesthetic as a band, and has Enzo as kind of the “gatekeeper of the band.” Essentially, the writing process has to fit a certain aesthetic or certain vibe that the band is already striving for. Enzo tends to have the final saying on that to sort of keep it consistent. We are also very careful with what we release, and take a very deliberate approach to our songwriting.

SS: Very similar, that this is very different from anything else I’ve worked with in that everybody has some kind of comment on everyone else’s part. So it’s not just “I’m the bassist, I’m writing the bass line.” For many bands, it’s you write your part, you write your instrument. “Stay in your lane.” Where as with this we’ve had good ideas comes from one member saying to the other member “Can you put the emphasis here and try it that way?” It’s a lot more collaborative that way. It’s very different, but I like to think it works.

What is your marketing strategy for this upcoming release? Are you self-releasing music, or do you plan to explore a label? What is the timetable for releasing music for the record?

JF: A lot of it will depend on budget. (Laughs). We’re probably going to do another music video. For this upcoming album, we recorded 9 songs, and we thought of doing an LP, but we’ve settled on the idea of doing two separate EP releases. Maybe have 5 songs on one and 4 on the other, with one being released in the Fall and another in the Winter or Spring. But yeah, we’d like to do a music video, assuming we can get funding for it. We’re accepting donations!

All: (Laughter)

SS: There will also be some product that we’ll get out of the 9:30 Club show, whether it’s audio or video, that we plan to use.

So, like audio directly from the soundboard?

PA: It’s actually not going to be from the soundboard, it would be a little bit more pro.

I would imagine so, knowing the 930 club!

JF: Bias Studios is doing like a full 24-track recording or something and they’re going to mix it and they’re also going to have some HD cameras, so that’s going to be helpful.

Will that footage be appearing in a music video of some sort?

JF: Yeah.

PA: Yeah, we might get enough material where we can also do a separate live release.

JF: Plus, we talked about potentially reaching out to labels, but it’s kind of a new frontier out there in the music industry, so we’re not even sure what if anything a label does for us at this point.

PA: We also have the case of other band friends who have been on labels and told us it didn’t work and it was hurting [them] more than helping.

How would you describe your live show? What surprises are in-store for the audience at the festival on August 18th?

SS: In our bio (from the website), it describes us as “one of DC’s hardest-hitting rock bands.”

JF: Yeah, we’re loud, we’ll definitely be loud again (Laughter).

SS: Yeah, it’s loud but we try to play with the dynamics. Yes, we’re a rock band but even within songs, we try to play up to when the lyrics change up or it’s a little quieter in this part, or driving.

JF: The goal is to make it as energetic as possible. If we’re standing still at any point, we’re doing something wrong. So, hopefully that energy translates to the crowd and everyone has a great time.

How long is your set time going to be for the DC Music Rocks Festival?

JF: We’re looking at about 45 minutes, which is good! I think 45 minutes is sort of our ideal time, we could play longer, but 45 is to the point and every one is a “banger” and it’s better to leave the crowd wanting more than for them to be like “Okay, I’m over it.”

What will be the upcoming touring plans for this release? I saw you have a festival in Mexico where you will be playing alongside Alice in Chains, System of a Down, and a few others?

SS: There are no definitive tour plans yet, since we all have day jobs, but we’ve started to make a more conscious effort to get out of DC. We’ve played some great shows in New York on and off, plus some touring stints in Philly, and Baltimore. It’s not really in the works for us yet to take off for 2 weeks and grind it out on the road.

JF: But maybe! If opportunity calls!

PA: And the way we’ve been doing it, the two years I’ve been in the band, we’ve always tried to book as many weekend shows as possible. Whether it be a trip up to NY or Richmond or places nearby. The only time we did do a tour in Mexico, a year and a half ago, was like a 9-day ordeal where we played about 5 different shows. The only thing we have currently booked (after 9:30 club) is the ForceFest in Mexico with System of a Down, and Stone Temple Pilots.

JF: But yeah, the big thing for us as far as touring and stuff like that is that it has to make sense, not just financially, but does it benefit the band as a whole… is the juice worth the squeeze, so to speak.

PA: Does it promote the band brand, and does it allow us to expand our audience with new material, or is it “just another gig.”

JF: Actually, we were just talking about going to Seattle, earlier today. If the opportunity is right, we would definitely be open to those ideas.

What are your expectations for BDP moving forward into the rest of 2018 and beyond?

EF: Spend Christmas together…

All: (Laughter)

JF: I think what we’ve already touched on, continuing to grow as a band and continue to write good material and play great shows. I mean, we finally got to the 9:30 club, but we’re not gonna stop there. We’d love to play a place like The Anthem(Part of 930 club family of venues)!

Did you ever hear about the story of the Struts and Dave Grohl?

JF: I heard Dave called them “the best band to ever open for them.”

Well, it turns out, I was at that 9:30 Club show (for The Struts headlining show), and my friend and I saw Dave watching from the balcony of the club, and it turns out, he invited them to go on tour with the Foo Fighters all over the world. So, my point is, you never know who could be in the crowd…

EF: Yeah, we have some friends in a band from Baltimore, who played a gig with The Cult. And, the band liked them so much, they invited them to do 4 more gigs with them.

That’s awesome! Final thoughts for fans?

EF: Please come to the August 18th show at the 9:30 Club!

JF: Yeah, please keep coming to shows, supporting local music, supporting live music and hopefully you like what you see/hear on the 18th.

PA: Hopefully they will like the new tunes coming soon.

JF: Yeah, keep an eye out, we should have an announcement coming soon. We’re actually talking about artwork and all that stuff today. Today is our deadline to compile the mix notes for Ben Green. Shout-out to him, from Blue Room (Studios) and Ivakota. Produced and engineered and is mixing and we’ll see what we do with the mastering. We’re excited!

Adam Grundy Adam Grundy is a contributor at chorus.fm. He can also be found at @paythetab on Twitter and on Facebook.