Crushing hard

Dr. Dog plays the Coxe Avenue Stage Saturday from 8:30-10 p.m. Photo by Chris Crisman
Dr. Dog plays the Coxe Avenue Stage Saturday from 8:30-10 p.m. Photo by Chris Crisman

It’s starting to seem like Dr. Dog has a crush on Asheville. 

The Philadelphia-based five-piece performed at the Orange Peel in March, it headlines this weekend's Bele Chere festival and it's slated to return again in August for a slot at nearby Boone's Music on the Mountaintop. Not to mention the gushing endorsements for Asheville's own Seth Kauffman (Floating Action) that appear regularly in interviews with the band.

Or maybe we'd just like to think Dr. Dog is smitten.

"We go where people ask us to go," says bassist/songwriter Toby Leaman. "We have been trying to think a little more about playing down South. That's always been an area that we hit a little more sporadically than we'd like to.

"I mean, we all really like Asheville. That's one of our favorite places to go to, just because of the town, and obviously we get to see Seth and his guys and all of our buddies and stuff. Whenever we get an offer to play down there, we hop on it."

So we'll call it a mutual affection. And what's not to love about Dr. Dog? For more than a decade, the band has been churning out irresistibly catchy indie pop with clear echoes of classic rock, soaring harmonies and a bouncy optimism. Live shows are exhaustingly energetic, the band is charming and engaging and, perhaps most importantly, it's immediately apparent that they're all having a damn good time.

The band is founded on the 20-year songwriting collaboration of Leaman and multi-instrumentalist Scott McMicken, who began writing together in middle school. Miraculously, the pair have managed to evolve as songwriters and maintain such consistency in their respective offerings that it's often difficult to discern who wrote what.

"Sometimes I feel like we're really dissimilar in our songwriting, and then other times I feel like we're doing the exact same thing; it's just one of us is doing it instead of the other one," explains Leaman. "And both times it feels fine. Every once in a while you'll come up with what you think is great and it turns out it's a stinker. And that makes you kinda feel weird … But that's exactly what should happen some of the time. It would be sorta pointless to have a collaborator that just agreed with whatever you thought was cool."

The band's latest album, Be the Void, was just released in February, but already the prolific outfit is preparing another. This offering, says Leaman, will be a five-song EP, to be released exclusively on 10" vinyl, consisting of tracks recorded during the last album cycle but never released. And while it's exciting to have an outlet for the unused material, he admits that it also has a downside.

"I always have to remind myself that releasing EPs and singles and all that kind of stuff is never the same thing as releasing a record. Those songs will never get any attention. So it's always kind of frustrating when you're like, 'What the f—k? This song rules and nobody's ever going to hear it.' The reason the songs didn't make the record is not that they weren't good enough, they just didn't fit."

— Dane Smith can be reached at dsmith@mountainx.com.

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