Halifax’s Dog Day go back to the basics

After rising to national prominence with their 2007 full-length debut record Night Group and their 2009 follow-up Concentration, Halifax indie-rock sensations Dog Day went back to basics in the most extreme of ways for their newest offering Deformer.

In what was perhaps the most startling change, the group whittled itself down from a quartet into their current incarnation, a duo, made up of husband-wife team Seth Smith and Nancy Urich on guitar and drums respectively.

While she insists that the relationship and friendship with former Dog Day members KC Spidle and Crystal Thili (a married couple themselves) remains strong to this day, she is the first to say that people inevitably change over time.

“We toured for four years together and things changed; people change,” Urich begins. “KC started a new band, the awesome Bad Vibrations, where he could play guitar and be a front guy. Without KC in the band, we had to decide to either replace him or go on without him. We tried replacing him and that wasn’t working so it was a natural progression to finally play alone together.”

Urich says that both she and Smith instituted change in their own lives too, leaving the bright lights of Halifax behind, opting to make Long Cove, Nova Scotia their home. The couple’s relocation to just outside of the Halifax city limits returned both Urich and Smith to a rural environment that they were individually raised in.

“We loved city living but we both grew up in quieter settings and it is nice to get back to that. It makes touring through big cities more enjoyable for us, to know that we will have peace again when we get home. We share this land with alders, chickens, porcupines, doves, blueberries, deer, blue jays and the occasional dolphin.”

Not having played the drums aside from recreationally in the past, paring down to a duo meant that Urich had a little learning to do when it came to the drums.

“It was a journey,” she says. “I had only played around on the drums before; I had never played seriously. Luckily though, I have two amazing drummers in my family to show me exactly what I needed to know.”

Urich says that her first show behind the drums, a 2010 performance at SappyFest, went well considering that she had only been behind the drums for approximately one and a half months.

“We were a little shaky but overall, it went well. We had written many new songs but had learned some of the older ones too.”

Formed in 2004, Dog Day has built their reputation for gloriously solid, dissonant Sonic Youth-inspired indie-rock over the past seven-plus years. At first glance, the songs contained on Deformer stick close to where the band has lied musically in the past but with only two members in the band, the songs have a rawness to them that might have been unintentionally hindered when the band numbered four members.

Having previously released their first recording as a duo, the Scratches EP, this past April, Deformer is the band’s newest release via their Fundog label. Being an independent entity is nothing new to either one of Dog Day’s membets. Urich says that the do-it-yourself spirit is alive, well and has always been an important part of the duo’s musical lives.

“Even before Dog Day, we had always been DIY. In the early 2000s, we were in a band called The Burdocks, did everything ourselves and were partners in an indie label called Out of Touch. We did everything – releases, tours, publicity and radio,” Urich says.

“Now that we live totally alone out in the woods, we only discuss things with each other so it is easier to keep it on that level,” she continues. “Fundog is just another avenue for us to do things with. We always have stuff on the go and now we have somewhere to put it.

“We have been working with so many different music industry people over the past five years. We really just wanted to be able to hear what we wanted for ourselves and have that be realized on our own terms. But it is not a matter of bad feelings or anything weird; it is just what we wanted for now.”

Article published in August 5, 2011 edition of the Times & Transcript