IT has been quite a year for Nottingham music with major label deals, a Top 5 single, national radio airplay, major festival slots, support slots on big name UK tours, coverage in the national music press and even an appearance in a teen soap.
Leading the charge are Dog Is Dead, a five-piece from West Bridgford, who will round off their impressive year of success with a headline show on the main stage at Rock City this weekend.
The indie band have been steadily gaining momentum in 2011, beginning the year by signing to Atlantic Records.
Since then they’ve supported Bombay Bicycle Club on a UK tour, played major festivals such as Latitude, Bestival and Leeds and Reading, had airplay on and played sessions for Radio 1 and BBC 6Music, and appeared on the Channel 4 soap Skins.
We meet in the boardroom at DHP’s offices in Talbot Street. DHP is the company which owns and runs Rock City, the Rescue Rooms, Stealth and The Bodega, books bands for Splendour and promotes numerous UK tours. Three years ago they turned to music management and signed up Dog Is Dead.
At the time they’d been together just a year.
Rob Milton, Joss Van Wilder and Lawrence ‘Trev’ Cole had met at West Bridgford School.
“Me and Rob were in our first band when we were 13,” says Joss, their keyboard player.
“Then me and Trev were in probably the greatest band ever, doing Kings of Leon and White Stripes covers that were better than the originals.”
Trev, as he became known to save confusion with original drummer Lawrence Libor, nods in agreement.
Continues Joss: “We played a Tollerton event and had to stop half-way through because we were drowning out the steel band.”
“And when we came back on and played two songs, I realised by the end of the second song that I hadn’t plugged my bass in,” laughs Trev.
The band were called Oh Henry! - which is very West Bridgford.
“No,” insists Joss, “it’s taken from the Canadian chocolate bar.”
Eventually Trev, Joss and Rob started playing together and played an end of year show at school.
“But our first proper gig as Dog Is Dead was when our friend had a mini-festival in his back garden for his 16th<” says Joss.
“That was a great gig because it was packed out with all out friends. After that we experienced the real world of gigging playing to two people.”
By now Trev’s ability with a saxophone had meant Rob was now playing bass. Trev had learned the piano from the age of six but the sax became his primary instrument at the age of 10.
“When I realised that the piano and cornet weren’t very cool,” he says.
Adds Joss: “And when they realised I couldn’t play guitar they got Paul in.”
“I knew Trev from a play we did when we were both 15,” says Paul Roberts, who lives in Stapleford.
“He was with the Playhouse Youth Theatre and I was with the Arts Theatre.”
Paul appeared in ModCrop at the Theatre Royal when he was 16 but under his real name of Rob White. Like Trev he changed it for Dog Is Dead in order that there be only one Rob in the band.
They have been together properly as a band for four years. After finishing their A levels, they decided to take a year out to see how things developed.
Not that they were really giving up university places...
Joss admits: “We weren’t really concentrating. We were more intent on trying to become rock ‘n’ roll stars. So we didn’t really do very well.”
Adds Trev: “I definitely flunked my A Levels.”
Within the year they were playing Splendour and DHP came on board.
Eventually they’d all work at DHP venues.
“It was so we could get time off whenever we needed it,” says Joss.
“It made doing the band a lot easier.”
Naturally Dog Is Dead were given prime slots at Splendour, opening the main stage two years running. This year they were higher up the bill on the second stage.
They were all able to quit the day jobs once they signed to Atlantic in March.
Say Paul: “Before that we’d do the odd London show and support slots were at DHP venues. But since Atlantic, we’ve toured with Bombay Bicycle Club.
“We were playing 2000 to 3500 capacity venues on that tour,” says Rob, Dog Is Dead’s singer, bassist and chief songwriter, who rolls in late, complaining of a dodgy eye.
“That was my first real set of gigs,” says Daniel Harvey, who joined the line-up in August when their original drummer quit to study drama at university.
At 19 he is the youngest (the rest are all 20) and the only outsider (he’s from Doncaster).
“It was through a mutual girlfriend I had with Paul,” he says of the connection.
“Not a shared girlfriend. Our girlfriends are friends so it happened that way. I’d just finished my first year at Leeds uni where I was doing maths. I left uni to do this.”
Quips Trev: “And moved to the university of rock n roll.”
“We thought we’d break him in nice and easy,” laughs Rob.
“We played a set for Burberry,” says Trev, “and they said we could pick two items of clothing from their exclusive range. Together they were probably worth £500 or £1000 and we still felt underdressed. The place was just full of beautiful.”
Laughs Joss: “The girls could tell we didn’t belong there. I wear my shirt all the time but the trousers... I can’t get into the pockets.”
“You can always trust Joss,” sighs Rob. “No matter what he gets given he’s the first with a list of complaints.”
As if to prove a point he proceeds to moan about his bobbly designer jumper. We all agree it’s supposed to be that way.
Dog Is Dead don’t really fit in with fashion weeks or swanky private parties
“It was a laugh because it was so flashy,” says Trev, about a record label do in the summer.
Agrees Paul: “It was this big posh building with a swimming pool on the roof. It was free beer and free wine but we all wanted Jägerbombs and they were like a tenner each!”
They are more at home messing around amongst themselves, posing with imaginary washboards for publicity photos and TV interviews.
“It’s from the Fast Show with the bloke ‘Where’s me washboard?’,” says Trev, by way of explanation.
Following last month’s debut single for Atlantic, Hands Down, they’ve just put out a Christmas single as a free download, a cover of The Waitresses Christmas Wrapping.
On New Year’s Eve they play Club NME in London, then go back to recording their debut album with producer David Kosten (Everything Everything, Bat For Lashes)
In February Dog Is Dead will embark on a 24-date national UK tour but the immediate focus is on tomorrow’s gig at Rock City, their biggest hometown show and the biggest ever by a Nottingham band at the venue.
“Anyone who grows up in Nottingham and is in a band hopes to one day play the main stage at Rock City,” says Rob.
“It’s our biggest headline show here by a long way and there’s a lot more pressure on us to make it special. And that’s exactly what we’re going to do.”
Dog Is Dead play Rock City December 17 supported by Kagoule and Kappa Gamma. Doors 7pm. Tickets are £7.50, www.gigantic.com/