A SUMMER of major festival appearances behind them, a Radio 1 session just this week, a debut album about to launch... and yet Dog Is Dead haven’t quite got over failing to win the Rushcliffe School 2007 Battle of The Bands.
“We still haven’t let that go,” admits frontman Rob Milton.
“The band that won it were rubbish. I’d say that the judging was inadequate.
“It’s because we were from a rival school, I’m sure of it. Being from West Bridgford School was an obvious disadvantage.”
He adds: “We fell out with battles of the bands after that and decided that music wasn’t a competition.”
The 21-year-old singer, songwriter and bassist is, of course, joking because next week the band release their long-awaited debut album, All Our Favourite Stories, for Atlantic, the label they signed to last year.
Over the past 18 months they’ve been all over national radio, played all the major festivals, toured with Bombay Bicycle Club, appeared at Milan Fashion Week and more recently Vogue’s Fashion Night Out in London, and this week did a session for Huw Stephens on Radio 1. Dog Is Dead also played a show at London’s The Social to mark the fifth anniversary at the DJ’s club night there.
Says Rob: “That was really cool. It was a sweaty little gig, packed with people.”
The gig was part of a busy week of promoting the album which is released on Monday with a launch party at the Boat Club by Trent Bridge.
“We wanted to do something special in Nottingham,” says Rob.
“We were aware that we had done Rock City in December which was amazing but we didn’t want to do the same thing.
“And The Boat Club is just a few minutes from our houses...”
So that was the sole motivation?
“That’s it,” he laughs.
“We can all cycle there.”
He adds: “We used to play gigs there before we were in Dog Is Dead, from the age of 13 to 16. And we had the most amazing time. Teenagers used to come to our shows, probably because there wasn’t much else to do at the time.
“So we wanted to go back to that with the album release show with our mates and families there.”
Tickets sold out within minutes of going on sale.
“We’ll be playing the album in its entirety and in order, so it will be a bit of challenge because there are some songs we haven’t played live before.”
Unless there’s another pre-Christmas show announced at the last minute, it will be the only time Dog Is Dead will play Nottingham until next year. The UK tour starts in Manchester on October 23 and ends in London next month.
Rob, Lawrence ‘Trev’ Cole and Joss Van Wilder met at school and formed Dog Is Dead in their final year. Guitarist Paul Roberts knew Trev from youth theatre, while drummer Daniel Harvey joined just last year, replacing their original drummer who left to study drama at university.
The rest of them gave up on the idea of university soon after finishing their A-levels but not because of the band so much a realisation, Rob says, that “we’re not very clever”.
Although Rob is the main man, it’s Trev who is the most identifiable, hence the “Trev Stamp” T-shirt for sale on their website.
“I think he’s turning in to this huge role model for all ages,” laughs Rob, about the lanky sax player with the distinctive curly ginger mop.
They could all be role models: Dog Is Dead are five nice young men from south of the river.
“Actually we’re thinking of striking up a deal with Asda West Bridgford to see what we can get. It would probably be smarter than Smart Price.”
He adds: “I actually miss Asda when we go on tour. We’re very loyal to Asda.”
All Our Favourite Stories features the new single, Talk Through The Night, which has been playlisted at Radio 1, and Heal It, produced by Trevor Horn. After topping the chart in 1979 with The Buggles’ single Video Killed the Radio Star, Horn went on to become one of the most successful music producers of the 80s, working with Frankie Goes To Hollywood and Pet Shop Boys.
Says Rob: “He came to one of our shows and said: ‘I love your band, I really want to record you.’
“It’s a huge-sounding track. I don’t really let people mess with my songs normally but he got his mitts on it. I listened to what he had to say and he gave it a little tweak. It’s quite different from the rest of the album.”
The distinctive sleeve is his own design.
“I wanted to make something really striking but not too modern. We’re really into the album covers of Pink Floyd and bands like that so I took it to a graphic designer and told them what I wanted.
“I get really excited by CD booklets. From growing up I always liked the lyrics and the artwork.”
Getting to this stage has been five years of hard work.
“We played everywhere in Nottingham and we must have played a million shows in London over the past four years, in front of just ten people to start with.”
He adds: “You don’t sit and wait for it to happen, you just work really hard and do stuff for yourself, like we did with the first three singles.”
He adds: “It’s been a gradual build. This album is a big stepping stone for us but it is another stepping stone. Whether it goes ‘bang!’ straight off and gets to No. 1 or just floats about for a bit and people talk about it... it is another stepping stone towards us having a long career of making music.
“As long as we are progressing and people are enjoying what we do... that is ultimately the point.
“We’re really proud of it. And it’s been really cool seeing how we’ve all reacted to the album.
“We’ve known each other so long now. It sounds really cheesy but it’s like the album has refreshed our friendship.”
All Our Favourite Stories is out on Monday. There’s also a deluxe edition featuring six extra tracks. The Boat Club show on Monday is sold out but the band will be at Fopp in Queen Street on Sunday from 4pm for a short performance and signing session. For more about them go to www.dogisdead.co.uk.
2007: @Runners-up in the Rushcliffe School Battle of the Bands.
2008: @After playing The Bodega, DHP, owners of Rock City, the Rescue Rooms, Stealth and The Bodega, sign them to a management deal. That summer they play the Courtyard Stage at Splendour, while Ocean Colour Scene were on the main stage. The Post reported: “Teen band Dog Is Dead were a revelation, a choppy art-rock inspired four piece who pulled off some tricky harmonies.”
2009: @Appear on the Post’s online music showcase This Is Live performing Clockwork. Dot to Dot follows in May and then Splendour in June, headlined by Madness.
2010: @Self-release singles Glockenspiel Song and Young, pick up airplay on Radio 1, 6Music and XFM, and play Glastonbury.
2011: @River Jordan, the third single in the Your Childhood trilogy is released. More Radio 1 airplay, appeared on Channel 4 teen drama Skins, feature in the NME, sign to Atlantic Records. Major festival appearances at Latitude, Bestival and Leeds/Reading and a UK tour supporting Bombay Bicycle Club. Hands Down, their debut single for Atlantic, is released. Close the year with a main stage show at Rock City, the biggest by a Nottingham band in the venue’s 30-year history.
2012: @Singles Two Devils and the re-recorded Glockenspiel Song are released, more Radio 1 support with airplay, playlists and sessions. 25 festival appearances, a million YouTube hits. Fourth single Talk Through The Night is released. Debut album, All Our Favourite Stories launched with sell-out show at the Boat Club.