Imagine your mom and dad could harmonize like nobody's business, belt out some solid psychedelic rock and counted Kanye West as a supporter. Thing is, your dad in this case is Scott McMicken, co-lead singer of the acclaimed Dr. Dog. That makes your mom the other lead singer and bassist Toby Leaman. Well, RDW talked to your mom...er, Leaman about the band's beginnings, how they're still learning and an awfully memorable Detroit show.
McMicken and Leaman started off as 8th grade pals. Music was key early on in their friendship. While Leaman didn't start pluckin' the ol' four-stringer until later, he wrote "dinky words" and the two created "horrible songs." Have no fear, even through their mom-look-what-we-can-do stage, they knew right away they had a future in music.
"There never seemed like a time, from the very first until now, that we wouldn't be playing together," says Leaman.
Some years later, another up-and-comer named Jim James got ahold of some home recordings of Dr. Dog's and penned a "wonderful letter" extolling the album that would eventually be released as Toothbrush. Then James asked a question that would start the band on a 10-year road trip.
"He asked if we wanted to go on tour," says Leaman, "we said 'Fuck, of course.' Then we had to ask ourselves who's in the band? What are we doing? What gear do we have? We were not road-ready at that point."
This may come as a surprise considering Dr. Dog is regularly hailed as road warriors who take little time off between expansive tours. That moniker has always confused Leaman a little bit. He says there are bands that will do 250 shows a year but Dr. Dog normally tops off at 150. Still, that puts the indie vets well over 1000 performances over the years. How does Leaman make it work now that he and his wife (whom he's known longer than McMicken) are expecting a child?
"There's millions of people in the history of touring bands that have found a way to make it work or found a way to really fuck it up," says Leaman. "It's about the balance."
With balance comes efficiency. One of Dr. Dog's strongest traits as a band has to be their strive for creating better and better material every time they're in studio. After leaving the friendly confines of their own studio for 2010's Shame, Shame, they returned to the good, old, proven ways for 2012's Be The Void. And what they've created is an album that is as good on record as it is in one of their heralded live shows.
Although they are well-known across the nation for how great their live show can be, not every single concert is a good one from the band's perspective. Leaman remembers a show downtown when most Detroiters were focused on other things.
"We played a really debilitating show a long time ago at the Magic Stick. It was on the same night the Pistons won the NBA Finals and the game was on exactly when we were playing. It was the most pointless endeavor," says Leaman while laughing. "I wanted to see the game too, that was the thing. The TVs were on, so everybody was just facing the opposite way of the stage."
Fortunately for Leaman and Dr. Dog, the Tigers have an off-day. | RDW
Dr. Dog with Cotton Jones • 10/12, 8 p.m. • Majestic Theatre • 4140 Woodward, Detroit • 313.833.9700 • majesticdetroit.com • $18 adv/$20 dos