Origins is a recurring new music feature in which an artist charts the influence of their latest single.
Dr. Dog are nearing two decades together as a band, and they’ve put out a lot of incredible music in that time. If you keep grinding nearly nonstop for so long, however, a band that prolific is bound to start questioning their creative energy. Though 2016 saw them release two albums, one was a reimagining of their earliest work (The Psychedelic Swamp), while the other was a 2014 recording that had been shelved while they worked on the former (Abandoned Mansion). They needed a break, time away from each other to reevaluate their music and goals.
When they finally reconvened, they set about creating their first fresh work in almost five years, Critical Equation. Due April 27th via Thirty Tigers, the album finds the band revitalized by renewed confidence and a fresh direction. Lead single “Listening In” demonstrated how the Philadelphia outfit’s unique sound had been simultaneously refocused and blown apart by working with producer Gus Seyffert. The latest track, “Go Out Fighting”, further highlights this evolution while serving as something as an ode to the perseverance the band found in themselves — and that the world at large gravely needs.
“You can cry/ Or you can sing your silent requiem all night,” go the lyrics. “When you go blind/ Go out fighting.” It’s a song of determination driven forward by a vintage Hammond organ squealing over drums that patter and kick down a smoky, damp ’70s street at night. For the final push to glory, the whole track opens in a savage, whammy-heavy guitar solo that would make Jim James take notice. Check out the track below.
For this edition of Origins, the band sent us a handwritten letter detailing the “different ideas that had been percolating for a while” that eventually became “Go Out Fighting”. Find out how reggae music and a new musical toy helped the band find their latest single below.
I had been listening to a lot of reggae artists like The Congos, Pat Kelly, Delroy Willson, Horace Andy and John Holt and was trying to soak in some of the lyrical power of these artists. I’ve been using music to explore how to find strength and perseverance in the face of darkness and suffering ever since I started writing. It’s a theme I always come back to because of the need for it in my life and my belief in its relevance and resonance never ends.
Truth and Beauty:
Especially now, especially then and especially moving forward. To sit down and write a song has always given me a window into the realization that I have a choice to make and to constantly make, to rise above my own weakness and to love. Some days the choice is made, some says the dirge. I see it more as a discipline and less like an accomplishment to be hastily taken for granted. Truth and beauty so easily slip away if not constantly monitored in my experience and the consequences of that are tragic. I find this theme being drilled in very consistently in a lot of of reggae music and I find a lot of inspiration there. It feels vital, universal and eternal.
The Cutting Room Floor:
There were a lot of lyrics I was working on for this song but as we worked on the music many were cut. Here’s a couple lines that were edged out. “Relentless defender, the fool the offender. Never surrender. The truth an atrocity. To live is to lie. The loss of curiosity. Go out fighting.”
Around the time I was batting the lyrics around, [keyboardist] Zach [Miller] sent me a recording of a riff he had come up with that was inspired by this new organ he got called the Hammond s6. The riff he sent is what ended up being essentially the entire backdrop for “Go Out Fighting”. It’s just two chords over and over the whole time but the mood and the groove of the riff he came up with along with the surreal and janky magic of the organ sounded awesome to me. So I added a rhythm section to it and started to experiment with different ways of singing the lyrics I had been working on over that backdrop. That lead to enough ideas for several songs so when we got together to work on new songs as a band we started jamming on it and found what kind of structure and arrangement felt best musically and then I tailored the vocal ideas to that new song form. We ended up making it as short as we possibly could even though it’s a song that we had been in the habit of extending for long periods of time. Live it will most likely end up getting extended. It just feels good to do that with this song. It’s relentless musically and thematically and it’s a song I hope I never stop writing.
Here are the original handwritten pages Dr. Dog sent us: