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Dogbreth at San Jose Peace & Justice Center

In Music
SLACKER SOLO: Dogbreth blends ripping solos with slouchy indie bliss.

SLACKER SOLO: Dogbreth blends ripping solos with slouchy indie bliss.

It’s only been three years since Dogbreth released Second Home with local Asian Man Records, but in those three years a lot has changed. The DIY power-pop band relocated from Phoenix to Seattle and re-formed—then had a member of the new lineup relocate. They’ve toured and taken breaks from touring, endured breakups and breakdowns. But the biggest change of all came in the form of a small metal box. “I’ve been playing with and listening to distortion pedals for a long time now,” says singer and guitarist Tristan Jemsek. “I think my ears just needed a break.”

This October, Dogbreth release Ever Loving, their second album with Asian Man, and their first without Jemsek’s faithful RAT II distortion pedal. Pro Co, the company that makes the RAT, says the pedal “excels at arena rock rhythm tones and soaring leads.” For Ever Loving, Jemsek wanted something different.

“I wanted this one to have a real soft shimmeriness to everything,” he says. “I still wanted it to rock, I just also wanted it to sound really good—something you’d want to listen to over and over again because it sounds really pretty. But also kick-ass.”

For longtime Breth-heads, this might sound like the Dogbreth they’ve always known and loved. Since self-releasing their debut in 2011, Dogbreth has always been emotionally honest while still rocking pretty hard. For all its earnest sensitivity, 2016’s Second Home still heavily emphasized the rock in “indie rock,” frequently exploding into guitar solos and dual-guitar leads. On songs like “Cups and Wrappers” (an incredible song about whether or not rock music will last), Dogbreth did both at once, bearing some serious emotion while kinda sounding like Iron Maiden.

“For a long time whenever someone mentioned our band, they would just talk about the guitarmonies,” Jemsek says, using the widely agreed-upon rocker-parlance for “harmonized guitars.” “I love Thin Lizzy,” he adds, “and I love guitarmonies, but I just didn’t want that to be a thing.”

Ever Loving by Dogbreth

Throughout Ever Loving, Jemsek and new guitarist Bil Palmer are much more likely to play jangly arpeggios and gentle bends than pyrotechnic leads. Lead single “When U Call My Name,” is a perfect example. Written and sung by Palmer, “When U Call My Name” is an incredibly catchy jangle-pop song—part British Invasion, part R.E.M. Sounding woozy and lovelorn, the guitars wobble gently beneath lyrics about returning home.

“Bil sent me a batch of demos that he thought might work well for the band, and as soon as I heard that song, I was like, ‘I love this song so much, we have to do this song,’” Jemsek recalls.

While there’s still some distortion to the record (and even some guitarmonies), it’s this kind of gentle rocking that most defines Ever Loving. Opener “Old Keys” starts off quiet before kicking into a head-bobbing groove. Then, just as the song is really starting to rock, they bring the “soft” back with a wind chime. On “Walk You Again” (a song about missing an ex’s dog), tremulous verses give way to a big outro, as a fuzzed-out guitar lead breaks through the synths, oohs and chorus pedals. Altogether, it’s pretty—gentle and shimmery, like Jemsek described—while still rocking pretty hard.

And though a lot has changed for the band recently, Jemsek still has a lot of love for the DIY world of his youth.

“Growing up in the Phoenix music scene, I was lucky to be around this community of artists that made music that was like a pop/rock collage,” Jemsek says. “A lot of hard-to-define artists, not too concerned with what style or genre each song is, just letting the song decide. That’s the kind of thing that interests me the most. On this record, I wanted to do that, but with a consistent quality of tones and sounds.”

Dogbreth
Aug 21, 7:30pm, $5
San Jose Peace & Justice Center, San Jose

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