Dogbreth plays fun pop-punk music--or desert power-punk, some may say; that is, unless you ask Tristan Jemsek, or Erin Caldwell, who consider Dogbreth to be power-kindness, or sentimental power-pop. Jemsek says he never intended for Dogbreth to be a pop-punk band, not back when it was just a solo project, nor when it became a full-fledged band, but he can understand why people would label their sound that way.
Jemsek, who sings, "I guess I'm just a self-sabotageour," on "Too Much Too Fast," does a good job of fooling the listener into the appearance that Dogbreth is anxious and self-conscious. Either way, they do put that power-kindness label into practice: at their show with Swearin' at Trunk Space, Dogbreth brought the dispersed crowd together by asking the audience to come close, but not too close, in case that made them uncomfortable.
That solicitousness is in the music, as well; the themes it covers are fun and simple until you get to the heart of the record, where you hit those sentimental undertones in songs such as "Too Much Too Fast," or even in arguably the happiest song on the record, "New Friend," which sounds reminiscent of the Plan-it-X bands with whom they are now share a label.
Being signed by the DIY punk label Plan-It-X and the legend behind the label, Chris Clavin, is like a dream come true for the band, who list many of the bands on the label as big influences--Defiance, Ohio, Ghost Mice, Mitch the Champ, and, of course, hometown heroes Andrew Jackson Jihad.
For Dogbreth, everything starts with the lyrics. A song might start with a riff or a tune, but it's more likely to be something that Caldwell wrote, or something Jemsek wrote. The challenge for them is being able to write fast enough, when the inspiration hits--but, as Jemsek says, its always a mystery how a song comes together.
Jemsek, who writes most of the songs, is a word and phrase factory who keeps stray phrases, lyrics, and ideas in bulk in the notes app of his iPhone. Apart from being a wordslinger, he also plays in nine or 10 bands. He's in separate bands with each member of Dogbreth, who all also play in other bands.
Unsurprisingly, given all that exposure, Jemsek and Caldwell both believe there is a songwriting style unique to Arizona DIY bands, mostly because there's always been what they consider a strong core of weirdness to the city of Phoenix. Jemsek looks back on the Trunk Space as a place that's been supportive of him, even when his band played shows to no one, and then later when he would set up shows and no one would show up. That was when he was a teenager, but being given a place where he could try out new things and the freedom to do that was irreplaceable, and now that people are showing up to see Dogbreth play, Jemsek says, "is still new." Good thing they're going on tour in December, where they all will have time to get used to it.
The Sentimental Health LP will be available via Plan-It-X records, while the cassette will be available via Lost Sound Tapes. Whatever kind of power-pop-sentimental-kindness it is, it's worth a listen.
Dogbreth is scheduled to perform at Trunk Space Saturday, December 28.
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