February 27, 2006

Interview: Dogme 95

Listen To: Salty Air and Devil's Toes

Dogme 95's latest effort, The Reagle Beagle, is a conceptual mini-album, based upon Charles Darwin's trip on the HMS Beagle. The brainchild of Nick Wright, these eight songs closely follow the formula of Dogme's debut album, the excellent Acradian Hymns. Listening to "Salty Air and Devil's Toes" and "McMillan the Villain," you realize there's not that much difference between a chain-gang chant and a sea shanty, and as such, Dogme's funky folky style proves quite appropriate for the subject matter of a sea voyage. Not unlike The Decemberists' experimental The Tain, and the story, while fictional, is still quite amusing. Wright still sounds like a more credible Beck, and it's not hard to envision these songs being quite enjoyable in a live setting.

We recently spoke to Mr. Wright about The Reagle Beagle:

What inspired you to write about Charles Darwin's voyage?

It is kind of funny, I actually just spontaneously started writing The Reagle Beagle about a general theme and "evolution" was the main thread. Darwin was the most iconic person to represent that theme. I have done songs with historic subtext before (i.e. Civil War) but I felt it would be more interesting to kind of plant myself in the story. Therefore, the image of me on the boat with Charles Darwin popped into my head. His voyage represents a lot for science, but I wanted to use "the voyage" as a backdrop for music. Maybe help music evolve...

Even though this is a fictional tale, did the concept prompt you to do any background reading and research about Darwin?

Definitely, but more after the fact. Since a bulk of the songs were written within the span of about 3 hours (much like a Jandek session), I really just trusted my previous knowledge of Darwin. But half way through the recording, a neighbor in my building told me about a research project they had done on Darwin. So songs like "Bring Back Pangaea" are written spontaneously off a Darwin poster board; which included facts, dates, and the route of Darwin's voyage. That provided a bit of security while recording. Since I finished the record, I have seen Darwin topics on the cover of Newsweek, Charlie Rose, and NPR. So the timing seems good for a record of this nature.

This is your second release, and it's also your second conceptual record. Is Dogme 95 intentionally a 'concept' band? If so, what's the next concept you will be exploring?

Actually I think this is the first conceptual record for me. Arcadian Hymns was more about how the songs were delivered; for instance, the vibe or flow of the record was very important. But, I never intended there to be a "true" concept with Arcadian. I also feel musical narrative can be really cheesy if it is too forced. Therefore, when I was working on The Reagle Beagle, I purposely tried to think of ways to incorporate "evolution" in a subtle way. As far as future concepts, there is nothing too concrete on the horizon. I have started working on the follow up to The Reagle Beagle and will be playing some of those ideas live this year. Dogme 95 is not intentionally a conceptual project either, but over the last year, I have certainly found many themes to harbor new material. I look forward to the next step...

You can catch Dogme 95 on tour this Spring!

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