Born out of the ashes of cult Irish band The Hot Sprockets, a band that always felt like they absolutely lived their infectious brand of leftfield country folk-pop, Dogpond (stylised DOGPOND) are a welcome return from some of those musicians in a new form.
Still very early in their life, I took the chance to chat to Franky, former vocalist and harmonica player with the Sprockets, on what to expect from an act that are just one single into their lifespan, and the thoughts behind that debut ‘Kilnamanagh Blues’…
First of all, let’s address the obvious. How does DOGPOND link back to Hot Sprockets, in terms of sound, set up, and development?
Well DOGPOND consists of the three original members of the Hot Sprockets: Franky (myself), Tim, and Joe. After the Sprockets called it a day, us three boys continued on jamming as always on a weekly basis. We didn’t really have a plan or know where we were going to go next, but we knew that we wanted to keep playing and writing music together. So, naturally there are elements of the original sounds that exist in DOGPOND’s music.
Both myself and Tim had been writing songs at home that we both then shared in the jamroom, and because we both have our own unique style of songwriting, you can say there are some resemblances in the sound to that of the songs we wrote while in the Sprockets. In terms of developing the songs, it works the same as we always did it, one of us would write a song, share them in the jamroom and then take it from there. After a few months of jamming together we noticed the songs were really starting to take shape, and become its own thing.
The main difference in the set up is we’re now a four piece. In the Sprockets there were two electric guitars, and with DOGPOND there’s only Tim on electric guitar, so that made a big difference to the dynamics in the band. I’ve picked up acoustic guitar now, and write and play some of the songs on that, or else on the organ or mandolin. Joe does what he’s always done and busts out the tastiest of bass lines. We have our new drummer Ste (Ste-Rex), the guitarist from Punch Face Champion, he provides a new dynamic to the outfit. He’s an all round talented mutt and he definitely brings a new flavour to the songs and sound.
Like Hot Sprockets, you seem to have quite a distinctive artistic aesthetic. Does that feel like part of an identity to you?
That’s just who we are I guess. The clothes we wear or how we play is 100% authentic. We’re really just being ourselves and having the craic together. We don’t give it much thought, we’re just doing our thing.
In regards to DOGPOND’s artwork, I (Franky) do all the illustrations myself, and the rest of them give their thoughts on colour and composition etc. The ideas for single covers and gig posters are our own. We did put a lot of thought into how we want that to look. The lads decided early on that I should do all the artwork, so it would all be consistent and recognisable. So in that sense, we have our own distinctive artistic aesthetic that’s exclusive to us. When you see it, you’ll know it’s us, because it is us!
Tell me a bit about the debut single – what’s the story behind it?
‘Kilnamanagh Blues’ is an ode to the place where I grew up in Tallaght. A lot of good times and happy memories were made there, so I guess it’s just me reminiscing about those days. Many artists I admire write songs about where they’re from or places they love, so I thought why not write a song about a housing estate in Tallaght. Kilnamanagh made me who I am, so I wanted to celebrate that. I’m also making fun of the fact I live on the northside of Dublin now, but that my heart belongs in Tallaght.
What’s your relationship with Kilnamanagh like?
Kilnamanagh is the greatest place in the world. It’s my hometown, my homeslice, and a lot of happy memories were made there. It’s also where we (Tim, Joe and I) started playing music together, in a tiny shed out the back of my parents house, so it also has a lot of emotional connection to us as a band.
You’ve been performing as a band for at least 18 months now. How much difference does having recorded music out make, and do you prefer to do things this way around – live shows first?
The few live shows we’ve done so far have been small. We really just needed to get used to playing on stage again after so long, dust of the cobwebs so to say. We really missed playing live because it’s different each time, that’s the beauty of it. It’s a moment in time that can’t be replicated again, by the band or the audience, and there’s a lot you can learn from each gig.
Having stuff recorded really feels like everything is taking form, that the ball is rolling. It also gives you the chance to reach a wider audience, and gives the listener a reference point. The recording process is something we love too, as it gives you a chance to experiment with the songs. Getting the songs sounding how we wanted took time and then obviously the recording process takes time too, so it’s been a long wait, but like any band will agree it’s a process. We are really proud of the songs, so we’re excited to share them.
It’s an exciting time for us all, a beautiful relief after being cooped up for so long.
How much other music do you have recorded so far? Are there plans in place for an album or EP?
We’ve got enough songs for two albums but we don’t know if we’re gonna do an album, EP, or just release a bunch of singles one after another. We’re gonna see where the tide takes us. Right now we have three more singles that are ready to be released over the next few months, and while we’re releasing those singles we’ll be recording the next batch of 4 songs. The wheel never stops spinning for us musically.
What can we expect from you as a live act?
A little musical journey of differing genres and influences. Similar, I guess to the Sprockets, but with more focus on our harmonic and rhythmic interaction. A tight knit unit with soulful grooves and catchy hooks. Some songs are under 2 minutes, some are over 6 minutes, some have a melancholic sweetness to them, some are cheerful, and some are raucous and bluesy. We hit you in the feels and make you wanna pop your paws.
You were all part of a popular but niche scene in your original bands. The Irish music scene has changed a lot since then, in particular with the loss of Knockanstockan, which always felt like a huge part of it. Does that scene still exist to tap into, in your view?
The Hot Sprockets have a lot to thank Knockanstockan for. We grew together, we played almost every KS festival and were inspired and influenced by the music and art around us. Through it we gained a lot of good relationships, both emotionally and artistically. The same can be said for Punchface Champions.
The community still exists, it’s just a little more fragmented now, as there’s less outlets for that sort of thing. We still see and support a lot of the KS bands, some are still going and some have evolved into various other bands. We had Markas Carcas supporting us for the single launch, 24th of November, Upstairs in Whelans. Markas is a Knockanstockan veteran and a good friend of ours. He and his band have always been a fan favourite.
Yeah the music scene has changed a bit, to be honest, right now is probably not the best time for rock ‘n’ roll, but that doesn’t deter us, we’re still gonna do our thing because we enjoy making music together. Supporting the Irish music scene in general though, is very important to us, as that’s what community is all about.
What are your hopes for DOGPOND going forward?
We want to keep on writing, recording and playing gigs. We want to share our music with the world. We’re proud of what we’re doing, so we want people to join in on the buzz. We want to spread love and be happy…. sure isn’t that what every band wants?