Interview: Dogs On Tour and The Hudson Branch

Hidey ho neighbor!

I know it has been a while, but I have been incredibly busy and stressed out with school. My college runs on trimesters so I was doing midterms and projects for the last two weeks. I have a special treat for you all to make up for my lack of posting though. It’s a little bit different than what I normally do, but I think you’ll like it 🙂

Some of you might recall a group I mentioned in my  Christmas post called Dogs on Tour. For those of you who don’t know, Dogs on Tour is a collaboration group that combines music with radio-like interviews to make “story songs.” This process mainly involved The Hudson Branch (a local Chicago band) and Andy Mills (a radio producer). Having seen The Hudson Branch play live before, I was really interested in their music as well as the formation of Dogs on Tour and how the process of creating pieces differed  Lucky for me, they were gracious enough to answer some questions for me via email.
So today I bring you the inside scoop behind the group Dogs on Tour as well as some information about The Hudson Branch. Let’s jump right in then, shall we?

KB: What’s the story behind the collaboration Dogs on Tour? How did it come into being? Who’s all in the group? 

THB: Back in the winter of 2010 a bunch of us who’d been friends for years and working on several different projects decided we wanted to go on a house show tour together. We just thought it would be fun to smash all of our different songs, sounds and stories together and play at house parties across the country.

While we were piling into our van on the first day of our first tour, we realized it would be a mouthful to name all of the different projects and bands that we represented. It would be easier to just name the tour/group we had spontaneously formed. Andy suggested something short and silly,

“…Like Dogs On Tour or something.”

We all barked and laughed and decided that works.

Half way through our first tour we realized that something special was happening when we collaborated liked this. It was inspiring and made us all better – and as young artists our goal was/is to learn, stretch and grow. So when the tour ended, we just kept the name and continued to mash together our different artistic endeavors (song writing, storytelling, photography, live performance).

The group has an inclusive nature and is always changing, but Chicago band The Hudson Branch and radio producer Andy Mills are always involved in one way or another. Others collaborators include Nate Henricks, All That Noise For Feeling, Angie Schoenherr & Radiolab.

I love the way you guys blend music with stories. How would you as a group describe that? Were you following a specific genre or did you just make it up as you went? 

First, thank you (sincerely).

Second, we don’t have a good way of describing it. The crew over at Third Coast calls our pieces “Song Stories” – which is totally adorable. We are open for suggestions if you’ve got ‘em.

Third, we were and still are making this all up. Though we’ve been inspired by a lot of things, including If by Sherre Delys and Charles Spearin’s Happiness Project

Did you always know that radio stories were the direction the group was going in?

No. In fact, the thought never crossed our minds until our second tour together. We were (and still are) big fans of This American Life, Radiolab, and other radio programs, but we weren’t trying to inhabit that world. We still don’t like to think of our stories or our shows as especially “radio”. There are several pieces we only perform live and will never be online or on the radio. We’re still moving in a direction where we hope to embody our favorite aspects of radio, film, theatre, musical performance, photography and storytelling in a way that we’ve never seen before.

How do you find the stories you record?

A lot of times Andy is the story finder/teller.  He generally brings us stuff that he thinks would work well with how we do things.  Then we sit together and listen. We ask, “Where is the music in these voices? What key do they generally speak in? Where do we feel music in the story?  Sometimes its not even a story at all but just interesting things people say.

What’s your dynamic like when it comes to writing each piece? Is it just one big collaboration or does someone write something and bring it to the others? Do you get the story first and then do the music or…?

The dynamic has changed for pretty much every story, but it’s very collaborative. By the time each piece is done it’s hard to know where each idea came from.  We all bring stuff to the table. We generally start with an interview, then we listen together to a rough edit of our interview(s) and search for that one thing that we can grab onto and build from.  For example on I Don’t Know , Cobey fell in love with the line “and I get to eat them in the car sometimes.” With Kohn, Andy had been crying while listening to the whole eight minute long version of Kohn singing A Capella. His voice was so rich and powerful. When he played it for us, we knew where we’d begin.

Now you personally are in a band called The Hudson Branch. I actually saw you last year when you played at The Union in Naperville and I was really impressed. You guys are a great, talented group! Does the process of how Dogs on Tour makes music differ a lot from how you and The Hudson Branch make music? If yes, then in what ways?

Well Hudson Branch is still a traditional band in many ways.  At its core its still drums, bass, guitars, melody, harmony.  The process is much more songwriting driven, rather then the mashup/scoring idea with Dogs On Tour.  We are still interested in the idea that the crafting of a song is still a sacred and awesome thing to master… that pop songs can change the world.

THB has an album coming out, correct? Can you tell me a little more about that? Do you guys have any shows planned yet for the new album? 

Yes we do!  It was actually released on January 29th and its called Yesterday.  It was inspired by the great artists of the lates 60’s (Bill Withers, Jackson 5).  This album is the first in a 3 part series called Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow which we will be releasing through out the year.  We made it ourselves in our home built studio.  The release show is on February 9th at Ace Bar in Chicago.

Does Dogs on Tour or any of the members of the collaboration have big plans for 2013 that you know of? 

Dogs On Tour has some really cool things happening this year, including another week long tour and some collaborations with radio producers we love (we’ll leave it at that for now). Andy is a producer with Radiolab now, so he is always a part of some big plan or another.  

Alright, well there you have it. If you’d like to check out more of Dog on Tours unique style, you can find them online at the following places: Their website, Facebook, Bandcamp

You can also find out more about The Hudson Branch at the following places: Their website, Facebook, Twitter, Bandcamp

You should definitely check out their new album, Yesterday. And for those of you in the Chicago area, you should know that the album release party is this Saturday (2/9)! For more information, check out the event of FB:

**Thank you to all those still reading! You guys are champions! As a reward, here is a free EP from The Hudson Branch on me 😉


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