Photo by Victoria Healy
In the first installment of my column about the Baton Rouge music scene, I spoke about how the thrift shop, Here Today, Gone Tomorrow, formed a web of young bands that still make music in the area today. One of the bands that played regularly at HTGT was Nice Dog. Now, they play in venues all over Baton Rouge and are releasing their first album on August 31st. Nice Dog is singer and guitarist Logan Wagner, bass player Robby Denoux, drummer Garrett Howell and guitarist Austin Roy. These friends have been in Nice Dog since its beginning and have continued to grow together as the band has matured. I’ve seen Nice Dog perform their bluesy songs more times than I can count, but recently I saw them at Atomic Pop Shop, a local record store and venue, and I noticed their sound had changed. Before the show, drummer Garrett Howell admitted to me that they were finally introducing some new songs into their set. I thought this would be the perfect time to catch up with the band and see what they’ve been up to. I sat down with Nice Dog at bassist Robby’s apartment and had a pretty interesting chat about the past, present and future of this Baton Rouge band.
Erin Phelps: So, who started Nice Dog and how did you guys start playing together?
Logan Wagner: We kind of got put together through this program.
Garrett Howell: The program is called the Young Band Nation at Baton Rouge Music Studios (BRMS), where we all took private lessons. If you’re a guitar player you get put together with a band that needs a guitar player, if you’re a singer then you get put in with a band that needs a singer. So, we had been in those bands before Nice Dog. I’d been in a few and so had Robby. Then we got put together and originally I played guitar, but then I wanted to play drums.
LW: I taught Austin how to play guitar when we were young, and we always talked about starting a band, so it was kind of cool when that actually happened and how we’re still a band now. So, Austin joined and then Robby came in.
GH: We stayed in the program together for about three semesters and as time went on we quickly became one of the only young bands pumping out original music.
Robby Denoux: The cool thing about BRMS was that you would practice all these songs and then you’d have gigs at the end of the semester. Then we started getting gigs on our own and it was cool, because we realized we could do it without someone getting them for us.
EP: How do you guys start writing songs and where do you get your inspiration from?
LW: Well basically, I write all the lyrics and chords. I just get inspiration from different situations and things that happen in my life that I find eventful. I sit and write stuff down and it ends up becoming a song. I write a lot about relationships; I feel like that’s been a big influence in the past and just life in general. I’m also motivated by the fact that we’re sharing this music with people. That pushes me. I usually just bring a chord progression on the guitar and lyrics and then let them do whatever they want with it.
GH: It’s very collaborative, but Logan does write all of the songs.
LW: Actually, Robby wrote one line on one of the new songs.
RD: Yeah, we’re gonna put a writing credit on the album for me.
EP: Are there any artists or bands that Nice Dog draws from in particular?
LW: I know when we were younger, Austin and I would say that Kings of Leon really inspired us.
RD: I don’t even like them!
LW: Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd. Grizzly Bear is up there. They use really weird chords and chord progressions.
GH: I’ve been listening to a lot of Indie music; as a drummer of an indie band I’m finally listening to Indie music.
[Austin Roy, the guitarist, joins us at Robby’s apartment.]
LW: Hey Austin, what are some of your music influences?
Austin Roy: DJ Khaled. Did you say Radio Head yet?
LW: Oh yeah, I’m obsessed with Radio Head.
GH: We’re trying to sound more ‘summer indie band,’ but still a little bluesy.
LW: We still have those bluesy undertones our band started with. I think they’ll always be there.
EP: How has your music changed as the group has matured?
LW: I feel like we sound more put together as a band and not sloppy. We’ve been practicing and playing so many shows now, but our sound is straying away from the blues and doing something different.
GH: We’re heading towards a more alternative sound.
AR: I feel like we’re a little heavier now.
EP: I noticed a couple of your songs are grungier lately.
LW: We’re just trying to get some aggression out!
EP: You guys are releasing a new LP soon, how is this project different from the other songs you’ve released in the past?
AR: We spent more time on this on than anything we’ve ever done. We took our time.
GH: There are a few new songs on the album, but it’s more of a culmination of songs we’ve written for the past 4 or 5 years. This album would exclude the ones on the EP, though.
LW: The EP we released in 2014…we were kind of crunched for time. We had specific days and times we could go into the studio. But, we’ve been working on this LP for almost a year.
RD: I feel like it’s been pregnant in me for so long. I’m about to give birth to this album.
LW: Next time we do an interview, Robby’s not allowed.
EP: What are some short-term and long-term goals for the band?
LW: Short term: release this album… possibly go on a short tour.
GH: Put the album on Spotify for sure. Maybe play some shows in Lafayette, just other places in Louisiana besides Baton Rouge.
EP: That was actually my next question—if you guys had plans to tour soon.
LW: We’ve been throwing the idea around, but we’re not sure.
GH: It’s kind of a scheduling issue. We like the idea of a summer tour next year.
RD: I think we’re really excited about recording new songs, too. That’s a long term goal for sure, to keep doing that.
EP: Since this is a follow up on my article about the venue HTGT, what was your favorite memory or moment playing at HTGT?
LW: My favorite part about playing at HTGT was the connections we made. There was no competition; we were all doing it just to play music.
AR: You just make so many connections and friends. Still to this day I have friends that I met playing shows there. People that played there are still making music and in the music scene.
RD: Like your article said.
GH: I would always get to HTGT way before the show. I couldn’t drive, so I would load my drums in my dad’s car and I remember I would bring my entire kit because I was so excited to be playing drums in public. My kit was double what I bring to gigs now. I would get there before the sun even went down, before the venue had even opened.
Photo by Victoria Healy
EP: So, I have a few opinion questions for you guys. What are some of the bands’ favorite releases of 2017?
RD: I like Chronixx’s new release. He just put out a 17 track album; he’s what’s blowing up in Jamaica right now.
LW: I like Alt-J’s new album a lot.
AR: I like 311’s new album.
GH: Kendrick (Lamar).
EP: If you could tour with one band who would it be?
LW: We’d probably have some disagreements about that.
AR: Maybe Cage the Elephant?
GH: Yeah, I lock in that answer.
EP: What artist dead or alive would you choose to have lunch with?
LW: No doubt Jimi Hendrix. [Me too, Logan.]
AR: Hank Williams Jr. I would definitely love to eat lunch with him.
RD: I wouldn’t mind having lunch with Michael Jackson. I’ll lock that in.
GH: Probably Ginger Baker.
LW: Maybe Syd Barrett, too…while he was still sane.
A huge thanks to Nice Dog for sitting down with me. For those in the Baton Rouge area, Nice Dog is having an album release show at The Varsity on August 31st. You don’t want to miss it. Also, be sure to stream their music on Spotify in the near future!
ERIN PHELPS | Editing Robby’s answers | KXSU Assistant Program Director