Ron Adelberg

Makin Waves with Dogs in a Pile: Nothin’ Left to Do, But Smile…

To the joy of their many fans up and down the East Coast, Asbury Park-based jam outfit Dogs in a Pile have been refueling their tour schedule now that most of the band are done with prestigious music colleges, such as Berklee College of Music in Boston and University of Arts in Philadelphia. The fun, funky five-piece will return home to the Stone Pony on Oct. 15 for another headlining show. Abandoned Outcasts will open two sets by the Dogs, who are drummer Joe Babick, keyboardist Jeremy Kaplan, bassist Sam Lucid, and guitarists Jimmy Law and Brian Murray. Most share lead vocal duties on their debut album, “Not Your Average Beagle,” released in May.

Plenty of other tasty morsels on the horizon for the Dogs, but for now they also will be playing Oct. 27, Brooklyn Bowl, opening Marble Eyes’ record release party; Oct. 30, The Essex Experience, Essex, VT, with KRIS and Double You; Nov. 6, Putnam Place, Putnam, NY, with Baked Shrimp, and Nov. 11, 118 North, Wayne, PA, with Swwik. 

Enjoy the following collective chat with Dogs in a Pile, who share their roots, their branches, and a variety of videos shot by band champion Ross Peterzell.

Did Dogs in a Pile evolve out of Mad Kings?

Dogs did not explicitly evolve out of the Mad Kings. The Mad Kings’ work began slowing down for various reasons, and coincidentally, the group of friends that would become Dogs in a Pile started to casually jam.

Is anybody from Mad Kings in Dogs in a Pile?

Yes, Jimmy is a founding member of both Mad Kings and Dogs in a Pile. Joe has subbed with the Mad Kings on numerous occasions.

On ‘Not Your Average Beagle,’ who sings lead on which tracks?

“Can’t Wait for Tonight,” Brian; “Thomas Duncan,” split between Brian, Jeremy, and Jimmy; “Look Johnny,” Jeremy and Brian; “Renaissance Man,” Sam; “Snow Day,” Brian; “Inchworm,” everybody; “Bubble,” Jimmy; “Rinky Dink Rag,” Brian and Jeremy, and “Bugle on the Shelf,” Brian with backups from Jeremy and Jim.

Is the singer of each song, the main songwriter?

Not necessarily, however, it does work out that way sometimes. We consider our individual vocal strengths and weaknesses to decide whose voice will fit best for a given tune.

How and why do the band’s songwriting directions blend into a cohesive, yet eclectic sound?

We all have unique and different influences, but there are some large aesthetic ideas and inspirations that bind everybody together. 

You wear your Dead influence on your sleeve, getting your name from ‘He’s Gone,’ quoting ‘Hell in a Bucket’ on ‘Can’t Wait for Tonight,’ and playing extensive Deadicated shows. How and why is Grateful Dead the strongest influence on the band, and what impact does your audience have on that direction?

The Grateful Dead is one of those artists that strongly influences every one of us. Most of us were introduced to the Grateful Dead at a young age, and so they became a critical building block of our individual creative beings. Furthermore, it was the first thing we were able to bond over.

Jimmy seems to be the biggest Dead fan in the band, yet, unlike most players influenced by Jerry’s bubbly sound, he has a much more muscular sound that’s a style all his own. How and why does that guitar sound distinguish Dogs from other bands?

Jimmy’s first and still biggest influence is Jerry Garcia. His father turned him onto Jerry’s music at a young age. Jerry’s style, as well as the likes of Warren Haynes, Jimmy Herring, and Angus Young, have inspired Jimmy to blend a unique sound all his own.

To what extent did Brian study with Tommy Emmanuel and Frank Vignola, and what impact did that have on his playing?

Brian was fortunate to be able to spend time with Tommy Emmanuel on numerous occasions, as well as perform with him at a guitar camp in 2016. Brian has played guitar exclusively finger style with a thumb pick since first seeing Tommy perform live when he was 15. 

Photo by Ron Adelberg

Comment on the influence the Count Basie Theatre’s Rockit program had on which band members, why and how?

Joe attended Rockit for a few years, and it was his first real exposure to playing with other musicians around his age group. But other from that, it showed him how important it is to be able to blend in with people you’ve never played with before, the importance between being able to lay it down and provide what the music needs, and improvising.

How and why are Phish, Zappa, Steely Dan, and Primus also influences on the band?

These influences are special because, along with the Dead, they are shared in one way or another by all of us.

Any other influences worth mentioning and why?

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, Mild High Club, Jerry Reed, Beck, Sufjan Stevens, Wilco, Stravinsky, Dopapod, Widespread Panic, Goose, Jade Cicada, Weather Report, Willie Nelson, Vulfpeck, The Pogues.

Who turned each of you onto your favorite band and how?

Jeremy: My dad hipped me to Frank Zappa at a young age with the introduction of tunes like ‘Baby Snakes’ and ‘Why Does it Hurt When I Pee.’ Both of which I thought were hilarious at the age of 9. It wasn’t until I was around 15 to 16 that I really dove into Frank’s behemoth discography. Coincidentally, it was around that time that I began to understand why it hurt when he peed.’

Brian: For years I would discover music for myself by exploring my father’s eclectic and seemingly endless iTunes song collection. I specifically recall a day at 12 years old when I stumbled upon a song called “Stash” by Phish. This and a couple of other Phish songs were given to him by a friend many years beforehand, and he hadn’t really gotten into them himself. Unlike him, I was instantly struck and inspired by Phish and began to learn a good bulk of their music on guitar. I asked my Dad to bring me to my first show when I was 14, and since then Phish has remained one of my biggest musical influences. 

Sam: A childhood friend of mine turned me onto the Grateful Dead when I was around 14.  From there, I discovered other artists like Steely Dan and Stevie Wonder and developed a taste for jazz and funk music. My tastes have continued to evolve since then.

Jimmy: My parents have been completely dedicated to the Grateful Dead since the mid ’80s, so it was right in front of my face when I was born. For as long as I can remember, the Grateful Dead have been in my ears. 

Joe: Jeremy actually got me into Frank Zappa about a year and a half ago. We got into this routine of showing each other all these different studio and live recordings very often. Frank’s vast discography, and the endless list of incredible musicians that he’s worked with, inspired me as a musician more than ever. Not to mention, some of the world’s greatest drummers have played with Frank, and they have had tremendous influence on me over this short period of time.

In 41 years of covering New Jersey music, I’ve seen a lot of supportive families of band members, but among the most supportive are those of Dogs in a Pile. How and why are your families so supportive?

Because they rock! They’re also crazy, but their commitment cannot be denied. They’ll do whatever they can to support our cause. Moving road cases, negotiating deals, and providing home cooked meals on the road are just a few of the many, many things that they help us with. These people are the real deal!

How and why is the Stone Pony your home away from home?

We would argue that the Pony is our home at home. With the amount that we travel, coming back to the Pony — about 25 minutes from the Dogs’ studio — is always a rejuvenating experience. We all feel comfortable in Asbury Park and even more so at the Pony, specifically. Jimmy first set foot on the Stone Pony’s stage over 10 years ago.

We would have to say that our home away from home is Vermont. By way of a Lawroski family friend, the Dogs were introduced to the Bill Graham of Lamoille County and miracle worker, Tommy Moog. Moog not only offered the band several gigs in Vermont, but also a place to stay. Probably a mistake on his part, but “Loading into Moog’s House” is a story for another interview. Nevertheless, we were fast friends and even faster family. To Tommy, taking the Dogs on a trip to the waterfall the day after a gig is just as important as the gig itself. One of the many reasons we love him and his family. We can never seem to get out of Vermont as fast as any of the other cities/states we play in.

How does Asbury Park’s jam scene compare to other cities you’ve played?

The scene in Asbury is so extremely supportive and loving. We’ve been lucky enough to get to know the scenes in many states on the East Coast, and most are warm and welcoming. But Asbury is home, and it feels like it when we play there.

‘Not Your Average Beagle’ has been a long time coming. How did it feel to finally release an album in the wake of all the delays, most of which seem to have been caused by COVID?

We are quite relieved that the album has come out! It was a long process that was mostly interrupted by us having to return to school after getting the basic tracks recorded.

In the wake — or perhaps midst — of the pandemic, are you touring as much as you would like and do you plan to increase live dates?

We’ve certainly been keeping busy in recent times, and are now building time into our schedule to workshop new material and redefine what we are focused on as a band.

Most of the band go to prestigious music colleges. To what extent does college and/or work get in the way of touring for any of the members?

The answer is different now that we are all more or less finished with school. While school was in session, we would never hesitate to take a gig on the weekends. We would all try to build our schedules in a way that would allow us to have Fridays off — or at least finish early on Friday — in order to get to a gig out of state. 

Now that everybody is out of school, we have more freedom to book shows and work on tunes without worrying about studies getting in the way of what’s important!

How and why did Billy Joel award Jeremy a scholarship to further studies at Berklee?

Jeremy went to Long Island High School for the Arts which, at the time of his matriculation there, was severely underfunded and in danger of being shut down. Billy Joel’s foundation came up with a considerable donation which enabled the continuing operation of the school. Jeremy was initially not going to pursue a secondary education, let alone at such a prestigious music academy, concerned about racking up loan debt. Word must have made its way up the food chain, and Billy and his foundation were generous enough to offer a scholarship to Jeremy, making his decision easy. Had this not happened, Jeremy likely wouldn’t have gone to Berklee where he met Brian and Sam, and the Dogs as we know them would not have existed.

Is making a living with Dogs the main goal for all the members or do you have other goals, such as teaching and/or performing other music?

We are acutely aware that the five of us together have a very special musical connection, and as such, reserve our primary focuses for Dogs. That said, we all enjoy jamming with other musicians and exchanging musical ideas in settings that are unfamiliar to us. 

You have a lot of really well-made and professionally produced live videos. Any plans to release a narrative one? If so, when and what? If not, why?

We absolutely must shout out Ross Peterzell right here. He shoots and edits those videos, and that’s just his side hustle! Truthfully, he does too much to list here, we <3 Ross. 

No plans for a narrative feature yet, we just want to document our performances as well as we can. That on its own is enough to keep track of!

Any other plans — tour dates, new live songs, releases, etc. — we can announce with this interview that haven’t been announced yet?

Nothing we can talk about yet, but there is very fun stuff on the horizon.