Jacksonville band DigDog makes a righteous mélange of a racket: prog, kraut and psychedelic rock tamed by back-to-basics grunge songcraft presented with a slacker’s sense of insouciance.
Much of that mix is down to the trio’s sole remaining founding member, singer and guitarist Brad Metz. His meandering guitar runs and dry poetry seem to have set the pace for an outfit that used to perform but twice a year (the tempo is picking up these days) and is only now releasing its third album—a full nine years into its career.
There’s Bees in There is a 13-track romp that sees Metz joined by (not-so) new bassist Alexei Dotsenko and drummer Jack Ringca. The self-released disc drops Nov. 10, with a launch party at Rain Dogs in Five Points.
Folio Weekly spoke to Metz and Dotsenko about the band’s ambitions. (Skype connection to Ringco was unfortunately lost.)
DigDog is as Jacksonville as it gets. Metz is a native and has spent much of his life here. Dotsenko was born and raised in Murmansk, which is Jacksonville’s official Russian twin town. So, close enough.
“Jacksonville has always been cool,” says Metz. “It’s not competitive like some other places. People are just hanging out.”
DigDog formed in 2009 and hung out for many years before the current lineup came together. The catalyst: Dotsenko, an erstwhile fan who offered his services to Metz and Ringco in 2015.
“DigDog was my favorite band,” the bassist pronounces, with a slight Russian accent. “When I first saw them at Lomax Lodge, I thought they were the greatest. I later went to see them sober, and they were just as awesome.”
Unlike the self-taught Metz, both Dotsenko and Ringca are formally trained musicians. The drummer even holds a music degree.
“What we all have in common is we want to do something different,” says Dotsenko. “Brad writes these really weird riffs, stuff they don’t teach you in music school. But as weird as they are, they’re still melodic.”
The baker’s dozen of tunes comprising There’s Bees in There is thus both raw and cooked. Metz’s flights of fancy are grounded in the power and precision of DigDog’s rhythm section. Lyrically, it’s pretty much blank verse. In a deadpan that recalls Les Claypool or Fred Schneider, Metz intones against pettiness, conformity and Colonel Chi (Leslie Nielsen’s villainous character in the 1993 Ernie Reyes Jr. vehicle Surf Ninjas).
The album’s centerpiece is track 7, “Small Town.” Situated midpoint through Bees, this math-inflected indictment of Middle America is peak DigDog.
“I was born in a small town,” Metz begins, channeling John Mellencamp with maximum aridity. “Killed my first deer in a small town.”
It gets better, too.
Other highlights include the throwback electronic dance mantra “Drug Dealer” and dark swamp waltz “Beaverpillar (A Song About Monkeys).”
The band members themselves recorded the album, which was later mixed by Chris Byron. A true DIY effort, it’s being released independently on CD and digital formats.
The CD sleeve features original artwork by Jacksonville painter and signmaker Grant Thornton. Taking the album title only slightly literally, Thornton dreamed up a cosmic grizzly bear, decked out in a space suit and exploring a honeycomb filled with bees.
“Grant is a good friend of ours,” says Metz. “He did the art for our previous album Early Reiser, and we hope to have him do all albums in the future. He did most of the storefront signs in the new and improved Murray Hill, too. He is a fantastic person and artist!”
As DigDog celebrates their tin anniversary in 2019, Metz and company plan to expand operations outside their hometown. They ought to be, by their own reckoning, a regional band after this decade of mischief and experimentation. In the meantime, they’ll be mining the honeycomb that is Jacksonville.