Every Giant Dog Has Its Day

Austin's A Giant Dog are out to save rock & roll -- one dive bar at a time

How do you describe the sound of a band like A Giant Dog? Well, it depends who you’re asking. Andrew Cashen, the Austin band’s co-vocalist/songwriter and guitarist, has heard it all. 

“One of my favorite ways of somebody describing us, they said, ‘It’s like X meets Thin Lizzy.’ That’s a pretty cool description.”

It's also spot-on. The quintet (who headline Soda Bar on June 15) is about as delightfully rawk n’ roll as they come. Channeling yesteryear glam-rock legends with the brash attitude of a take-no-prisoners punk crew, A Giant Dog (which, aside from Cashen, consists of co-singer Sabrina Ellis, drummer Danny Blanchard, bassist Graham Low, and guitarist Andy Bauer) dish out tumbling riff after tumbling riff with a fun-loving bravado that can only be described as dangerously contagious. People are catching on in a big way. 

“The crowd is a make or break for us. It’s not that we won’t put on a good show -- we’ve played our hearts out to two people before -- but it’s a way better time when people are involved with us. I’ve been on tour with bigger bands too that played to huge crowds, like 3,000 people, and it’s cool to play for that many people, but you don’t get to see anyone’s face, you don’t even get to see if anyone’s having a good time. You don’t get that feeling of warmth from a crowd that you do at a dive bar. We thrive on that energy.”

The band’s latest album, 2016's devil-horn-throwing ruckus-fest “Pile,” snagged me hook, line and sinker from the first note. Coincidentally, the same day Cashen and I spoke on the phone, Merge Records announced an Aug. 25 release date for the band's next album, “Toy." Sonically, the upcoming record -- which Cashen also produced -- is a far cry from where they started on their 2012 full-length debut “Fight.”

“When we first started out, we didn’t have any connections and it was just us recording in some guy’s living room. The first record we did, I gave up trying to find people [to record the band], like we would do little one-offs in random studios. And I gave up, and said ‘F--- it, let’s just record it in a garage on an Atari 5050 and just record it to tape and make it sound blown out and put that out.’”

Regardless of production value, the band’s records all contain a sense of raw urgency -- like the next riff peeled off will be their last. Cashen chalks it up to the band’s speedy bursts of creativity.

“Our songwriting process is pretty fast -- me and Sabrina usually get together for a month or two outside of the studio, randomly. We’ll pump out four or five songs in an hour or two. That kind of process probably translates in the studio.”

With the pace at which they’re writing/releasing kick-ass albums and blowing out stage after stage, it’s no wonder they’re one of the buzziest bands out there right now (they were appropriately the talk of this year’s SxSW). It also doesn’t hurt that Spoon mastermind and fellow Austinite, Britt Daniel, is a huge backer. The frontman heard the group, went to some shows, fell in love, invited A Giant Dog out on tour, and even made a guest appearance on the “Pile” song “Get With You & Get High.” Cashen told me Daniel makes a return on the new album, too.

“We didn’t even ask him to be on the next record, and he was like ‘Hey, can I come sing a song?’ [laughs] We didn’t even write anything for him, he got a rough copy of a song and was like, ‘Yea I’ll sing on that one.’ I was like, ‘You sure? Cool, go do it, man.’” [laughs]

When I asked him if he had any particularly cool or weird stories about the enigmatic Daniel, Cashen demurred.

“I don’t know…I don’t want to say anything incriminating,” he said laughing. “He’s really funny. He’s a funny dude.”

A Giant Dog headline Soda Bar on Thursday, June 15, with Creature Canyon and Chief White Lightning opening. Tickets are available here.

Dustin Lothspeich books The Merrow, plays in Diamond Lakes, and runs the music equipment-worshipping blog Gear and Loathing in San Diego. Follow his updates on Twitter or contact him directly.

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