While Dr. Dog may not be a band of canines with doctoral degrees, they definitely are a band chocked-full of talented artists. We at The MAT Magazine recently got a chance to chat with one of our favorite folk-rock band’s very own Eric Slick, and talk to him about his incredible career thus far. With the recent release of The Psychedelic Swamp out on Anti-, and a multi-national tour in support, Slick and Dr. Dog have consistently kept us all in awe.
TMM: What does being in Dr. Dog mean to you?
Eric: I think it means a lot to me. I’ve been listening to Dr. Dog since I was 18 years old. A friend of mine turned me on to them just around the time the Takers and Leavers EP came out, and I was on vacation in Ocean City, New Jersey with my family and he was like, “hey, Dr. Dog is playing a show in Atlantic City” which is like half an hour away from Ocean City. I was like, “yeah let’s go check it out”, and I went to go see them and that was the first time I saw them of 14 times. I was a big fan of their work, and eventually I became their friend, and when their last drummer quit I joined the band and it’s been kinda crazy. So yeah, it’s been a really meaningful experience to be in that group.
TMM: What did you find most surprising about touring with Dr. Dog for the first time that you wouldn’t expect from a fan’s perspective?
Eric: How well they get along. I hadn’t been in a real band yet, you know a band of that size that was functioning so well, so yeah, I was just shocked about how communicative everyone was. I feel like it taught me a lot about how to communicate with people every day, on the road and off of it. Everyone in that band is so kind and giving and kind of old fashioned in that way, like they’re not really very into their technology and everyone is good about talking to each other.
TMM: Obviously coming into a band that is already established and replacing a band member can be daunting for anybody, how was that transition for you?
Eric: It was hard because I felt like they had plenty of musical and business success without my input. I think it’s crazy because a lot of us had been so skeptical of my presence in the band, and I was definitely self conscious about it. I mean I knew I was doing an okay job when I first started, but It took me a long time to get acclimated to the way that they work. I think that being okay with it, or not being worried about what the fans thought took up until Scott told be that they hired me for a reason and for what I brought to the table, but it was definitely stressful for sure.
TMM: How do you think your joining the band has affected the sound?
Eric: Oh man, I have no idea. I have no perspective on that. I think a lot of people have told me I brought out the weirder side in those guys, because I’m a complete weirdo. So yeah, I think the weirder side, and people have told me that when I joined I made them practice a lot more, which is interesting. So maybe I was a bit of a task master. Me and Frank were really into long practices.
TMM: I know you mentioned before that Dr. Dog was kind of your first experience in a “real band,” but I also know that you played with Adrian Belew before Dr. Dog and worked on other projects as well. What was your life as a musician pre Dr. Dog?
Eric: Before Dr. Dog I was playing a lot of progressive rock and improvisational music and things that are not nearly as commercial as Dr. Dog is. I was playing with Adrian for about four years, and I was in a Frank Zappa cover band for like 3 to 4 years. It’s just a totally different musical experience because I was playing a lot more notes in those bands. That music is pretty technically difficult. So yeah, I think it was just a completely different experience and perspective. When I joined Dr. Dog it was like the polar opposite of that.
TMM: What genres and artists are responsible for who you are as an artist today?
Eric: I think to this day my number one influence is Captain Beefheart. I think I probably listen to his music more than anybody else in my life. I mean excluding like The Beatles who was like my youth, but then when I hit my teenage years my obsession with Captain Beefheart kind of just like permeated and continues to permeate everything I do and all the visual art that I make, like poetry. That guy was just so amazing so I think I like him a lot, and whenever I’m trying to write a song I always try to think of what I think like what Bjork might do. So it’s totally different, I’m always thinking about Captain beefheart and Bjork.
TMM: Who do you admire right now in the industry?
Eric: Kendrick. The Kendrick record that came out like three days ago is amazing, and I actually got to see him. He just played a festival on Saturday night and I just had the upmost respect for him. He’s just so inspirational and shows you that hard work is everything. I just listened to his first EP a couple days ago, just to remember where he started, and he’s just getting more and more fans. So I would definitely put him up there as an artist I would admire.
TMM: What has been your favorite festival to play?
Eric: Well, the festival I’ve played the most is Bonnaroo, and I definitely love Bonnaroo, but my favorite festival to play is Pickathon in Portland. It’s in Happy Valley, Oregon and it’s like on this farm. They can’t really have more than 4,000 people there and it’s just like an amazing community, and they always book the best bands. I have some life long friends from playing at Pickathon a couple of times. It’s just one of those experiences where you go there and you click and you’re friends for the rest of your life.
TMM: Do you have any pre-show rituals?
Eric: Yes, but I can’t tell you any of them.
TMM: If you had to describe Dr. Dog to aliens, what would you say?
Eric: A bunch of dudes who shower rarely, and who care a lot about what they do.
Eric: Well actually, I’m at their recording studio now with Lithuania making our second record. Yeah, Lithuania is my band with two of my best friends Dominic Angelella and Ricardo. It’s a totally different experience. I mean, I don’t write songs for Dr. Dog, I’m just there to be the support on the drum set. But with this band, I write and I sing and it’s totally challenging in a completely different way. Both are very close to my heart, and I kind of put equal value on both bands. I think last year Lithuania did something like 70 shows, and we did about the same with Dr. Dog. I’m really trying to balance them out and I think it’s definitely possible.
TMM: You also do some solo as well, if I’m not mistaken?
Eric: I just recently put out an EP, I have like a series of different four track demos, that’s just like anything. I record a lot on my four track and on my computer. So from anything that’s not very quality that I have a lot of, that I want to hear, I just sort of clean it up and put it out and not think about it. I put so much of my time into making records sound good that it’s kind of nice to have the process completely laid out for everyone. Demos from Lithuania, or other things, or just odds and ends I don’t know what to do with, that’s kind of where they’re living. Actually, this label Seagreen Records is about to put it out on tape, and I might put it on vinyl, which would be really cool.The challenge was to record an EP in a day so I could look at all instrumental and hold up in the Dr. Dog studio, which is called Mt. Slippery, the day before halloween. It’s pretty creepy sounding, so it might be the halloween in there.
TMM: Are you a vinyl person, or are you a digital person?
Eric: I like both, you know? I have a lot of records, but they’re mostly just like the weirdest things, like the weirdest ones I can find. Like, I don’t have Thriller on vinyl, but I have stuff like friends have given me and things I find at the record store where i’m like “that’s really strange, I should get that.” But as far as digital goes, I’m probably not helping the cause, but I do love Spotify and I love streaming music. I’ll be driving around and I’ll listen to almost anything, I can pretty much find whatever I want, so it’s definitely useful for that.
TMM: When you come to Chicago on tour, do you have any favorite spots you hit up?
Eric: Oh, yeah! There’s a couple that I can think of. I have a friend Jeff Mauro who lives there and is like a sandwich king of sorts. He just opened up a restaurant called Pork & Mindys, which is supposed to be amazing. So, when I go there next week I’m just gonna hit up this new spot called Pork & Mindys. And then as far as deep dish goes, we pretty much always get Lou Malnati’s with the band after the show. All of us get fat in one night, one slice of that pizza is like a thousand calories. It’s crazy.
TMM: What are you most looking forward to about this upcoming tour?
Eric: Oh man, I love playing in places like Chicago, and going to Buffalo and Toronto, just like places that we don’t get to go to very often. I’m excited that The Districts are going to be open during the tour. Then the tour ends in New York, and I’m probably most excited that my girlfriend’s coming to the show and it’s her birthday, and I’m trying to give her a nice birthday
TMM: According to your website you sleep in three half-hour intervals, do you care to shine any light on this?
Eric: People accuse me of being a workaholic, like my family accuses me of being a workaholic, so I just thought it’d be funny to put it in my bio that I do polyphasics. I actually sleep 6 or 7 hours, which most people would say is not enough, but I wake up super early and am ready to go. My bio also says that if I were to ever play scrabble with Bjork I would beat her with the word “octopus”. I think my bio needs any update.
Make sure to catch Eric on tour with Dr. Dog, dates listed below! Peep his band Lithuania as well, they’re one to watch.
Dr. Dog Tour Dates
Words by Katherine Wilburn