A group of five musicians hailing from the streets of West Philadelphia with a name evoking two notorious hip-hop icons — it wouldn’t be hard for an outsider to mistake Dr. Dog for a hardcore rap group. And although Dr. Dog laughs off such foolishness, make no mistake about the band and its recently released album, Shame, Shame. These guys are for real.

Dr. Dog

Thursday at 8:30 p.m.
Blind Pig
$15

Dr. Dog will bring its upbeat, smile-inducing and psychedelia-laced brand of retro-influenced rock to Ann Arbor when its live show hits the Blind Pig this week. The Michigan Daily got the opportunity to chat with Dr. Dog co-founder, songwriter and lead guitarist Scott McMicken about the new record, changes within the band and its last experience in Ann Arbor before they take the Blind Pig stage Thursday night.

Formed in 1999, the band’s first break came in 2004, when McMicken and co-founder Toby Leaman attended a My Morning Jacket concert and handed frontman Jim James a demo tape. Impressed, James took Dr. Dog on My Morning Jacket’s next tour and the rest was history. Since then, the band has steadily built a devoted following opening for The Black Keys, The Strokes, The Raconteurs and others, as well as playing music festivals like Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza.

There are numerous differences between Dr. Dog’s new album and the band’s last release, 2008’s Fate, including a new drummer, a new record label and working with an outside producer for the first time.

Despite the fact that Shame, Shame was recorded before bringing in drummer Eric Slick — nicknamed “Teach” — McMicken is thrilled with the inclusion of the band’s newest member.

“He’s changed the band immensely,” McMicken said. “He’s seen us play for five or six years, so he’s got this outsider’s enthusiasm that’s been extremely infectious for us all. Beyond that, he’s incredibly talented as a musician.”

Dr. Dog’s move from record label Park the Van to the larger ANTI- afforded the band greater promotion and access to superior musical equipment, but the band’s creative freedom has not been compromised, McMicken said:

“ANTI- still feels a lot like Park the Van. There’s no parameters. They just want us to do what we want to do. It’s an exhilarating place to be because they’re able to get your name out there, get you hooked up with people — things that Park the Van couldn’t do — but at the same time they treat us the same way.”

The new album also marks the first time Dr. Dog collaborated with producer Rob Schnapf, who has previously worked with Beck and Elliott Smith. Wanting to change its sound slightly, the band praises Schnapf for his hands-off approach.

“He worked really well helping us make changes we wanted to make,” McMicken said. “It was a really good match. I feel (that) because he understood that we’re a band that’s been around a while and have a way of doing things, he didn’t try to force anything. He just tried to add little bits where he could. And to me that’s the way to change and grow — in small steps.”

Dr. Dog is no stranger to Ann Arbor, having played the Blind Pig in the fall of 2008. McMicken cites the concert as one of the more memorable shows he has played, stating his surprise that the band had such a devoted fan base in Michigan.

“I remember the crowd was insane. They were lit up! Ann Arbor kind of took that to a whole other level, which is the level of hooting and hollering and shouting and dancing and jumping,” he said.

Since its release last week, Shame, Shame has received glowing reviews with some critics calling it the band’s best work to date. Often named one of the most energetic live acts around, Dr. Dog’s pit stop in Ann Arbor this Thursday is a tasty treat for any lover of the classic rock kaleidoscope that characterizes the band’s music.

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