There’s something magical that happens when four musicians come together from four completely different backgrounds. For Mountain View’s Dogcatcher, the result is a mellow, subtly-intense blend of soul, jazz, folk and indie-rock.
“All of us have individual flavors and they’re all there equally. It’s like cooking with four ingredients,” says lead vocalist Andrew Heine.
Their first album, KILR, was a quiet folk-oriented solo album Heine wrote while living in San Diego and digesting the Iraq War he’d recently returned from. After KILR, Heine returned to his hometown, Mountain View, and formed a proper group, plucking musicians out of totally different bands to create an eclectic, genre-defying sound. On Dogcatcher’s second album, It’s Easy, the four members demonstrate that they have truly come into their own.
“I’m coming from a jazz background,” Heine says. “Jared Milos has been playing bass in a reggae band for a long time. Ramon Esquivel’s got marching drum roots and he likes a lot of hip hop.”
Rather than take all of their individual styles and blending it into something unrecognizable, Dogcatcher has found a way to develop a cohesive sound, without losing any of the member’s unique voices.
It’s Easy is the end result of a gradual evolution the band members took to find their unique sound. The band’s early shows involved playing full band renditions of Heine’s folk songs off of KILR. But they weren’t happy with the sit down atmosphere their shows created. They wanted people to dance and have fun.
“We were just trying to keep ourselves entertained. I wanted people to have a good time. This album specifically aimed for that. We want people to move and get into our music,” Heine says.
“The style change was purely motivated by the vibe we wanted to have at shows,” says Esquivel.
As they started to write new music they continued to follow this groovier, more eclectic path. Rather than focus on the guitar, like KILR, they started with the bass and drums, building danceable rhythms and growing from there, with the guitar adding texture and depth. Heine switched to the Fender Rhodes electric piano, which naturally gave the songs a more soulful sound.
The six songs on It’s Easy reflect not only Dogcatcher’s distinct sound, but each song has a unique vibe. Some of the songs lean heavier into rock and roll, while others fall more into a jazz or soul sound.
Heine’s soft, hushed voice and simple-stated lyrics compliment the easy, hip-shaking nature of the music. But for listeners looking for lyrics with depth, Heine will not disappoint. Rather than aim for overt expressions of emotion, Heine always goes for the understated, which makes the emotionality behind the music that much more powerful with repeat listens. On the closing song “Sezio” Heine sings, “It’s amazing I’m alive today/now let’s make it an event.” This simple line was inspired by Heine’s time in Iraq and seeing firsthand how fragile life really is.
While KILR is an album of more obvious personal expression, It’s Easy is no less emotional. In fact, what Heine and the rest of Dogcatcher have created is something few bands can boast: intelligent, thoughtful dance music.
“It’s Easy is written with the same intellectual intent as KILR, but there are definitely more parts where it’s fun, where everyone can feel good and relate to it,” Heine says.