Lost DogsWhen word got out that the leaders of four of Christian music's most respected alternative/rock bands were in the studio together, speculation on what the results would be was rampant. Fans of Daniel Amos, The Seventy Sevens, Adam Again and The Choir waited with bated breath to see what the collective creativity of Terry Taylor, Mike Roe, Gene Eugene and Derri Daugherty could produce under the moniker
The ensuing release, Scenic Routes, took most of those fans by surprise. Instead of being "alternative," the music was very traditional--exploring forms of what could be termed "American" music, such as blues, country, bluegrass and folk-rock. It was stripped-down acoustic, recorded over a few weekends in the lounge of a recording studio. Truly a collaboration, with each member contributing music and/or lyrics, the Lost Dogs allowed these four artists to stretch themselves in ways that their original groups wouldn't permit.
The experience proved to be such a positive one that they decided to repeat it. Little Red Riding Hood is the second offering from Lost Dogs, and will be released sometime soon. I recently spent some time talking to three of the four members. Tracking these guys down is no easy feat--they are all very busy, and setting up a group interview was out of the question. I was able to spend about fifteen minutes each with Terry Taylor, Mike Roe and Gene Eugene, and got their impressions and comments on the new recording and what it's like working with the other members.
"Each one of us had such respect for one another that it made it easy to open up and to share a song."--Terry Taylor
Terry Taylor has been involved in the "Christian" music scene for many years--both as a member of bands such as Daniel Amos and The Swirling Eddies and as a producer, working with artists like Randy Stonehill and Jacob's Trouble. My interview with Taylor had to be rescheduled--ironically, not due to his incredibly busy schedule, but to a hungry rodent in my neighborhood. Twenty-five minutes before I was to call Taylor, a squirrel took a bite out of a power line just down the street, causing a loss of electricity that rendered my cordless phone and tape machine useless. He graciously agreed to reschedule, and several days later we were able to discuss some of his thoughts and feelings on the Lost Dogs.
You've been involved in a lot of different things over the years, with Daniel Amos and Swirling Eddies. What's different about the Lost Dogs, about working with the members of this group as opposed to some of the others that you've worked with?
Well, every configuration, every band that you're involved with, there's a different sort of chemistry going on, different personalities. You sort of stir that up and see what comes out. I think that what was most intriguing to me about Lost Dogs was it was a chance to work with guys that I really have admired. There's that little competitiveness that each band has, which is great, because it spurs you on to better than you would ordinarily do. At first the thought of getting together with three other people to write songs was a little threatening, in that, because I admire each of the guys as songwriters, I thought "Well, this is going to be a tough audience, a tough crowd to bring material to." But it turned out not to be. It turned out that each one of us had such respect for one another that it made it easy to open up and to share a song, and everyone was excited and spurred on to really contribute to whatever song it was. So I think that's part of it--the other part of it is because most of us have had some of our musical roots grounded in folk, country, and that sort of thing, and this was an opportunity to take some of the things that we hadn't been doing for years and start doing them again. Since we're all sort of in the rock-n-roll, alternative type bands, it was a chance to sort of lay it back, and get out the acoustic guitars and explore that part of our musical past. Some of us have had songs that we couldn't do with our own bands, and that gave an opportunity to sort of open that up. It was very fulfilling for all of us, in that regard.
How would you describe this record, as opposed to the first one?
Well, probably a lot of it is a little harder-edged, I think, in terms of the guitars, and that sort of thing. There's a little more electric guitar, a little more edge to it, but I don't think we completely abandoned what we did the first time around, because for one thing, there was such a great response, through letters, towards the first record--it seemed to have struck a chord with a lot of people. And it was refreshing, not only for us, but for them as well, that we didn't go the obvious way, and sort of duplicate what we do in our individual bands, but that we took an altogether different route. I think there was probably a knee-jerk reaction somewhat in the press, because it was considered country music, or a sort of Traveling Wilburys novelty thing that we were doing. But I think that anybody who really listens to the record hears some really serious stuff there, and some really great songwriting going on, and I think that with the second record, we want to continue the tradition, and let everybody know that we were serious about what we were doing. Not that we were going to change with every record, that the next record would be a rock record, and the next record would be some alternative thing, but try and keep it fairly consistent. And we enjoyed the way that we recorded it the first time, which was to go into a room, set up microphones, get our acoustic guitars out, teach everybody the songs and roll tape.
Have you had a lot of people anticipating what it might be like, a lot of interest in it? You said that the last one generated a lot of letters.
What's nice about Lost Dogs is that it has such an appeal across the board. I had more kids at Cornerstone come up, little kids, with their folks, and the folks would go "Tell him, Billy, what you like" and Billy would go "Devil Red!" [in reference to the song "Why is the Devil Red" from Scenic Routes.] And then we have our fans who appreciate what we're doing, plus the record was bought by a lot of people who wouldn't buy our individual band records. We have an appeal to a younger crowd, and we have an appeal to an older crowd. It's really that kind of venue that goes across the board. We want to be able to take it eventually, and do a lot of touring, because we are getting more comfortable with that option again... we just enjoy it so much that we want to keep it going, and we know that if we can get into a touring situation, as a band, we'll just really begin to gel. I think that there is a lot of anticipation from people on this next record. People are just sort of waiting to see, "Well, what's going to come out this time?"
"When we work together, we are more similar, oddly enough, because we are just all basically lazy when it comes to this project."--Mike Roe
I have to admit, I was somewhat nervous about my call to Mike Roe. The Seventy Sevens have been one of my favorite groups for almost a decade, and I have long admired his musical ability. But what came out of our conversation was the realization that he is just an ordinary guy--blessed with an extraordinary talent.
This is the second recording with the Lost Dogs--what's different about this one?
Well, all the songs are new songs--in many ways it's very similar. You've got the same sort of mixture of pop, rock, country, gospel, blues--a lot of American music. This one probably sounds a lot more like a rock album than the last one, which felt a little more traditional... I don't know, it's really hard for me to say, there's so many different things on it. It's just a big grab bag when you really get down to it.
You guys just all sit down, and you each throw in something?
Yeah, you know, we just sort of volunteer songs that we've had laying around, that maybe didn't fit our own bands, or they might be little pet novelty songs that we've been wanting to do for years, and never really had a vehicle for it. I've got this song called "Jesus Loves You, Brian Wilson," which is kind of a tribute to the Beach Boys and Phil Spector, and it's something that I've threatened to foist on The Seventy Sevens for forever, I've had it sitting around for a long time. But it was only when this project came up that I decided to do it, because I didn't have any songs ready, and I knew that Terry would love something like this--so I said "What the heck, let's do it for this." And that's kind of how these things come around.
How has working with the Lost Dogs stretched you as an artist as opposed to working with the guys that you normally do?
It's a lot more informal, it's a lot more fun. Not so serious, kind of a spontaneous, it happens real quick. You can just kind of do it, you don't have to get so uptight about it, it's not so important, it's just fun. And I would hope that sense of fun translates onto the record. Because we go in there, and it sort of doesn't matter--you want to do a good job, but you don't want to be so picky about it, kind of work fast and work smart.
Do you find that you are all very different and does that make it difficult to work together, or are you similar in type?
When we work together, we are more similar, oddly enough, because we are just all basically lazy when it comes to this project--no one really wants to work very hard, so we goof off a lot... we have fun, and somehow an album comes out in the end. And that's amazing to me.
"I guess I feel less pressure on Lost Dogs, because most of the other guys have a lot of ideas."--Gene Eugene.
Probably the hardest one to get in touch with, due to the demand for his recording and engineering skills, I was finally able to reach Gene at--where else--the studio. He graciously disconnected his call-waiting so that we wouldn't be interrupted, and proceeded to take a few minutes to talk about the group that he was instrumental in forming.
What drew you to be interested in the Lost Dogs project to begin with?
I don't know, it was just an idea that we had been kicking around for a while. I guess just a chance to do something with some people other than the people that are in my band, and also, we kind of, at the time, thought "Well, this would be a good way to promote all of the bands, and maybe do some gigs where we didn't have to do the whole big band thing, just take our acoustic guitars," and it was, just like an angle, to do something else.
How did you decide who the players were going to be?
Well, me and Terry, we were the ones who originally thought about it, and Derri we thought about right away, and then, I guess Mike was just the obvious guy, because he's on the same label as the rest of us, and he's like, a singer in a band, like the rest of us, and we just called him up, and he was into it.
What do you think is different about this project?
I don't know, I guess I don't know the project--I haven't lived with it long enough to really answer that question. I guess it's similar in that it's song-oriented--like a songwriter's record kind of thing. I think it might be a little more "poppy" and a little less country-ish. A little bit.
Was there anything about the reaction to the last record that surprised you?
Well, it immediately got pigeon-holed as a country record. I thought that was a little surprising, because it has as much of blues and folk influences as it does country. I was a little surprised that people that liked it sometimes didn't even know about our bands at all--we'd get letters from people, and they had no idea about these other bands we are in. That was a little surprising--I thought it would just be the people that liked all of the bands. And, I was surprised that I was able to work so well with everyone else, and stuff--I'm usually more of an on-my-own type of guy.
How would you sum up your experience with the Lost Dogs, compared to working with your own band, Adam Again?
The recording process is a little different, in that we are all sitting around with acoustic guitars and doing it, basically doing the songs live, right after we learn them... I guess I feel less pressure on Lost Dogs, because most of the other guys have a lot of ideas... in my group, I feel responsible a lot of times for coming up with the direction and the lyrics--I'm the lyric guy in that band, and it's the hardest part for me. So in the Lost Dogs, Terry's mostly the lyric guy, and everybody else writes their own lyrics to a couple of the songs. I like that part of it, I like someone else doing that, in this case. It's a whole different musical thing, to me it doesn't sound anything like what I do musically with Adam Again.
Unfortunately, Derri wasn't available to give us his take on the recording of the second Lost Dogs project. But from what can be gleaned from talking to Gene Eugene, Mike Roe and Terry Taylor, it appears that the fans of Lost Dogs can look forward to another scenic trip through American music culture, hosted by dogs that "bark the Nicene Creed and dream of bones to eat."
Article originally appeared in THE LIGHTHOUSE July/August, 1993