The formation of Australian rock outfit DAMNDOGS was completely organic and born wholely from the pure, deep-rooted passion of four talented musicians. Chris Cester, Mitch McIvor, Mark Wilson, and Louis Macklin set out to create a sound so unique, so interesting, and driven solely off their love for music, that it would defy genre chategorization- and they succeeded. Wanting to separate themselves from the mainstream melodies of Cester and Wilson’s other band, the highly successful Jet (which Macklin has also been touring with since 2009), DAMNDOGS deliver weird, dark, danceworthy, tunes that are impossible not to get addicted to. I recently spent an evening with Cester and Macklin, two of the nicest guys I have every encountered, and they filled me in on playing shows, the human-to-hipster ration in Melbourne, and just how much they love this new band.
The guys have been through Denver before, but not with DAMNDOGS. “DAMNDOGS have never been to Denver,” Cester shares. “Jet went through Colorado a couple of times in the last two years alone.” One of those times happened to be in Colorado Springs with Denver’s own Photo Atlas providing support. “At the Black Sheep?” Macklin asks. “That was a great show! It’s a strange town there. It has a spectacular backdrop, but it’s really weird.” “I really remember that show,” Cester marvels. “And I hate to sound cocky now, but I particularly remember we were f****** on fire that night, it was a really good gig. We rolled up to the venue and were like, ‘What the f***? This place is crazy, who’s going to come out to death alley and see a gig?’ But people were there and it was rocking.”
The musicians found Colorado Springs to be a bit weird, but how do they feel about Denver? “It’s beautiful,” Cester shares. “As far as the town goes, I haven’t really had a chance to spend time there. You know, you’re there for a day and then you wake up hung over, go to soundcheck, play the gig, then you leave. It’s difficult to get out and explore. But the fans are good.”
Though he currently lives in Los Angeles, Cester is originally from Melbourne, Australia, where Macklin still resides. Since I have never been to Australia, I wonder what the music scene is like over there. “It’s more backstabbing in Melbourne than it is even in LA,” Cester reveals. “It’s a strange juxtaposition of support and discerning crowds,” Macklin concurs. “Everyone’s in a band- absolutely everyone. So someone could be in the back watching you play, with their arms folded thinking to themselves, ‘I’m having the best time of my life, this band is incredible’, but not expressing it in any way.” “There is no sense of camaraderie really,” Cester chimes in. “It’s pretty poor. Everyone’s got something sh**** to say about you. Unfortunately, what Melbourne has going against it as well, is it has probably the worst human-to-hipster ratio on the planet,” Cester explains and we all burst out laughing. “I’m serious,” he relays. “The hipster to human ratio is f***** up down there. I don’t want to paint a horrible picture of it, it’s my home and I love it more than anywhere else, but it can be quite snobby. Sometimes that’s good, it inspires us.” “Ultimately it forces you to work harder,” Macklin adds. “It forces you to play your ass off when there’s a sense of competition.”
DAMNDOGS released their debut EP, Strange Behavior, in August and the music is already receiving superlative reviews. “We aren’t expecting to sell one million copies of it,” Cester admits. “This is a first step for us. We’re doing this on our own right now and we’ve had opportunities to get into bed with companies- record companies, publishing companies, and that sort of stuff- but so far we’ve stuck to our guns and not gotten involved with any of them. So for us this is a really important first step in just announcing our existence to everybody.” “In the short term, it’s an album,” Macklin shares. “The EP songs were recorded about a year ago and it’s such a common predicament for bands to be in because it takes so long to release the music.”
“We really want people to hear about this band organically,” Cester says thoughtfully. “I’ve been in another band where that wasn’t the case. When companies get involved they can get in and f*** that up and really steer you in directions that are out of your control. We want to be massive, everyone does. You don’t do it unless you want everyone to love you. If you don’t think it’s worth people’s attention, you don’t put it out at all. We have a lot of belief in the band, but at the same time this is a really organic process and it’s been a real pleasure to do it in this way, to grow it the way we’re growing it. We were in my backyard two weeks ago hand-stamping our EPs. It was great.”
In support of the EP release, DAMNDOGS played a string of California shows, as well as a couple of sold-out Australia gigs. “It was amazing,” Cester says. “The shows were really great. There’s something really freeing about what we’re doing. It’s a little bit more genre defying then what I was doing before and so there’s two great elements to that: one is that people who come expecting a rock and roll band aren’t getting it and I enjoy that confusion; and two, people who don’t know anything about us are hearing something they’ve never heard before. So the shows were great.” “That’s exactly what I was going to say,” Macklin agrees. “We played totally diverse venues as well. In San Francisco we played in a dirty punk club, you know, and here in LA we played in a couple of small, hip bars.”
It is obvious in hearing the gentlemen talk about DAMNDOGS that they’re riding off of sheer love and fervor for the music. When they write songs for this band there is nothing inhibiting them, no one telling them to do it in a particular way, no industry folks telling them the music is too weird. Besides, in their minds, the weirder the better. “We try not to be a rock band,” Cester says matter-of-factly. “We’re not a rock band. I don’t even want to put any tags on it because that just fuels the fire and you end up answering questions about genres for the rest of your life. It’s definitely not a rock band. We’ve said to the people that are helping us build this that we’re not interested in going down that road- we want it to be as weird as possible. In my conversation with our manager I said, “I don’t want to play in rock clubs, I want to play in gay bars, bowling alleys, I don’t care’. You’ve got to go where you’re not wanted. Everyone’s seen a rock band. These are strange times as well, so why not be strange?”
DAMNDOGS are currently in the writing process, but soon enough they will hit the road again. And when they do, you will not want to miss an opportunity to see this band perform. Between their one-of-a-kind hooks, their contagious energy, and their kind, friendly, laid-back personalities, this foursome is headed for greatness.