A short bio
The Dogs is a Norwegian rock band comprising Kristopher Schau, Mads Martinsen, Roar Nilsen, Kenneth Simonsen, Henrik Odde Gustavsen and Stefan Höglin. The Oslo-based sextet formed in 2011 by releasing a number of limited, handmade 7-inch singles. Their debut album, Set Yourself on Fire and Follow the Smoke, came in the fall of 2013. Since then, The Dogs made their promise of releasing a new album during the first week of January every year.
Little Steven placed The Dogs’ tune «Crime is sexy» at the very top of his list of «The Coolest Songs in the World 2014», and in 2016 the band supported Bruce Springsteen in front of 37.000 fans in Frognerparken, Oslo.
The Dogs have come to a crossroads.
The Dogs have come to a crossroads. A band originally created out of lead singer and songwriter Kristopher Schau’s unshakeable sense of urgency, the Norwegian six-piece have gradually ramped up their commitment to each other and their music. In 2018, they will release their sixth studio album, The Grief Manual, ahead of their busiest ever year. And they have all been given a simple choice: keep up or get out.
“Everybody has agreed that we’re going to take a chance – if you can’t take the amount of work that needs to be done, then you’ll have to leave. And that includes me as well. I’ve told them, ‘If I slack, get another guy’, because I want the band to continue,’” Schau says. “But I’m not slacking, I’m staying forever,” he adds. Nobody is resting on their laurels. “We’re still scared that something is going to happen, so we have to save money for our next album, at least for now.”
There have been few changes in the band’s – and Schau’s – methods since they began, back in 2012. They still get together around the same time every year to record an album over a week or so. They still release the fruit of this labour on the first Monday of every January. And they still spend the year playing a shed-load of shows across Norway and Europe.
The Grief Manual is everything you’d expect from The Dogs. Intense, flat-out rock ‘n’ roll, with Schau’s raspy and often angry voice leading it all. There are a handful of anthemic, straight-up classic garage rock moments, like in the rough-and-ready call-to-arms that is ‘We Won’t Come Back’ or the hundred-miles-an-hour romp of ‘The Children He Loves The Least’.
But there are a few novel touches, this time. Dogs fan and singer Jorun Stiansen appears as a guest vocalist on the punky ‘Prelude To Murder’. (“We thought, yeah, why not her? She won Norwegian Idol and she probably still sings! So she came in.”) The album was finished so soon that they even had time to add in strings (arranged by bassist Roar Nilsen) to the mournful ‘Her Last Song’.
Is there any useful advice to be found in The Grief Manual? “Nope. We only present the problems. We have no answers whatsoever,” Schau says. The themes are reflected in some less-than-cheery song names, too.
This pessimism is even more deep-rooted in the lyrics, with a large helping of nihilistic tendencies. “Dearest friend, I know I’ve made you up / But you’re the only one I’ve got” Schau sings on ‘Hindsight’. Or, stronger still “Give up on hope / Give up on your dreams / There’s less to the sky than meets the eye / We work and we sleep and we fuck and we die”.
“I think these are the most negative lyrics so far. There’s not a glimmer of hope on this one. When the album title came up it sort of made everything worse,” says Schau.
If it’s not anger, it’s sadness, like in the morose ‘Her Last Song’, where Schau sings “She’s not afraid of dying / Everything she loved is gone / Her only left connection to life is a forgotten song” and almost croons “There will never be another you and me” in the song’s chorus.
Although the band’s beginnings were unconventional, with Schau getting the others to play unfamiliar instruments on the recording of their first single, they now know exactly how they work best. “When I write songs, I know what the other guys can do, because we play together so much and we’ve done so many records now,” Schau says. Ahead of the recording at Roar Nilsen’s Nabolaget studio in Oslo, the band thrashed things out during a week in the town of Horten. After this everybody knew what needed to be done. “You know what pieces you have to put into the puzzle,” Schau says.
The situation Schau now finds himself is not too far off his life 20-odd years ago. Once involved in numerous and various bands (Gartnerlosjen, The Cumshots, the iconic appliance-bashing trio Hurra Torpedo), TV shows as both writer and performer (Dag, Team Antonsen) and countless other projects, The Dogs is now his main focus alongside his podcasts.
“I’ve had to turn down a lot of jobs for next year because I know I won’t be able to do it because of the band. I’m living the same life as I did in 1994. I’m only doing radio and the band – and I’m making the same amount of money. It’s very strange,” he says.
The level of intensity and commitment he and the others will experience is something they’ve all been working towards for a long time. “Normally this doesn’t happen for people my age, but it’s fun. It’s what I’ve wanted since I was 16, really. It’s what we’ve all wanted,” he says. “It’s kind of weird because normally bands come to this stage when they’re in their early or mid-20s. I’m approaching 50. It’s a very weird situation.”
Don’t think that their most hectic year will see them buckling under the strain of the touring, either. Plans are being made beyond 2018, too. “If this works out the way I want it, it’ll probably be another eight years and I’ll be 55,” Schau says. On schedule, The Dogs will release their seventh record in January 2019 and soon after that will be their tenth anniversary. Schau is already preparing to mark both events. “This needs to go on, because I’ve made big plans!” he says. All that can wait. For now, it’s time to bring The Grief Manual into the world.
Authored by Luke Slater.