Interview: Alex Stoitsiadis of Dogleg Is Ready to Perform a Proper Show of Melee for an At-Home Audience

From a bedroom project to a full band, Dogleg have been making waves with their hyper referential and energetic sound. Back in March, Dogleg released Melee to critical acclaim and was set to hit stages to share their exuberant stage presence with fans. Literally that same week, closures due to COVID-19 put the brakes on touring and live performances.

With most venues still closed to the public, Dogleg are determined that people get a full picture of what they’re capable of in a live setting. Thankfully, the band will be performing on Audiotree’s live streaming series Staged, which has been putting on some amazing shows at Lincoln Hall and giving fans at home a taste of the pre-COVID concert life at home. Dogleg will be playing live on Monday August 24 and Brandon Smith had the chance to speak with Alex Stoitsiadis about Melee, what the band has been up to during the COVID slowdown, and more in advance of the show.
-Julian Ramirez

Obviously there’s a lot of funny stereotypes surrounding Pitchfork reviews. So, the album, Melee came out March 13 and then three days later everyone’s favorite emo band reviewer Ian Cohen puts out the review and it’s considered Best New Music. What does it feel like to get the indie rock gold medal? Does it feel like a bad thing? Do you feel good about it? 

Oh man, I’ve thought about this so much actually. In my opinion I feel like there are just as many good things as bad things with that little connotation that you got the great review from Pitchfork. First of all, it gives you a much bigger audience, which is fantastic and I’m really happy about that. Second it gets a few music critics to be on your side and agree that it’s a good album. But on the flip side there will always be these holier than thou hipsters that are going to say, “If Ian Cohen gave it a good score I’m not even going to listen to it.” That’s fine I guess but I think it’s really dumb. I’m someone who’s very sensitive to criticism and the whole album is about not being good enough. We spent all this time making a record by ourselves in our own house about how oh it sucks to not feel good enough and then we get a nice review and all these kids are just like “Wow this is just mediocre. This is just crap Pitchfork.” Prophecy fulfilled in a way.

Don’t get me wrong. Pitchfork does have some dumb takes and bad old takes but they’re a great resource for music. For me to get into music at a very young age and see what are the good albums I should be listening to and they were a great place to start. Everyone has their own way of viewing music websites and that’s fine you can digest things however you want but not liking someone on that principle and see we’re roped into that’s just really weird. I never would have thought of that just recording stuff by ourselves. The review still feels very surreal. I never would have expected it to get best new music. Like a 7 and I would have been fine with that. It’s a weird jumble of feelings and you want to be proud but not too “Hell Yeah!” about it because it’s not a competition. It’s just art. 

I think when things become a little hyper focused especially with people our age who have consumed Pitchfork content for so long there’s a negative opinion of those who have solely used it to define their music taste unless you navigate in circles where everyone has been using Pitchfork as the guide for music coverage. I’m going to listen to whatever they recommend but I’ll still go to a house show and see my friends play a few sets. 

You’re going to be playing Audiotree Staged. How does it feel to be playing in a venue but there won’t be anyone around? 

In my opinion, playing live is my favorite way of being perceived. We tried to market the album in that way with the first video being a live video because that’s what we’re all about. We have a saying: 50% of us is recorded the other 50% is the experience of the live show. It’s such an important aspect and we really need and want people to see that. With that being said, things like Audiotree Staged is super awesome and we’re glad we can be supported and people can also find out what we’re all about. It’ll be nice to have a “proper show” that isn’t a year or two down the road. I’ve been thinking our first show is going to be a 1- or 2-year anniversary of the album, which is crazy to me but now we have the opportunity to show it off and I’m really excited for it because I adore playing live; it’s my favorite thing.  

It’s a weird situation to be in but you seem to have a lot more optimism about having the platform to play shows online.  How’ve you and your bandmates been handling COVID as musicians given all the hype surrounding the album and the now canceled tour? 

We had a pretty packed year and everything started going away one by one. We basically went into salvage mode and set up some online streams playing Instagram Live, which is the complete opposite of what I thought the album should be presented as but people still loved it. But it’s very interesting how much everything changed from being a super packed year to basically nothing.

In terms of holding up we just hope something comes back to normal. Right now, we’re just seeking out more opportunities for more virtual and studio stuff with a lot of focus on merch. It’s one of these we can push that isn’t the album that people can still support us in a way and keeps things going. I’ve been trying to write new stuff but there’s very little motivation with everything going on. So, we’ve been practicing, trying to keep tight, and keep our performances on point. Whenever we practice it’s a breath of fresh air where I’m like “ahh we still got it.” So, it’s a nice little thing to hold onto.  

It’s a tough time for the whole industry but it’s great you’ve been findings ways to combat that. The album is called Melee and I did tune into some of the band’s Twitch streams. So, I’m assuming it’s named after Super Smash Bros Melee.  

Oh yeah that’s true. So, we were tossing around album names and it was one that had come up on the basis that our bassist Chase plays and loves SSBM. It’s a great game and it also can also be taken in different directions for people that don’t know the game. If you Google “Melee,” you’ll get the game as well as the definition, which is a struggle or a confused fight, which is exactly what the album sounded like. It’s a great album descriptor but also a great reference so it just stuck and we went with that. Some people think it’s corny but a lot of bands in the DIY/Emo sphere are pretty corny and rip off Pokémon names but it’s all in good fun so who cares. 

You can do whatever you want as long as it’s in good faith and you’re not a bad person. Given the circumstances of the world and the album release do you feel like the lyrics on the album have a different meaning now? 

I’d say so. A lot of people were saying the song “Bueno” was a harbinger of the quarantine stuff with the message of the song being stay at home. But in my eyes when I was writing it was more delivered as a Fuck You to someone; just stay home don’t interact with me. So, it’s really weird for it to totally shift into something else, which is interesting with everything happening. Another thing a lot of people interpret the lyrics as relationship-based like a romantic relationship falling out and I’m nah that’s not what this is.  

I feel like that’s the instant correlation when it comes to an emo band. They must be talking about a relationship. That’s not life all the time. 

It’s more about internal relationships like dealing with yourself and your own anxiety. Occasionally dealing with people outside of you like toxic people and that’s not necessarily only romantic relationships. Most of the lyrics are out of anger and totally different reasons but it’s interesting for people to take them that way. My thought on that is if that’s how you feel awesome, I hope you connect with it in that way. That’s how the words were designed I didn’t want to make them super confessional. I feel like when you are hyper focused and very descriptive about a situation it tends to lose that connection. If it’s not relatable to someone who’s listening to it so I try to scale it back and be more subversive. It’s not supposed to be a confessional it’s supposed to be a reflection of when you feel anxious and you can’t always get the words and feelings exactly perfect. So, it’s going to be a pile up of thoughts, words, and feelings. I like that the album represents it that way. I’m proud of how we did it in that way. 

Dogleg started over as a bedroom project. Starting out did you ever expect a full band or was it always going to be a one-person ordeal? 

When I started it in the back of my mind, I knew I was going to need a band to help me play all of these parts. I did the solo shows with the loop pedal and try to piece together the songs and it’s totally different from having a band, which is obviously way better. 

Did you ever listen to the band Girlfriends with the blue album cover? I remember around 2010 videos surfaced of the live shows as him playing as a one-man band and they’re nuts because it sounds exactly like the album.  

I haven’t listened to it in such a long time but it’s definitely a blast from the past. Starting out I thought this was always going to be my own thing because this started out as a frustration from being in another band where I wasn’t being listened to for ideas. Then I did that and I got a band, realized these things are different but in a better way. The band is more important than the me in it. I’ll bring in demos and then we all tackle it together and then it’s something that all of us have made. Which is cool because it’s so much different from where I started. It’s nice and we all have very similar stylistic ideas and paths we want to take. I’m excited for the next album because we synergized with our new drummer for live performances. It just hits hard and plays faster and I excited to write a full song with him and then we can have an album that’s super definitive of what we are. I don’t know what the direction will be but I’m super excited to find out.  

I know on the first album you sampled Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World a few times. What was the mindset behind that? 

I was just really into that movie and Perks of Being a Wallflower. They just kind of hit me in my little high school heart so my thought was I got to use this. Looking back, it’s kind of corny but the kids seem to like it. I always thought the movie was cool, the lines were fun to add, and it was a nice little touch back in the day.  

Not sure if you knew but it is the 10th anniversary of the film. There’s also a rumor the Xbox Live Arcade game may get a re-release at some point or at least the creator Bryan Lee O’Malley hinted at it in a tweet this year. 

Oh shit! If they put that game on the Nintendo Switch it would sell like hot cakes; everyone would buy it. It’s so easy and the Anamanaguchi soundtrack for that game is so good.  

Any music you’ve been listening to that you’d like to share? 

Honestly just a lot of Japanese jazz or anything that sounds like the weather channel. I’ve tried to listen to less rock music and get more influence from stuff. It’s really fun to just go through some playlist and hit shuffle. I found a band on YouTube called Casiopea and it sounds like Grand Turismo music. 

Dogleg will be performing a streamed show on the Lincoln Hall stage for Audiotree: Staged on Monday, August 24. Tickets are $11 for this great live show for these stay at home times!

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