Time for your medicine, kids.
L.A.-based The Dose features 22-year old Indio Downey on guitars and vocals and friend Ralph Alexander on drums and bass pedals. Originally conceived as a three-piece, The Dose were reduced to duo format when their bassist failed to show for a crucial gig. Now Alexander performs the low-end lines on stage by using the same foot pedals and toe-triggered Taurus pads favored by Rush’s Geddy Lee.
Out now on Index Records (on iTunes and elsewhere), The Dose is six slices of musical awesome that effectively showcases Downey and Alexander’s songwriting chops and instrumental prowess in the contexts of both hard rock and laid-back, folk-infused pop.
They couldn’t have wanted for a stronger debut: The ear-catching EP demonstrates what Alexander and Downey can do, electrifying the senses while whetting one’s appetite for more.
The heavy, throwback sounds on “Glory,” “Truth Lies Inside,” and “Space Trader” owe as much to ‘70s sludge-meisters Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin as it does modern-day doom-prophets like Rage Against the Machine, Queens of the Stone Age, and Smashing Pumpkins. Downey’s guitar chords are jagged, his tones fuzzy atop Alexander’s punishing, Dave Grohl-esque percussion. The cymbal work on the EP is sick, the hardware ringing crisp and clean.
“I’m going to have a good time tonight,” surmises Downey on the opening cut. “I’m where I am today because of the road I have followed.”
That judicious, live-for-the-moment passion pulsates throughout the tunes like an adrenalized heart, imbuing The Dose’s guitar / drum attack with moxie and muscle. There are crunchy riffs, abrupt tempo changes, and ornamental organs and keyboards—but there’s a couple tasty guitar solos, too.
The guys’ aggression is tempered by their sensitivity: “Cold Hands” and “Adore” establish that Alexander and Downey can pen earnest, credible ballads as easily as they might fly with grunge giants like Stone Temple Pilots. Indeed, the shimmering unplugged guitars of “Adore” have more in common with The Doobie Brothers (“Blackwater”) and Crosby, Stills & Nash (“Suite: Judy Blue Eyes”) than Deftones.
Love that late, eleven-hour minor chord.
We spoke with Indio by phone last week about writing and recording the new EP. The Dose are now out on tour supporting English alt-rockers Bush in concert (and they’ll cruise with KISS this Summer). There’s no Cleveland date yet, but don’t let that put you off sampling their fantastic pharmaceuticals.
CLEVELAND EXAMINER: Hello Indio, hello Ralph!
INDIO DOWNEY: Hi, this is Indio! Ralph’s tracking drums in the studio at the moment.
EXAMINER: Tracking drums? Oh, alright. Guess we’ll let him off the hook! So tell me how you guys got together? Apparently The Dose started as a trio?
INDIO DOWNEY: That’s right, yes. We went to go play a show as a three-piece, and our bass player couldn’t make. So we took the stage as a two-piece, and we’ve been that way ever since!
EXAMINER: You do the guitar and vocals, while Ralph handles the drums and bass pedals?
INDIO DOWNEY: Exactly. I’m doing guitar and vocals, and Ralph’s doing the drums and bass pedals at the same time.
EXAMINER: When you record in-studio, do you have the luxury of not having to double up on instruments? Can you do one thing at a time?
INDIO DOWNEY: We’ve done it multiple ways. Usually yes, he’ll do the drums separately just to get the best possible take he can. Then he’ll do the pedals. But we’ve done it both ways.
EXAMINER: What were the recording sessions like for the EP?
INDIO DOWNEY: Well, our first experience recording in Nashville was at Third Man Records. We only recorded one song there, “Truth Lies Inside.”
EXAMINER: That’s my favorite song on the EP.
INDIO DOWNEY: Oh [laughs]! Is it? Thank you, thank you for saying that. It was really fun. We recorded it to tape. It was a two-day session, and we basically got everything done the first day, and then the second day we finished it up. Everyone there was super-kind and welcoming, and they let us borrow some of the gear that was there, which was really cool. The thing about it was, I’m such a huge fan of Jack White and the music that he’s done. He’s such an inspiration to me. So to be at his studio was just kind of surreal in a way; it felt like it wasn’t real! In addition to that, the fact that he happened to be there on the second day to say hello and make us feel comfortable—it was a surreal experience. That was definitely the highlight of the recording for me, I’d say!
EXAMINER: You ever see that movie with Jack White, Edge from U2, and Jimmy Page? What was it called…It Might Get Loud, I think. Yeah. Good documentary.
INDIO DOWNEY: I did, yeah! I saw it when it first came out.
EXAMINER: Sorry—didn’t mean to cut you off there.
INDIO DOWNEY: That’s okay. The rest of the songs—just to finish up on your question—the rest of the songs were recorded at Welcome to 1979 Studios in Nashville. We recorded the other five songs there. And that studio was cool, too. We recorded it all to tape and had a blast doing it. I’d love to go back to Tennessee sometime.
EXAMINER: You said “recorded to tape.” Do you say that to distinguish from tracking digitally, as on a hard drive? Was it a conscious decision to go analog?
INDIO DOWNEY: Well, tape was the primary format of recording being offered by those studios. It was a personal choice, something we decided on together. No particular reason for doing it, other than we’d both recorded to tape before, so that’s what we were used to. Tape has a cool sound, so we certainly weren’t against it.
EXAMINER: What were some of the highlights of hanging out at Third Man?
INDIO DOWNEY: Actually, one of the highlights of that experience was, we’d been recording through a Marshall that we’d rented while we were in Tennessee. It a good sound, but it was very basic. So halfway through the session they brought out this old amp that was like, an old Fender amp that Jack White used on Elephant—which is an amazing album, I love it so much—so they let us use that to record some of the more driving parts of that song. It had an amazing sound, so that was a trip!
EXAMINER: This was for “Truth Lies Inside.”
INDIO DOWNEY: Right, yeah—because that was the only one we did at Third Man.
EXAMINER: Can you discuss some of the other songs, some of the lyrical themes and musical motifs? There’s a lot of love and loss and redemption and salvation going on in these six tunes. I like how most of ‘em are hard and heavy, but then you change it up with the two acoustic ballads.
INDIO DOWNEY: Sure, sure. “Cold Hands” was inspired by a letter my girlfriend wrote me that I came across while we were on our way to Tennessee. So lyrically, that’s where that song came from. That one really is just kind of a love song. Same with “Adore”—that’s a song I wrote before I even started this band, and I recorded it in the studio exactly how I wrote it two years ago, or pretty close to how I wrote it. Some of the other songs are kind of just…”Shadows Close Behind” is a story. And the other songs are about staying positive. It’s a common theme on the album.
EXAMINER: Like with “Glory.” The opening track—that’s very uplifting.
INDIO DOWNEY: Yeah, “Glory.” Even “Truth Lies Inside.”
EXAMINER: You mentioned “Adore.” What kind of guitar tuning is that? I like how the one high string keeps ringing out throughout the song. Very pretty.
INDIO DOWNEY: I appreciate you saying that. It’s in open-D tuning.
EXAMINER: Like a DADGAD?
INDIO DOWNEY: It’s like DADGAD, but just slightly different: It’s DADF#AD. But yes, I’d say I play a lot in that tuning. Actually, none of our songs are in standard. We’re either in drop-D or open-D. But that song specifically was in open-D.
EXAMINER: Tell me a little about “Space Trader,” the closing song. It’s a seven-minute instrumental that has quite a few musical ups and downs.
INDIO DOWNEY: That one started initially with that riff that the song opens with. We both really liked that, and it just unfolded. I think we didn’t include those breakdowns, where it goes to those softer parts. We’d talked about leaving it just an instrumental, but decided if it was going to stay an instrumental, then there needed to be another aspect to it. So we incorporated the breakdowns and softer parts for that, and got a wider variety of parts.
EXAMINER: You can’t have a good roller coaster if you don’t have some ups to go with the downs. It makes for a better ride, I guess!
INDIO DOWNEY: It’s a better ride [laughs]!
The Dose EP now on itunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/the-dose-ep/id1095740367