ABOVE: PHIL JONES, AKA DOG BITE. IMAGE COURTESY OF KATHERINE COOPER
Before we ever heard his debut LP, Velvet Changes, Atlanta-based Phil Jones, who records as Dog Bite, was was introduced to us as “Chaz from Toro Y Moi‘s favorite band.”
To the extent that name-dropping Toro Y Moi has become shorthand to denote a kind of hazy, recursive, sun-drenched nostalgia pop—we won’t use the c-word, but you know what we mean—it’s not a surprising comparison. All the components are in place: the dreamy, repetitive vocal lines, the synth, the summery lyrical referents (“The ocean is leaving my house,” Jones intones on one track; another is titled “Super Soaker”). Add in the fact that Jones spent months as the touring keyboardist for Washed Out, and you might feel pretty sure you know what you’re getting into.
But there’s more to Dog Bite than beach-barbecue music: unexpected turns into heavy, shoegazey guitar work, a dose or two of unresolved, minor-key existential dread, and at least one song that draws inspiration from our favorite creepy Peter Weir movie—”Native America,” which we’re very excited to premiere below, along with our chat with Jones about the album.
ALEXANDRIA SYMONDS: You’ve been recording as Dog Bite for several years, longer than you’ve been working with Washed Out. Is it weird to put out this solo debut, when you had this other identity popped in the middle?
PHIL JONES: Well, I just never stopped working on Dog Bite stuff, even when we were touring with Washed Out. I didn’t have a laptop, so I couldn’t really make anything, but we had an acoustic guitar, so on breaks or whatever, setting up, I would just mess around on the guitar.
SYMONDS: So you didn’t feel like you were making a conscious switch back and forth between two different sides of your musical persona.
JONES: No, not all. Washed Out was more of a live band, so we’d play the songs every day and we’d have fun with them. But when we weren’t doing that, I would just sneak away and do Dog Bite stuff.
SYMONDS: Since you didn’t have access to your computer, or any of the toys and samples you’d be able to work with normally, do you feel like Velvet Changes came from a sense of restriction?
JONES: Definitely. If I had still had my laptop at the time, I probably wouldn’t have learned to play the guitar the way I did, or even bother to really go into it.
SYMONDS: [laughs] Have you thought about trying to do something similar for your next bunch of material, in terms of forcing yourself to work in a medium that’s unfamiliar or at first uncomfortable?
JONES: Yeah, that’s what I kind of like to do for each album—change up the sound a little bit, but still maintain the Dog Bite sound, if you want to call it that. I feel like the next record will be different than Velvet Changes, and the next one after that will be different.
SYMONDS: The song we’re premiering is “Native America”—how did that track in particular came together?
JONES: Well, I guess that song was mostly centered around this movie called Picnic at Hanging Rock.
SYMONDS: Oh, great movie.
JONES: Yeah, like the first line… The lady dressed in all red, the teacher, there’s a line about her in there. I kind of started to think of what happened to them afterwards, after they disappeared, it just kind of came through. I think it was one of the last songs on the whole album, too.
SYMONDS: I would never have guessed that.
JONES: No, that’s good. I like putting little references in there and seeing if anybody notices. I mean, they’re not very bold or anything.
SYMONDS: The line in the song, “Let’s not rush,” repeated over and over, is a good way into the tone of the album. It’s naturally unhurried music—I don’t ever feel like I’m waiting for the bridge or something with one of your songs.
JONES: Oh, good. I get stuck on sounds, basically. I just like to hear those go over and over again. I see them more just as a bunch of loops that I put together, but they somehow kind of mesh together and form this very fluid kind of motion. I never want to try and break them up too hard and get too artsy with it.
SYMONDS: Good, I’m glad to hear it. Can you tell me a little about your art background?
JONES: I’ve just been doing art since I can remember. I went to art school after I graduated from high school. It just didn’t really work out, because I really wasn’t focused at all. And then I came back to Atlanta and started working at this art gallery. Then I was hanging out in Atlanta a lot, and I started getting into music like crazy after that.
SYMONDS: Do you feel like you’ve switched over pretty completely, or are you still working on art on the side?
JONES: Yeah, any artwork associated with Dog Bite, or video stuff, I’m definitely heavily involved. The artwork wise, I do it all by myself. I’m usually still working on stuff all of the time. Hopefully, some of it will be coming out this year.
VELVET CHANGES IS OUT FEBRUARY 5 ON CARPARK RECORDS.