As Maryn Jones begins and ends her acoustic version of “Buddy,” the unreasonably gripping solo acoustic performance is bookended with short bouts of laughter. Whether that laughter's born out of acute nervousness or just a sense of small joy is difficult to gauge, but it is undeniably warm.
When I meet up with Maryn’s band All Dogs later that night at Bremen Cafe in Milwaukee, WI, their familial nature is easy to identify and, more importantly, identify with. All of the best bands, particularly the ones with roots firmly planted in DIY, have this sense of easy camaraderie about them.
Maryn handles most of the answering in the interview but is occasionally prodded along by drummer Jesse Withers (also of Delay), as the rest of the band subtly cajoles each other from the small couch they're all seated on, unable to contain their smiles throughout. There's a visibly mutual fondness that the members share with each other that helps characterize their music.
Before the interview officially starts, I give them a small moleskine that I've jotted down a few questions in, allowing them to think about the questions and how they want to answer them. Maryn (understandably) looks more pensive than her bandmates as she'll be the one fielding everything. We wait for some outside talking to subside, trading jokes and exchanging well-natured glances. Soon, the recorder's rolling and Maryn is giving me the history of All Dogs, punctuating her explanations with genuine excitement and emphatic gestures.
Steven: How did All Dogs start?
Maryn: Me and Amanda used to be in a band together called Wolfs and we played music with our friend Richard. He moved to Bloomington but we still wanted to play music together. So, we started writing songs together, just the two of us, and then we practiced for like a year or something - just the two us - and eventually we were like, "okay, we should actually start a band". So we thought, "oh, we've gotta find a drummer" and then we asked Jesse, who plays in a band called Delay -- which is a very good band -- and he was down, so we got him!
Jesse: Well, I think I had to try out
Maryn: You did.
Jesse: Yeah, and then I had to wait like a week.
Maryn: I mean, you didn't really have to try out, that was just like a fake formality to make it seem like we were cool, but, whatever. So then, we played shows together for... how long?
Jesse: I think a year, maybe a year and a half.
Maryn: And then we went on tour with our friends band, Nona, from Philly who are also so good and Nick plays in that band. We became best friends and then at our last show of that tour, he asked if he could play one of the songs with us, and he did, and it sounded great.
Jesse: Sounded WAY better than it did with just us.
Maryn: Yeah, so we were sort of jokingly -- but not entirely jokingly -- just like, "hey, you should come on tour with us next time we tour" and then it was just like "Oh, yeah! Sure! Of course!" and he was totally into it and then it just happened. I think, you know, the rest is history. We're just like a big happy family now.
Jesse: Here we are.
What can you tell us about the upcoming LP?
Maryn: We're writing a record right now.
Jesse: Very slowly.
Maryn: We're takin' our time, you know, we're all kind of busy doing our own things. Nick lives in Philly so it's kind of like a long distance relationship (laughs) but we're writing it right now and I have some time off. I play in another band called Saintseneca and I do that stuff all the time but I have a break coming up in September so we're gonna finish the record and we're gonna try to record sometime early next year with our friends, hopefully. I don't know what else to say about it except that we're really excited.
Jesse: And that it's gonna be awesome.
Maryn: Yeah, I mean, I like the songs so far. It's been really cool, we've done a lot more song writing together as opposed to how I kind of just used to throw something together and bring it in and be like, "Okay, here's the song, now play along.” We've definitely done a lot more together.
Jesse: Yeah, I think the first batch of songs was just songs that you had or songs that you and Amanda had done, and then I just came and filled in.
Maryn: Yeah, yeah. Oh yeah. I mean, Amanda wrote some of the old songs too -- it wasn't just me -- but it was a lot more thrown together. We're all trying on this one. That's maybe why it's taking awhile, because I really want the songs to be what I want them to be and I want them to be really thought out and really cared about.
How do you manage your time between All Dogs, Saintseneca, and Yowler?
Maryn: Like I said before, I'm in a couple other projects. Saintseneca, which is a fun band to be in, takes up a lot of my time. It's kind of my main thing that I do. I don't have a job, I quit my job. I used to work where Amanda worked at The Library in Columbus and I quit my job that I loved to just be on tour all the time so sometimes it's a little stressful, time-management wise. I don't get to see my friends as much at home but it's cool. I mean, it's worth it, you know? I spend a lot of time on tour with Saintseneca and then I come home and we try to write stuff and then we practice and play little tours. It's worked out so far, it's a little stressful…
Jesse: It's gotta be more stressful for you.
Maryn: It is. I've just accepted it. (laughs.) Luckily, things should be slowing down next year with Saintseneca because that record is out and we've toured on it so much. So, hopefully next year we'll be doing more extensive All Dogs stuff, so that's cool. Then, my other project, Yowler, which is a solo thing, I've only played maybe two shows…
What brought about the Yowler project and how did Double Double Whammy get involved?
Maryn: I used to play solo music just under my name and that's kind of how I first got into playing music. I kind of missed it after playing in bands for a while and just thinking, "I have all these songs kind of in the back of my mind that I really like but I'm not going to use them for All Dogs and I don't really write songs for Saintseneca..." I wasn't trying to push it, I wasn't like, "I'm going to try to do this!" I mean, that project has been in my brain and in the works for several years. So, this past winter, it was a really rough winter and I had some extra free time, and I just talked to my friend and I was like, "Will you help me record an album? I have all these songs." And we did it. It's actually really fun to record in the winter because you’re bummed out and you don't want to leave the house and you don't want to do anything. What I did was -- I wouldn't let myself watch TV shows. During the winter that's what I usually do, I just watch Netflix. Mad Men for hours on end, Game of Thrones… So I wouldn't let myself watch stuff, and instead of doing that I would just write and record.
Double Double Whammy is a record label out of Brooklyn who are so cool. Really, really sweet people and my good friends. Saintseneca went on tour with their band, LVL UP last year. You know when you go on tour and sometimes you're like, "Oh, well that was fun"? But then other times you go on tour and by the end you feel like, "THESE ARE MY BEST FRIENDS." We were on tour for two weeks and by the end, I almost cried when we parted ways.
So, they came to see All Dogs play a couple weeks later in Brooklyn and after the show they were like, "Man, we really want to put something out for All Dogs" and I was kind of like, "Yeah, that'd be sweet,” but we're really good friends with Marco from Salinas Records and we're really enjoying working with him. Pretty sure we're planning on putting out our first LP on Salinas.
Jesse: That's the plan.
Maryn: That's the plan!
Jesse: That's the plan, if he's okay with it...
[NOTE: Salinas Records has the All Dogs LP listed as an upcoming release on the back of their perfect "Boltman for Mayor of Earth" bookmark flyers]
Maryn: Anyways, I was like, "but I have this other project..." which was pretty gutsy of me, I guess. But I sent them a demo of songs and they were like, "Yes." So, that's kind of how that happened.
After the interview, we all climb into their van and drive a few short blocks to the venue, load in and wait. Failed Mutation and Sin Bad open the show before All Dogs stun everyone with their new material. It's very easy to see why the band's excited about their upcoming record; it's easily some of their best material to date. They even go as far as closing their set with a fiercely impassioned take on a song so recent it's still listed simply as "New" on the setlist. All Dogs leave the stage all smiles. Hugs get exchanged, and before they head out, Maryn and I exchange kind words aimed at both LVL UP and Tweens. Nick does his best to convince me to visit Philly, and everyone thanks each other profusely, as if their close-knit kinship can no longer be contained to just themselves. It's a welcome example of human kindness and it's something the world could always use more of -- just as it could always use more music from the members of All Dogs.