Best-case scenario, your live introduction to a band is a memorable experience for all of the right reasons.
Rarely does a night at Los Angeles’ premier intimate music venue, the Hotel Café, yield anything other than a “right reason” experience. But as a venue that specializes in presenting the singer/songwriter genre – in truth – it may not necessarily showcase a band or artist at their fullest, finest form.
In February and March the grungy, indie rock LA duo, The Dose, had a residency at Hotel Café. This particular residency night saw Ralph Alexander (drums, bass) and Indio Downey (vox, guitar) a bit stripped with Downey on acoustic guitar and Alexander perched upon a cajon drum box. The 40 minute or so set was telling, but it hardly told the entire musical story. Downey’s textured vocals and guitar work and Alexander’s punctuated beats came across more rock lullaby delicate than heavy sonic swagger. And, in truth, that’s fine because the ability to paint an alternate picture should always be in an artist’s toolkit.
Genuine curiosity warranted a conversation with The Dose.
As a band, Alexander and Downey came together in 2014 and in their natural, amplified state, they can make quite a noise, a racket, a full-bodied electric expression for a mere two-piece. Along the way was a venture to Nashville, TN to do some recording at Jack White’s Third Man Records and Welcome To 1979, which yielded a self-titled debut EP. Their professional aim to fill up as much space with sound as possible is admirable. It’s also attainable with a bass synth pedal at Alexander’s feet for added effect and impact. The Dose are, effectively, a healthy combination of raw throwback with a touch of current refinement, so it’s of little wonder who and what their particular ears have been personally drawn to over the years.
Of course, you’ll find some elite music makers tapped as sources of inspiration and pleasure. Alexander was quick to name Queen, Metallica and Led Zeppelin: heavy, bombastic, dynamic. His appreciation for, both, heft and finesse is evident in their song, “Cold Hands.” Then there’s Downey who cited Radiohead, Nirvana (expectedly), but also – unexpectedly – the psychedelic, acid folk rock of The Entrance Band: lyrical, experimental, hear the pretty colors. Ahhh. As a follower of Guy Blakeslee’s work, I found this good and pleasing on a personal level because it pretty much explains the seven-minute instrumental oeuvre/cosmic rock opera, “Space Trader” that brings their EP to a close. They admit that the song was a bit of a one-off. As one-offs go, it’s a damned good one.
In the lyrics of the song “Truth Lies Inside” (a former Video Of The Week) you hear a relatable honesty: “Fear of the past / Fading at last.” The written words are Downey’s: a young man addressing his demons and for whom actual poetry is the thing that gets shaped into/expressed through songs that he’s been singing for about eight years. When he states, simply, that he “loves to write,” you don’t need to be told twice: It’s a solid affirmation despite his controlled expression of it. As for Alexander, the percussive arts have, literally, taken up half of his life: he’s been hitting inanimate objects for 13 years and his robust manner of play leaves a metallic, yet bluesy taste in the mouth. This, too, is good. Imagining his expended caloric output per rehearsal, let alone performance, a trip to their favored Swingers diner in LA for an All American may be in order and often.
Soon after that February/March Hotel Café residency, Alexander and Downey pulled opening act duty for a handful of shows with Bush. Yes, that Bush. Quite a large stage space for two people to fill, but fill it they did and were well received for their efforts.
What’s next for The Dose is the least that a serious music fan should expect from a unit of great potential: a full album (some of us appreciate complete musical thoughts far more than EP after EP) and – hopefully – a substantial number of live shows in order to allow as many as possible the opportunity to be introduced (or reintroduced) to The Dose experience. Chances are better than average that it will be memorable for all of the right reasons.