Eric Slick tells us how Dr. Dog’s surprise charity album Abandoned Mansion came to be
Surprise! There’s a new Dr. Dog album out today that no one knew existed (except the band and I’m guessing some of their friends). To sweeten the deal even more, all proceeds from the album go toward the Southern Poverty Law Center.
The album, called Abandoned Mansion, is what the band described in an introductory missive as “Easy Peasy listening.” That’s to say that, as opposed to the “blips and bloops” of the band’s February release, The Psychedelic Swamp, Abandoned Mansion takes a more simplistic, traditional approach.
Drummer Eric Slick, who doubles as one-third of Philly’s Lithuania, said that the band actually recorded Abandoned Mansion before The Psychedelic Swamp, but had to let it sit on the backburner for a bit.
“We recorded it before we went into the studio to record The Psychedelic Swamp with the intention of getting it out before The Psychedelic Swamp,” he says.
In contrast to Swamp’s complex layering and production ambition, Abandoned Mansion is pretty much just the band playing live with mostly acoustic instruments.
“The intent of the record was to make something simple and elegant,” Slick says. “I think we’ve kind of gone into different trends in the band. We’ve moved toward this more psychedelic, noisier side—an experimental side—and then we’ve got this simpler side. So it’s just another exploration of our simpler side.”
Basically, it’s the musical equivalent of a really nice piece of wooden furniture.
While the band was making The Psychedelic Swamp, they received a grant from Pig Iron Theater Company, which was set to expire. So, that lit a fire under them to release it before Abandoned Mansion.
So, why keep it a secret for so long if it’s been ready for a year?
“Cause why not?” Slick says. “People do surprise releases all the time now. And, at the very least, all the money is going to go to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which we think is a really good cause.”
It’s a happy coincidence that their surprise release date falls on Giving Tuesday, a global day of action for nonprofit giving and philanthropy.
“You know, we didn’t even know it was Giving Tuesday, but I guess it was meant to be,” Slick says. “We were going to try to put it out on Thanksgiving, but everyone was like, ‘Don’t do that. People are going to be full of tryptophan. They’re not going to remember that you have an album release.’ So we just chose today also, kind of jokingly, because that was the old record release day. Before Friday it was Tuesday. We just though it’d be kind of funny, but it turns out it’s Giving Tuesday! How about that?”
Purchases of the album will support SPLC through January 31st. Slick says he’s happy they kept the album under wraps for so long, because he thinks it adds to the pleasant simplicity of the recording process, which comes out in the album itself.
“I think it was best kept a secret because, you know, it was my favorite Dr. Dog album to record, and I just don’t feel like I remember any of this recording.” He quickly clears up why: “I wasn’t inebriated or anything! But, I guess the best way to describe it was that I felt like everybody in the band was in the moment, and that’s a really beautiful thing that I don’t want to mess with.”
So now, without any fanfare from labels, and with the feeling of giving money to a good organization, we can all live in this moment and enjoy the unexpected, folky melodies of Abandoned Mansion on an otherwise ordinary, rainy Tuesday in Philadelphia.