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Michigan punk group Dogleg recorded their recently released debut album, Melee, in a garage and in a basement. That’s especially appropriate these days, since the coronavirus is keeping artists and home and not leaving them with many recording locations beyond their garages and basements.
The pandemic is also preventing Dogleg from touring behind their new release. Bassist Chase Macinski tells Uproxx that’s a huge bummer, since he believes the band’s kinetic live shows are what turn curious listeners into full-blown fans. The band hasn’t needed concerts to get people hooked on Melee, though. The album recently surpassed one million streams on Spotify, and it has earned white-hot critical reception: It’s one of the year’s highest-scoring albums on Metacritic.
Instead of hitting the road, the members of Dogleg are hitting their respective couches, but they’re staying busy, too. Macinski tells us he and the rest of the band are maintaining an active online presence in support of Melee (which is named after the classic GameCube title Super Smash Bros. Melee, by the way). During our conversation, he also spoke about personal themes on Melee, shared his thoughts on some of the biggest recent video games, and discussed how his expectations for the album have already been shattered.
Your new album is out now, and I’ve seen it getting some really positive press, and I saw that the album recently hit one million plays on Spotify, so nice job there. How does it feel to have your first album out and see it do as well as it has?
Thank you. It’s kind of unbelievable, to be honest. I did not expect it to do as well as it’s doing by any means. I think my expectations were absolutely blown out of the water because of the phenomenal job of all the people we have working on our team. We knew we made a really good album. We had no idea of how successful it would be in the short term, because when we were writing the album, I was like, “I’m just trying to make something that… even if it doesn’t explode right now, ten years from now, it will be like a cult classic,” you know? But I think because we have such a phenomenal team that we’re working with, we were able to bridge that gap immediately and already hit that milestone, which is phenomenal.
I would think, though, that there’s probably a sort of bittersweetness to it with everything going on in the world as the album has come out. How does this kind of pandemic impact an act like a Dogleg, which has a fan base and admiration but isn’t like a global superstar pop act?
It’s hard to measure how detrimental this is. We feel like it’s definitely hurt us, because we feel that our live performances are what solidified people as our fans. We’ve worked really hard on writing this album. We’ve been writing this album for probably two or three years, it feels like. People who have been hearing these songs live are still not sick of them, and I feel like a huge part of that is the energy and performance that we put in during our live shows. So, it sucks that we can’t really hook people in with all the shows that we’ve had lined up for the upcoming spring and summer.
I guess we’re not too worried because we’ve got such good reception on the music, but we just want to stay relevant on people’s radar until they can finally see us in person, and then they can be like, “Holy sh*t, they are the real deal.”
Since you’re not playing shows now, what are you guys doing to pass the time?
We’re just trying to generate content, things that we can post online, things like music videos. I stream on Twitch every Monday from 7 to 11 and I play [Super Smash Bros. Melee] with people over this online service called Netplay, and that connects to computers so that they can play console games together, which is really cool.
Other than that, Alex has been doing acoustic Instagram and other streaming service live performances where it’s just like him and a microphone. Before all of this happened, before Michigan got put in lockdown, we did a live studio session with our friends at Eureka in Downriver, Michigan. So we have videos, we have live things we can do, and we have just things that we want people to engage with.
Melee addresses difficult times that [singer Alex Stoitsiadis’] mom has gone through. From your end, how did it feel to help him bring that ultra-personal message to life?
I feel like that reflects on the Dogleg writing process, and that’s interesting because lyrics are the last thing we add to any song. A lot of the instruments happen first and they all start with a riff, or a simple progression, and then we build on that. All of our songs have that tenacity or ferocious anxiety, and a lot of tension. When we put all that into the songs, I believe Alex felt very natural out letting his emotions and his expressions in that manner. I think it was because all of us were feeling all of those emotions that we were able to provide an outlet for him and his personal experiences.
Going back to the video game front…
That is my forte.
I was going to say, that is also my forte. So, since you and the band seem to be the most game-literate group around today, I figured I would get your thoughts on a few recent high profile games: Have you been getting into Animal Crossing at all? My girlfriend has already put in so many hours, it’s bonkers.
I personally have not played Animal Crossing because I don’t own a Switch, but Alex does, and Alex has played a ton of Animal Crossing. It’s cute, but personally I’m not going to say anything negative, because everyone’s going to think Dogleg hates Animal Crossing, even though I love it.
I watch my girlfriend play and it’s not quite my thing either, but I certainly get the appeal. I tend to like a game that has more direction and that is less open, if that makes sense.
Yeah, yeah. I’m a big fan of games that challenge me instead of games that let me only escape from reality, in a sense. And so, I respect Animal Crossing, but it isn’t my cup of tea personally.
How about the new Pokémon games, Sword and Shield?
Our drummer, Jacob [Hanlon], has a Switch, and he’s been playing it and he really likes it. He’s been grinding it out to find… I forget which Pokémon he wants perfect EVs for. I think it’s a psychic type. He’s grinding out in the Battle Tower trying to perfect his team. Him and a bunch of other people in the DIY music scene actually started a Pokémon league for [online battle simulator Pokémon Showdown]. You can assemble whatever teams you want and automatically customize movesets, EVs and IVs, and natures. He’s been participating in that league and I think he’s doing pretty well. He has a buddy who enters and wins Pokémon tournaments, and it’s really exciting to see the competitive aspect of that applied to Sword and Shield. I’m just absorbing how serious Pokémon can get.
Finally, how does Super Smash Bros. Ultimate compare with Melee?
My stance on Ultimate is that Smash Ultimate is what Smash 4 [Super Smash Bros. For Wii U and Super Smash Bros. For Nintendo 3DS] should’ve been. We’re only making up for lost time with Ultimate. When Ultimate came out, I was like, “OK, so we’re finally here.” We should’ve already been here. That’s OK, I guess, but let’s keep pushing it forward and make an intricate platform fighter like Melee is. So unfortunately, Ultimate, I would play it casually, but I’ll never enter a tournament for it, and I don’t think I’ll ever stop entering Melee tournaments.
So you’re not going to put Ultimate at the merch table over Melee any time soon.
I’m not, but Jacob thinks he’s pretty damn good at Ultimate, so sometimes if he’s feeling up to it people can challenge Jacob to it.
Melee is out now via Triple Crown Records. Get it here.