Interview with Toby Leaman from Dr. Dog

The summer festival circuit is in full swing and XPoNestial Festival will be taking place in Camden, NJ July 20th to 22nd. One of the headlining acts slated to play (along with Wilco, Avett Brothers, and Counting Crows) is Dr. Dog.

We had a chat with founding member Toby Leaman about the festival, their new album, the Phillies, sea creatures, and a whole lot more.

Independent Philly: Who came up with the name “Dr. Dog”?

Toby Leaman: I guess me. It was either me or Scott [McMicken]. It was a long time ago and there were a lot of names being tossed around in the studio. That’s the one that stuck though. Obviously we liked it and there was something about it that appealed to us on some level. I think the fact that “dog” was in the title and there was already a band called “The Dogs”.

IP: You guys are from the Philly area, what is your fondest memory of a hometown show?

TL: There’s been a bunch. There’s been a ton. I mean, every great sort of milestone that we had, has been in Philly. The first time we ever played a Philly show it felt like we were proud. It was either at the Khyber or the Fire, I don’t remember which one it would have been and I remember thinking “oh, we’re playing in Philly now. This is great!” You know, we grew up in Chester county and we had played down in Newark [Delaware] and West Chester and stuff, but when we started playing in Philly that was a big deal for us. And then you go through all of the clubs. You know every club in town and every time you move up, it’s a milestone. It’s hard to say what’s the biggest or fondest memory because I feel like every time we felt like we were actually going somewhere it’s because we had the context of Philly.

IP: Let’s get some quick thoughts on Philadelphia… What do you think is the best cheese-steak?

TL: Probably Tony Lukes. There’s a Jim’s on 50th that pretty good, but probably Tony Lukes.

IP: Best concert venue?

TL: It depends on what you’re going to see. If you go to see a small show, Johnny Brenda’s is great, but if you’re going to see like a big production, probably the Mann. That’s actually a great place. I saw [Bob] Dylan there recently. It was the first time I had been there in a while and it was great; I loved it.

IP: Favorite Philly sports team?

TL: Definitely the Phils, unfortunately. It sucks. It’s been rough but I’m a firm believer that they can turn it around. Actually when I’m not watching the games I’m a much bigger fan. It’s when you’re watching the games that you just feel, you know, horrible. But the one thing that I guess is kind of cool is now they are under dogs again. Now they are the crappy Phils that they were before, you know, before they were a power house. It’s kind of fun to think about. I hope they don’t languish down here. You know they were horrible growing up, from the exception of 1993, from the time I started rooting for the Phils in 1985, until 2008. Actually they probably started getting good again around 2005. It does kind of bring back a little nostalgia of rooting for a team that had no hope.

IP: You’re scheduled to play XPoNential Festival on July 21st with Wilco and the Avett Brothers, what can your fans expect to see at one of your live shows if they’ve never seen you perform before?

TL: It’s a rock show. It’s energetic. I mean we’re not up there just trying to do a job. The whole idea of a show is to have a great time and that’s what we try to do too. It’s loud, it’s hard, it’s a great show. I mean, we know what we’re doing up there, we’ve been doing it a while.

IP: You’re latest album, “Be The Void”, was released earlier this year. How has the response been so far?

TL: It’s been great. It’s been better than any of our other records so far as getting the word out about the band and everything. It’s helped us sell more tickets on the road and grow our fan-base which is really all you can ask for from a record. I mean we never thought we were going to put the record out and sell a million copies. Putting records out anymore, at least for a band like us, is to just build a little bit from where we were a year ago, try to be in a better situation.

IP: You’ve played on Jimmy Fallon, Conan, Letterman, Ferguson, Carson Daily… which one of the guys do you find to be the most funny (we’ll assume it’s not Carson Daily)?

TL: No, I think you’d be hard pressed to find anybody, I don’t even think he’d say he was funny. The weirdest funny dude is Craig Ferguson, that dude is out of his– that guy is so weird. He’s got these monologues, I don’t think he has fans anymore but, everything about that show is bizarre. It just felt very sort of, thrown together, but it was very fun, and he just sort of went off. He would go on rants for like 40 minutes and that was the show, and then he’d talk to guests for like 10 minutes and have a band. I just liked the way that show felt to do because it felt like you were doing something on basic cable or something. It just never felt– it didn’t have the feel of Letterman where you feel like you’re in a– it’s very locked down. There are places you aren’t supposed to go, things you aren’t supposed to do, people you aren’t supposed to look at, you know, you’re not allowed to touch your gear, all that kind of crap. I always liked doing that one [Ferguson] because it always felt kind of absurd.

IP: What are some of your other hobbies when you get a break from touring and making music?

TL: I’ve just been working on my house. I like doing stuff around the house. I built a patio last summer, and right now I just knocked down a wall in a closet and I’m building some sliding doors for it.  I’ve got saws and drills and other kinds of good stuff in the basement.

IP: Finally, tell us something that would surprise or even shock our readers…

TL: Here’s something cool that just happened the other day… They found this blue lobster. I think it was off of Cape May or somewhere in Delaware, but they took it up to Camden [New Jersey] in the aquarium and they named it Toby. Which is pretty cool because that’s my name. I will say this, the one dumb thing about it, in the article I read, I was reading about it in the paper, and I figured I’d turn the page and see a photograph, and they had a photograph of it, but it was in black and white. It was stupid.

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