A band that has been garnering more and more airplay over the past several months on my iPod is Dr. Dog. Tracing their roots to the middle school musical partnership of Toby Leaman (lead guitar) and Scott McMicken (bass guitar) outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Dr. Dog released their first studio album in 2001 with the added line-up of Frank McElroy on rhythm guitar, Zach Miller on keyboard, and Eric Slick on drums. Over the years, as the group transitioned from eight-track recordings into more sophisticated studios, their recordings have become increasingly refined, earning them a much-deserved nationwide fan base.
On October 2, 2012, Dr. Dog released their most recent EP, titled Wild Race. Because the release coincided with the ever-swelling amount of submissions to the Shenandoah, I have found myself listening to the EP before, after, and sometimes while I read through these hundreds of pieces. One track, “Be the Void,” has stuck out in my mind as one that is particularly apt with respect to the characteristics I take into consideration when reading these submissions. The lyrics to the chorus are as follows: “Become the one, become the all/ Become the big, become the small/ Become complete, become destroyed/ Become nothing, be the void.”
While it might be a stretch, I believe this series of antitheses rings true when applied to the sort of piece one might hope to find in a literary journal such as the Shenandoah. In essence, these lyrics urge the listener to embrace everything, to strive to encompass all possible paths in life. It is my belief that a work of literature should aspire to the same goal. As a reader, I hope to find within a work something that I can identify with – I don’t necessarily expect to share the exact same experiences of the characters within a story, but more so I expect to find some nugget of truth about the human experience to which anyone could relate. By “becoming the void,” an author could occupy that vast commonality that links us all.
This seems to be a thread that Dr. Dog has continually pursued within their work. Describing life on the road, Leaman said, “It’s hard when you spend half your time away from your friends and family to feel like you’re as connected as you could be to the people around you.” This is certainly a sentiment shared by more than those within the music industry; it is often difficult for all of us to feel connected to everyone around us. Music, literature, and the arts in general, then, become a means to express our universal emotions, universal experiences, and perhaps our simple universality in general as human beings. Hopefully, readers will feel something in common with this rant about commonality.
If you care to listen to Wild Race, the full EP can be found here:
*Quote from Leaman found on the “About” section of Dr. Dog’s website.