It’s 17 short steps down and 12 paces from the apartment of Dave Azzolini and Jess Grassia to the studio where The Golden Dogs wrote, rehearsed, and recorded their upcoming full-length release, their fourth. It’s a triumphant milestone for the hard- Toronto-based four-piece.
A decade ago, The Golden Dogs made an immediate splash in the exploding Canadian indie-rock landscape with their own fast-paced and eclectic brand of pop, proto-punk, and old fashion rock’n’roll. Blending their distinct pop structures with bold lyrics, playful melodies, and throwback harmonies, they also became a notoriously ecstatic and riotous live act, quickly gaining a reputation as a must-see live show.
Three critically praised albums and a well-deserved break later, they dove into the studio in Late 2011 and decided to take their time writing and recording their upcoming full-length, with the freedom of their own studio space. With new-found solid ground they have defined where they are artistically this time around, and seem more comfortable in their own skin than ever before as a four-piece.
They rehearse with much of the same energy as their live shows. Azzolini’s songs push the boundaries of all the dynamic, inventive, and playful sonic impulses which underlie all good pop music. His voice can shift from a soulful croon to a guttural rock’n’roll shout, which at times brings to mind the garage rock of the 1960’s and the British Invasion. He addresses his guitar similarly, with an equal measure of manic attack and tenderness. “Some things never change,” says Grassia when considering the band’s style and approach. When considering the band's style and approach, some things never change, however on the forth-coming record, they’ve shuffled the deck once more.
The Golden Dogs are still a shape-shifting outfit. They’ve acquired the enthusiastic, agile, and dextrous bass playing of Alejandro Cairncross. Grassia herself has traded in her keys for a drum kit— a daunting leap for anyone. And they’ve added Stef McCarrol, who’s likely to have her hands full, taking over keys and backing guitar, interchangeably. There’s a balance now which the band hasn’t seen previously. For the first time, there’s another woman in the band achieving a harmonious gender balance. There seems to be a simplicity with the band’s new set-up. Which isn’t to say they’ve abandoned the textured complexity that has defined their sound. But they’ve cut back on the collaborative efforts which marked Coat of Arms and they’ve emphasized their independence. Grassia has spent time honing her engineering and mixing skills, intent on furthering the band’s self-reliance.
It’s clear that after 10 years of Golden Dogs, the band refuses to be confined to the comforts of maturity. They’re still as lively and rambunctious as a young pup— how could a band with such electricity be anything but? Sure, they’ve changed and will likely continue to. They’ve matured. Evolved. They’ve seen great highs as with Coat of Arms. And great lows, almost disbanding in 2011. They have a birth, a (near)death, a backbone in Azzolini’s songwriting. And as long as they’ve got Dave Azzolini and Jess Grassia, The Golden Dogs have a heartbeat.