Prior to releasing their 2017 album, “Beach Farm,” Portland indie rock outfit Dogheart went from being a functional band to a two-piece writing and recording project consisting of songwriters and multi-instrumentalists Matt Jenkins and Gray Hildreth. This rollback of personnel resulted in a collection of songs that sounded decidedly mellower than any of Dogheart’s earlier, more raucous material — particularly the two preceding LPs.
The band’s new record, “Yeah No For Sure,” largely continues along this path. Like “Beach Farm,” the new album was recorded on an 8-track and exudes the same homespun charm. This is best exemplified by standout single, “Sign of the Times” — a chiming and leisurely garage pop morsel that compliments Oregon’s early spring weather perfectly.
“Yeah No For Sure” is out on April 5. Dogheart play a tape release show along with Get Real and Bad Shadow at No Fun in Portland, Oregon on May 25.
We briefly spoke with the band’s singer and multi-instrumentalist Matt Jenkins via email ahead of the official release of the new album.
Morgan Troper: I know that, prior to the release of Dogheart’s previous LP, “Beach Farm,” the band was condensed into a two-piece, and that you recorded the bulk of that album on an 8-track with the two of you alternating on drums. This record seems to have a very similar vibe. Was the approach to recording this time around similar?
Matt Jenkins: “Yeah No For Sure” [was similar to] “Beach Farm” when it came to the recording process. For the most part we used the same 8-track and some of the same equipment to record. However, we did take a different approach to the writing process. With most of these songs we tried to write outside of where we normally play and write in order to change our mindset, influences, and perspective. Lots of the writing happened on acoustic guitar so we could be mobile and play in different places. We jammed on the Willamette River by Oak’s Park, on picnic tables around Southeast, and even in Rajneeshpuram …
We both watched the Wild Wild Country documentary on Netflix and decided it would be a cool idea to finish writing and record a song where it all went down. One day this last summer we packed up some recording gear, and we found our way into the Big Muddy Ranch. Somehow we were able to explore the grounds undetected and ultimately set up a mobile studio on the side of the gravel road leading out of the camp. The current owners eventually tracked us down and kicked us out, but not before we finished the song! That place had a very strange and interesting vibe.
MT: Is the band just you and Gray now, for all intents and purposes? Are there any other constant members or people who contributed to these recordings?
MJ: Dogheart is just the two of us for the foreseeable future. We were able to put together a more extensive lineup so that we were able to play some shows and go on a quick tour after we released the last album, but we reverted to a duo once that was finished.
While we were recording “Yeah No For Sure,” Caitlin Love, who plays in Hot Victory and Void Realm, stepped in and played drums for us. She did some amazing drumming, and we’re really happy with how it all turned out. After “Beach Farm” we decided that we wanted to have a true drummer play on this record and add some more versatility to the sound. On one of the tracks we had a friend come in and play saxophone; it’s an instrument we’ve never used and thought that it might bring something new to the table and expand our sound.
We’ve got a lineup put together so that we can play out, and play the new songs from “Yeah No For Sure.” We’ll see what happens with time, but for now we’ve got a solid writing [and] recording process with just the two of us.
MT: Yeah No For Sure is one of my favorite album titles from a Portland band in years. It feels like a jab at over-the-top agreeableness. Is there any significance to the title, or does it have any relationship to the songs themselves?
MJ: I’m glad you like the album title! It’s kind of just a funny thing that we say to each other. When we’re writing or practicing, we sometimes take on different characters and say things like “yeah, no, for sure” when we’re talking about a song we’re playing or working on. It’s something that helps us keep the mood light and fun, so we figured it would be a unique name for an album, too.
MT: I understand that Dogheart was formed after Gray and the band’s original drummer responded to an ad you posted on Craigslist. It’s pretty crazy to me that a Craigslist ad could have resulted in such an enduring musical partnership, since I’ve heard nothing but horror stories. Did you have any awkward experiences finding bandmates before you landed on Gray?
MJ: If anything, there have just been issues of musical compatibility in the past. Ideas about how songs should be played wouldn’t always come easy. Luckily no real horror stories, just more of a journey to find the right fit.
With Dogheart, the two of us were able to click right off the bat as friends and songwriting partners. We like a lot of the same music, which strengthen the foundation of what we do, but we also have a lot of our own tastes which helps to keep things interesting. It’s not always easy to play music with new people, but our partnership has always seemed to work and be fruitful. What makes it unique is that we’re both able to put our own stamp on the songs that we write, and we can always agree on the end product if it’s something that we like. It’s a very natural and fun songwriting process.