Logan Square-based band the Roof Dogs generated some buzz this summer with the release of a new single, “Summer in Algeria,” which Under the Radar magazine called “a fiery punk ripper [with] wild synth passages, wiry guitar leads and savage soloing.”
The group dropped another track, “Six Blocks (RP Shew Mix),” in August and is currently working on putting the finishing touches on its first full-length album. Look for a new tour announcement soon, too, the band said.
But members said they still don’t feel like a Chicago band.
That’s partly because the Dogs — Jesse Cheshire, Andrew Marczak, Sean Maher and then-drummer Walker Anderson — moved here from Columbus, Ohio, in late 2019 and had the chance to play only a handful of shows before COVID-19 hit. (Jack Brereton has since replaced Anderson on drums.)
But while the pandemic has been a challenge, the band said the downtime has also changed their writing style and given them the impetus to sit down and finally record an album after years of playing together.
LoganSquarist recently caught up with Roof Dogs members Cheshire and Marczak to discuss their music, new album and plans for the future. The following conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
How did you guys first start playing together?
Marczak: We met in 2014 at his bar called Taco Dan’s in Granville, Ohio. It’s a Mexican restaurant and thrift store located in an old house from the 1800s. They had these open mic nights in this tiny, little room. Jessie and I met there. We both played similar covers — Neutral Milk Hotel, Townes Van Zandt, stuff like that. Neither of us had really played in bands before. Starting off, we were just kind of internet buds. We’d send each other bedroom recordings we were doing. A few years later, Jessie and I moved to Columbus and started a band. The Roof Dogs came together in 2016, although we didn’t put out any physical releases till 2018.
What brought you to Chicago?
Cheshire: We booked a tour with our friends The Bascinets, another Columbus band that moved here. We had a show fall through in Indiana, and we decided last minute to try and get a Chicago show. We booked it in like two days and, as you can imagine, with no promotion there was no one at the show. And the other band was under 21, so the bar wouldn’t let them play. But we stayed in the city for three nights, with our friends here, and ended up liking the city a lot. That bad show was a pivotal moment for getting us to want to move here.
What was the inspiration behind “Summer in Algeria”?
Marczak: It was very inspired by Jonathan Richman of The Modern Lovers, the kinds of songs he writes, kind of silly, calypso-y rock songs. I was reading Albert Camus, and he was talking about what summers in Algeria were like and watching all the young people enjoy themselves. I think Jessie and I are similar in that I find things that spark a song, that start me off writing a song, but I rarely know what it’s about. It makes sense when you’re playing it. It’s more of a feeling.
We recorded the songs right before COVID and then released them on our friend’s label in California, Broom Closet Records. That was our first vinyl release, a 7-inch double single.
Has it been difficult to collaborate and record together during the pandemic?
Marczak: We only met up to practice every once in a while, when things would kind of die down. Then, they’d get bad again and it was like, “OK, let’s not get together.” Jessie and I got better with drum machines. We were doing fully fleshed-out bedroom recordings and sending them to each other. Before, we would have a vague idea and bring it to the band and try and figure it out. It changed our writing process.
The break during COVID also allowed us to create one cohesive album of material. Before, we’d write a few songs and play at shows, then write a few more and play at shows. It forced us to hold off on releasing songs and make a full product. We’ve been a band for five to six years now, but this will be our first full-length album.
Cheshire: There are lot of isolations vibes, world trauma [in the music]. We didn’t write about the pandemic directly. But it definitely colored the way we wrote the songs.
What are your plans for the future?
Marczak: We’re going to take it one step at a time. Right now, our focus is on putting out the album. We recorded the first set of songs at Strange Magic [Recording] in Hermosa[/Logan Square], with our friend Robby Hamilton, and our last session day with Doug Malone at Jamdeck in Humboldt Park. Now, we’re just trying to get done with mixing and everything and then start shopping it around to record labels and that whole process.
I think it’s the best thing we’ve ever done. I hope people will enjoy it. We’d love to play shows, and we might even have some before October if we’re lucky. We’re still trying to actually become a Chicago band, since we haven’t really had a chance to play much here yet.
Featured image: The Roof Dogs
Correction: This article has been updated to note the band’s current drummer.