Charles Brownstein chatted with Erick from The Dig to discuss their latest album, Midnight Flowers, working with Bryce Goggin, and even a bit about cassette technology.
NT: Let me ask you about recording Midnight Flowers—first of all, what was the process like? And what was it like to work with Bryce Goggin?
Erick: Goggin was awesome! We recorded our first album with him at his studio in Brooklyn, and he’s worked with a lot of bands that we really respect, like Pavement and The Breeders, and Spacehog, and so on. He’s a mastermind and really great to work with: he’s a really creative guy.
NT: What kind of relationship do you have at the studio with Bryce? Is he really hands-off?
Erick: Oh, he’s totally involved with everything! He makes a lot of decisions, and he’s like a good friend in the band while we’re recording. He came to a lot of rehearsals and learned all the songs, and got a lot of ideas beforehand, and when we were in the studio he kind of helped us arrange a lot of the songs and help us find sounds. With Pavement, he found a really good vocal coach for them, and he’s pretty integral as far as the part he played in the studio: he’s like one of the band members. He calls the shots in a lot of ways, always having the last word—it’s like having a new set of ears from someone, and we really respect his abilities.
NT: I read the single “Red Rose in the Cold Winter Ground”… was that written during jury duty?
Erick: Yeah, David wrote the lyrics to that during jury duty, so I guess to pass the time he took advantage of it and did something productive with it and wrote some cool lyrics. Then I had a riff, and he put the lyrics to that riff, and then we all got together to create some chords for the ending—it was pretty collaborative.
NT: Is it kind of nerve-wracking, waiting for the response of fans and critics when you put it out there?
Erick: Oh, absolutely. I mean, the thing for us is that I feel like we’re really still trying to reach a lot of people. In the grand scheme of things, we’re a really, really small band just getting started, so there’s not really that pressure. We’re a band that’s still hustling and trying to build something. In a way I think it’s kind of cool because we have the freedom to do whatever we want to—we don’t have a label, we’re still a small band… we’re more anxious than excited or nervous, I think.
NT: You guys have been playing together since you were 16 years old?
Erick: Yeah, Neil and David grew up together, so they’ve been playing music for… even longer: they met each other in middle school, so they were like, 12 or 13, and then I met them when I was 17, Neil was 16, David was 15, and we’ve been writing songs together since then in different bands. Then we moved to New York City and have been playing as The Dig for 5 or 6 years, and now we met Mark in November and he’s sort of taken over on drums, so we’ve just known him for a little while. We know each other pretty well at this point. I mean, we have our issues, but for the most part I think we’re doing the best we can considering how much time we actually spend together.
NT: So, tell me about the name of the band. I know it’s kind of a broad, general question, but does it come from a fondness for the video game or the cult movie?
Erick: It has nothing to do with the video game, really. We were living in Boston, David, Emile and I , and there’s this big construction project called “The Big Dig” where they try to build these underground highways in Boston, and it was something that was talked about all the time and was just put into our subconscious, I think… and then a weekly newspaper called Dig in Boston, and we did see the cult movie Dig on the Dandy Warhols. I think it was just a culmination of all that, but I think we thought The Big Dig was a really cool-sounding name and we thought we’d just go with The Dig, so we went with that and thought it was a really cool name.
NT: I hear you’re doing a residency at the Silver Lake Lounge, which is a pretty cool venue— how did that residency come about?
Erick: Oh well, we had the idea that we kinda wanted a change of scenery, and the only time we
get to the west coast is if we’re fortunate enough to get a really cool tour that takes us out there, so we thought it would be cool to do a similar thing to what we did in New York, where we kind of play a couple of residencies at piano venues to build up a following, so we thought we’d do the same kind of thing in L.A., to get out to the west coast, spend some time out there, play some shows, spend some time meeting people and other bands out there and kind of chat a little bit. We haven’t locked down anything just yet but we have a lot of friends out there that we’ve toured with in various bands, and they have their own bands that we want to try to get on board.
NT: Let me ask you about the cassette format—I talk to a lot of bands about it and I really get a kick out of it. Did you guys make cassettes on a boom-box in your tour van? How did it happen?
Erick: Yeah, we thought it would be a cool idea. Actually, Mark’s brother John, who’s a filmmaker, he put the idea in our heads to make some cassette tapes: we thought it would be cool to sell some cassette tapes along with the CDs… at the time we really didn’t have any new music to sell at the show along with the CDs, we didn’t have any new songs out, so we thought “why not make some cassette tapes as kind of a collector’s sort of thing?”, so we kinda did it oldschool. We got a boombox and started making them in the back of the van, and at the venues… it takes 10 minutes to make each tape, because we put 2 songs on either side, and the songs we put on there were about 5 minutes long, so it was like an old CD/double cassette deck, so we got a computer, plugged in an auxiliary cord on tape mode, and then you play the song off the computer and it records it onto the tape.
NT: … that’s incredible. That’s great.
Erick: Yeah, it was really cool! In the age of digital music, it’s kind of cool to have something that… as kids, we all used to make mix tapes, and it’s great that there are people out there who appreciate that kind of thing.