Interview: Slaughter Beach, Dog

Written by Daniel Rourke

Born from the temporary ashes of Modern Baseball, Slaughter Beach, Dog has proved to be more of a creative outlet than frontman Jake Ewald ever expected. Following the announcement of 'Birdie' – the second album from Ewald’s project – we sat down with him to chat about the project, the future of Modern Baseball and much more.

Burn After Writing: You’re over here on your first UK tour under the moniker of Slaughter Beach, Dog, what are you expecting from it?

Jake Ewald: I’m pretty excited. When Modern Baseball would come over, every now and then we would do a small acoustic show or an instore at Banquet Records, and they were always awesome. There were always people who were specifically excited about the band coming to play acoustic, so I’m excited to do it with this project.

BAW: The tour was announced alongside the 'Mortocycle.jpg' EP, how’s the reaction been towards that EP?

JE: It’s been really good, I was surprised at how well it was received. It’s only an EP, I didn’t think many people would catch onto it and like it, but there’s been so many people listening and telling me they like it.

We did a little tour in the States when the EP came out and a lot of people came out to those shows. It’s starting to get exciting, it’s great seeing people getting into the music and singing along to the songs.

BAW: Of course, you released your debut album last year. Where did this project start?

JE: It started as just a writing exercise, I was trying to write songs that were made up narratives. It was just like a writing class, practice type of thing. The other element is that I went to school for audio recording, so I thought it would be fun to write a bunch of songs and then record an album and just have it as a thing.

As I started putting the songs out and getting together a live band it started to feel really good, and it was fun. It was then when Lame-o Records got on board. It’s exciting, it’s been a fun, slow-moving project.

BAW: From both the EP and the previous album, there’s a similarity in songwriting to that of John K. Samson and The Weakerthans. What were your influences going into this project?

JE: Definitely John K. Samson, I really like him both in The Weakerthans and his solo stuff. I don’t listen to them so much anymore, but I was listening to Pedro The Lion and David Bazan around the time that I started writing these songs.

More recently I’ve been listening to Jeff Tweedy and Wilco, you know, that kind of more softer leaning stuff rather than more intense rock songs. I’d say they were the big ones.

BAW: You’re currently touring alongside Nervus, how did that come about?

JE: I hadn’t heard of them before this tour, I think it was either Big Scary Monsters or our agent Tom who told me about Nervus. I checked out the band following that conversation and they’re really cool. Big Scary Monsters then announced that they’re putting out Nervus’ next record, and it suddenly became this big family thing, it’s great.

I met Em (Nervus) today and they were super cool. We’re doing all three shows together and I’m so excited, I heard them soundcheck today and they have an incredible voice.

BAW: Aside from Slaughter Beach, Dog, you’re also in Modern Baseball. The last time we really heard from Modern Baseball was when you announced your hiatus. However, you have since announced a run of three shows in October. What’s the current status with the band?

JE: We’re kind of just taking some undetermined time off, it’s basically a result of us doing way too much all at one time. We just got burnt out, it was the typical first band type of thing. Obviously, we were lucky to get so many cool opportunities to burn ourselves out on, but yeah.

The reason for the three shows in Philadelphia is down to when we cancelled the tour in the States and announced we were taking a break. It meant we wouldn’t play a Philly show, and we hadn’t played a headline Philly show in almost a year. We felt like we owed the community that built us up a few shows before we step back for a while, it’s kind of a thank you to Philly.

BAW: You mentioned the reason for the hiatus was that you were burnt out, the one thing that I noticed from the band’s statement was the honesty of it. When bands go on hiatus, there never seems to be much context, just blurred lines. Do you think it’s important to talk about mental health in the way you did, even if it means laying everything about yourselves out there?

JE: Totally. I remember being a kid and bands going on tour for two years in a row and thinking: ‘wow, that’s so cool, that’s what bands do, it’s the best thing ever.’ That tends to be the impression of it and if you’re lucky enough you can get wrapped up in that world and start a band then go on tour all the time.

At a certain point you’ll be in a band and realise that it’s difficult and it’ll take a toll on your mental and physical health if you don’t take care of yourself the right way – we didn’t really do that.

Given the relationship with our fans, we thought it was really important to talk about it. We can be honest with the people who come to see us and we’re so lucky we can do that, we got to tell everyone exactly what was going on and the response was nothing but positive. That announcement was important to us, but also one of the scariest things we’ve done as a band.

BAW: It seemed like the band were touring nonstop, I remember the tour with Sorority Noise wrapping up and you following it by announcing that you were coming back with PUP for some more intimate shows. I think it clicked that the band were never off tour when you rocked up and played a show in my old university town, Huddersfield, no one really played Huddersfield at that time. I don’t think anyone can blame you for taking some time to yourselves, is it just a case of taking everything slow from now on, both with Modern Baseball and this project?

JE: Yeah, with Modern Baseball we’re just going to take it as it comes. We’re going to do those three Philly shows, and then when we want to do it again then we’ll totally do it again. But yeah, that’s the biggest lesson I took away; I want Slaughter Beach, Dog to make me happy and make other people happy for as long as possible. I’m going to take it slow, I’m going to do it how I want to do it and I want to be particular so that it can be a positive project.

BAW: Finally, your second album 'Birdie' is set to be released via Big Scary Monsters later this year, what can you tell us about that?

JE: I’m really excited about it, it’ll be out 27th October. It was recorded by Ian (Farmer) and I in the studio we run in Philly, I played all the instruments and Ian recorded and produced it. We went in for three weeks and it was just the two of us and it was such a rewarding experience because we’ve been working together for so long.

Since this all came after the Modern Baseball announcement, I was just in this funny period of my life where I was so free of any stress – both of us were – we felt so calm and at peace, not thinking about anything other than these new songs. I’m really happy with how it turned out and I can’t wait for it to be in the world.