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Brooklyn-based rock outfit The Dig has been touring the country for the last few years, winning over fans at each stop with fun, energetic live shows. Their debut album, Electric Toys, came out in June. This Saturday, they’re playing on BB Riverboats’ Belle of Cincinnati as part of River_DMF. Each Note Secure’s MaryKate Moran recently talked with Jamie Alegre, the band’s drummer, about recording without a label, a tour van break-in and more.
ENS: You come from a musical background, right? You might be sick of hearing that.
Alegre: [Laughs] My dad played in Toronto and he had a band in the 70s and 80s. They recorded a few 45s. My uncle still has a recording studio up in Canada, actually. But, yeah, I grew up around it and my mom would take me to watch my dad play. I would set up a chair in front of the stage and try to figure out what my dad was doing, just wanting to do what he was doing.
ENS:How did you get hooked up with The Dig?
Alegre: I first met them in New York, they had been playing New York for a year. That’s when they did their first EP, I joined them after that. I used to play in this other band and we’d play shows together. I used to go see them all the time, I became a fan, so when they needed a drummer it worked out perfect.
ENS: When’s the last time you played Cincinnati?
Alegre: We played with Portugal. The Man in March at the 20th Century Theatre.
ENS: Have you guys played a boat before? No cruise ships or anything like that?
Alegre: No, so this will be the first time. We were kind of wondering how much the boat’s gonna rock. We’re looking forward to it. Our friends from Bad Veins recommended us [for the show] and we’re excited to see them again.
ENS: Speaking of Bad Veins, you’ve been touring a lot lately, including a long stint with them, Thrice and Kevin Devine.
Alegre: Yeah, and we just got a few shows with The Henry Clay People. We love being on the road, but it was nice to have a break [over the summer].
ENS: The Dig has been around for what might feel like both a short and long amount of time, given all the touring you’ve done. Do you feel any tour or buzz fatigue?
Alegre: I guess we’re been touring for the last two or three years, but it’s really taken off since we’ve hooked up with Paradigm, and they’ve been getting us some great shows. We used to book our own shows before then and it was definitely a lot more work, but now it feels like it’s starting to take off. Plus, it’s a good experience to do on your own at first. Then when you get a booking agent, you can really appreciate what they’re doing for you.
ENS: When you guys are asked to describe your live shows, the term “high energy” keeps coming up.
Alegre: When we play we want to make the music that you want to move along to. Or at least tap your foot. Our songs can be pretty rockin. We do have slow stuff, but that’s really only compared to our faster-paced songs.
ENS: I’m a fan of the song “Penitentiary.”
Alegre: Yeah, it has a dancy beat. That’s one of the more rocking ones.
ENS: How collaborative is the band’s writing process? Can you say what makes a song a Dig song?
Alegre: Someone will have an initial idea, they’ll usually work on it at home and they’ll bring it into a rehearsal and we’ll piece it together. I bring in some stuff, but the songs tend to start of with a chorus or melody.
I think the songwriting definitely evolves and changes, even from bands that you’re touring with, but overall when we play a song it will sound like us. A lot of soundscapes come from our keyboardist Eric, and he tends to put a Dig signature on it. And of course the vocals.
ENS: How was making your first album without a record label?
Alegre: The main thing is that we had to raise all the money ourselves. Obviously, labels can front a lot of the cost. But we also felt that it was good that way, we have a lot more control of what we want to do with the album now and also in the future, with sales and royalties.
ENS: And as of right now you’re still unsigned.
Alegre: Yea. We’re self-operating. We have great management and a booking agent and a publicist, a lawyer and a little distribution deal as well. Pretty much, so far it’s going well. There was a time we were really pushing to try to get on a label. But when the timing’s right…
ENS: Have you guys developed any tour rituals?
Alegre: Maybe individually, but nothing unique like that. Yeah we’re kind of boring, I guess. We’re not superstitious.
ENS: Your van was broken into in Chicago last month and a lot of valuable equipment was stolen. Have you been able to replace any of it?
Alegre: We got a lot of support from family and friends they were able to help us replace a lot of it. A lot of the stuff they took was vintage, like vintage guitars from the ’60s and ’70s. It’s amazing how many stories like that you hear when others hear your story. Everybody in the industry can rattle off three or four stories. We’ve learned a lot from it. We took for granted our gear being safe. You don’t really think it can happen to you until it does.
The Dig is playing The Belle of Cincinnati on Saturday, August 28. Boat leaves dock at 11pm. Tickets are $30 at Shake-It Records, $35 at riverdmf.theprojectmill.com and $40 at the door.
Interview by Mary Kate Moran, follow her on Twitter @marykate_moran
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