You’re not all professional musicians in the band, some are semi-professional, right?
Howard teaches English and plays trumpet. He plays with two or three different bands and music is very much a part of his life. Same with Dave (bass). When he’s not teaching he’s playing with either SíSí Riders or as a stand-in bass player for the Blue Jeans with Robbie, and he plays double bass for them as well. Robbie would be an actor more than an English teacher, and then me, I’m mainly jingles, dubbing and music.
A few years ago you changed the name of the group from Garrett Wall Band to Track Dogs. What was that all about, and where did the name come from?
The main motive for the change was to distinguish the band from my already established solo career—not only as a singer-songwriter but also my work on dubbing projects, film soundtracks and advertising spots. We did two albums as the Garrett Wall Band and I always thought that it gave the wrong impression: because it was a boring name we were taboo from the word go . ‘Garret Wall Band... yeah, singer-songwriter with a band... how interesting’.
Robbie came up with the new name because we had no clue what to call ourselves. He rang me one day and said ‘I have the name! I’ve already asked the other guys and they like it’, which was a lie [he laughs], but he knows me by now. So he says ‘Track Dogs’ and explains that it’s the unofficial name of the maintenance crews that work the underground in New York. Because they’re working 24 hours while the trains are still going and they’re, like, little crews that use flashlights to communicate and watch out for each other, it’s a good name for a band that are close-knit and touring all the time, looking after each other.
Not everyone was convinced by the change. The head of Radio 3 said to us one day, ‘You guys are crazy. You spend four years establishing your name and it’s recognised, then you go and fuckin’ change it! We’re going to have to treat you guys as a totally new band’, and we said ‘Excellent! That’s what we want!’”
Sticking together and being able to get along through the tough times is probably one of the most important aspects of a band. You guys are one of the hardest working bands I know: always playing, always touring, always promoting. Do you think you have your sights fixed well on your goal?
From our point of view, we probably think we’re lazy. Do you think from outside it looks like we’re out there? I said it about five years ago, from the very beginning: ‘Lads, this is long-term. We’re either in it for the long term or forget about it because we can only expect it to actually happen over time’, and thankfully, being four guiris, good mates, we’ve lasted the time. We’ve all had a similar sort of love for the project, and thankfully things have happened along the way. I mean there are moments when you kind of feel ‘what are we doing, how are we going to do this?’ I have moments when I get a little bit ratty and frustrated.
What’s the strangest gig you’ve ever done?
I remember one where we played the Centro Cultural in Barrio del Pilar and it was live at three, dead at four, you know, all jubilados who run in and take all the tickets. After the second song some guy shouts out ‘Cantad algo en español, joder! Estamos en España’. So I said ‘Well, you can see from the programme that we are a foreign band and, although we live here, we sing in English. But, I tell you what, I’m going to try and translate, on the spot, all my lyrics as I sing’. And I did it for a laugh and at the end of it the audience were, well, we had them. His friends, the ould ones beside him, were going ‘Callate Miguel, ¡Callate! Estan maravillosos. ¡Sois buenisimos!’. That was memorable. [He laughs]
One of the key things about the Track Dogs project is that it’s based on your own label: Mondegreen Records. Have you any other artists on there?
We mainly set up the label to release our work, but along the way we’ve picked up about 15 artists. It’s to help our friends: we’ve two or three Irish artists on there and a couple of Spanish and Spanish-based artists. With the weight of a registered record label behind them, it gives them the chance to exhibit and sell their work through iTunes and Spotify.
At the beginning of this year the band got accepted into GPS, a government-funded cultural platform for Spanish-based bands. How has this helped?
The GPS, when we got that at the beginning of the year, we thought ‘ok, we can do not only the album, we can also do a single’. We’ve hired a girl, Pilar, to do promo for three months. We decided to release Robbie’s song, “Dust Devil”, as a single. We also joined UFI a couple of years ago, which in English is the Independent Phonographic Union. Being a member of UFI means you can present your artists as a label to festivals and major industry events.
“Dust Devil” is a track with a lot of whistling! Who whistles on there? Robbie?
Yeah. It was very much a kind of a Robbie Jones project—he wrote the video, he wrote the screenplay. We shot it in Manzanares del Real with the help of two stunt horse riders. They’d worked on Alexander the Great with Oliver Stone, and Asterix and Obelix—anything to do with horses. In fact the guy, Curro, was a horseman with a horse-drawn carriage in one of the Harry Potter movies. They lent us real guns, helped us with authenticity and told us how to ride horses. We’re calling it a ‘cocido western’ instead of a spaghetti western.
Watch the video for Dust Devil here:
How did the SXSW (South by Southwest) festival come about?
We applied, but we were turned down. SXSW said ‘Sorry, we’re not inviting you for a showcase, thanks very much’, and we’d forgotten about it, thinking it was probably just as well, because we couldn’t afford it anyway, and we’ve got so much to do—we’ve got eighteen gigs between now and April. And then I got a message from a guy on facebook, who’s a pretty big promoter around here, and he was going: ‘Oh by the way I was giving my advice on SXSW bands and you were one of them’. I told him ‘Ah thanks anyway, but we didn’t get selected’ and he said ‘You might get some news in the next couple of days’.
And then I got another email the next day from UFI saying ‘Congratulations, you’ve been selected as part of...’ and I thought ‘Is that official?’. The day after we got an email from SXSW saying ‘Hey, we’re delighted to offer you a showcase’ and I’m thinking ‘no fucking way! This is just too much!’ They gave us €4000 towards flights, which is just as well because they were €3500. We’re going into the studio in two weeks to record half of the new album and the idea was originally that if we got SXSW, we’d record half to take there as a sample to present to prospective labels and publishers. So everything we’ve kind of planned for and wished for has happened and it’s mind-blowing. Combined with the work that Pilar’s doing for promo, we’ve got a girl specialising in social networks and we’ve just sort of gone for it. We just said ‘fuck it, let’s do everything and let’s not wait for other people’. Literally, our motto is: let’s do it and if they catch us, they’ll catch us running.
Will you be doing anything else in Texas?
We’re not doing any more shows out there. We’re going to be at the SXSW festival as Mondegreen Records. We’re taking over the Dust Devil EP and a sample CD of new material, and basically just do the mingling and see what we can achieve. There are 2,000 concerts in five days—it’s incredible.
So it looks like this project is gathering momentum?
I’m getting emails to do gigs, to do radio things and I’m surprised. I’ve never seen so much at one time, and it’s maybe because GPS and SXSW have happened at the same time, combined with the PR work that Pilar is doing. Suddenly it’s like critical mass. We’ve got a new album out in the autumn, and between now and May we’re working our bollocks off on promos and gigging. We’re going to be in Spain, Ireland, and America between now and May. It’s unbelievable.
Has anything made you smile about the SXSW arrangements?
We were looking for housing at the festival and they asked us for our ages, you know. [He laughs]. We said 44, 44, 37, and 36, and I bet the woman taking the details thought ‘Poor fellows, they probably think they’re going places’.
Given the SXSW festival, plus Track Dogs increasing popularity in Madrid, and Spain as a whole, the road ahead looks bright and promising. InMadrid wishes them the very best of luck in Texas and the months to come.