With only one single and such a buzzy reputation for wild gigs, we chatted with Fat Dog to see what all the fuss was about
At Green Man this year, I was feeling particularly pleased with myself about the amount of bands I was seeing compared to my friends. I had timed it perfectly, jumping from The Comet Is Coming in the pouring rain to Slowdive in an otherworldly and very muddy tent.
But, the more people I talked to, the more I realised I had made a terrible mistake. “Did you catch Fat Dog” was possibly the most said sentence of the weekend, and each time, I had to sadly answer “no”. When their debut single ‘King Of The Slugs’ dropped shortly after, I suddenly understood the hype.
Somehow combining punk with experimental with techno, the track is a completely one-of-a-kind, brutally intense and incredibly exciting introduction to the band.
“It’s quite audacious to do a seven-minute track” frontman Joe reflects from the beer garden. “On YouTube, people would be like ‘when are you putting out ‘King Of The Slugs’?’… Getting the one that’s the longest and hardest out of the way is probably a good idea. It increases morale.”
It is this cult-like following online, and at every gig, that has propelled Fat Dog to this stage of buzz. From the second they begin playing in Strange Brew, Bristol, the crowd is locked in, somehow knowing every track despite the only way for them to be listened to being live YouTube clips from The Windmill.
“While I can’t speak for other members of the band, it’s just nice knowing people appreciate the musical entity that you’re a part of” drummer Johnny says. Joe expands “We started playing loads of seated gigs and in the first one they could stand up, you could see people moving. It was so nice to see people actually like it. We were trying so hard to practise and it’s so nice that it was all not for nothing.”
During the interview, Joe is incredibly nonchalant and humble, the complete opposite to his on-stage presence. At every stage of the gig, he has complete control over his crowd, opening up countless pits and standing in the middle of crouched fans, almost like a preacher. Never have I seen a band so in touch with their audience and never have I seen an audience so ready to go along with the band’s vision.
In reality, it is not Joe who is bigging up his musical talents but his fellow bandmates. When asked whether he had any idea how buzzy their following would become, bassist Ben jumps in “I’ll talk. I think Joe didn’t know, because it’s his own music. But I had an idea. I liked Joe’s music, I always knew Joe and I thought it was going to do well!” Like the fans, the band have come together around this twisted, unusual and incredibly fun vision too.
While Fat Dog is very new to a lot of us, they have been playing together since lockdown. Johnny explains: “I arrive and I go to Joe’s gaff, we’re doing some jamming and stuff. Next thing you know, the first gig we do is at The Windmill and it kinda goes on from there really.”
I ask how they keep the experience fresh. Joe says “I don’t know about fresh, man, we’ve been playing the same thing for years,” while Johnny replies with a deadpan “splash a bit of water on us, have a shower.”
Don’t let this fool you. Their performance was exhilarating throughout. With very little time to breathe, they rattled through their setlist masterfully, making every second feel completely unpredictable and spontaneous, even if they are very used to it by now. Each and every time that pounding techno beat took over from the punk instrumentation, it put a huge smile on my face as I was launched into the pit once again.
Fat Dog are aware that there is always a need to move forward though. Before their recent Scala show in London, they panicked. “We realised we can’t play the same songs to the same audience after three years,” Joe explains, “so we quickly went into the rehearsal rooms and thought ‘we’ve gotta make something quick.’ So we had a two week period to try and add on 15 minutes! I think we did it.”
It’s clear that Fat Dog aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. When asked about the future, Johnny very mysteriously answers “We’ve got plans. There’ll be something we got planned.” to which the band bursts out laughing and says it sounds like he’s about to blow up a library. Johnny isn’t phased though and lays out his plans for a Fat Dog ale, before quickly being shot down once again by his bandmates, who tell him he’d probably just drink it all.
Seeing the band perform after the interview made the experience all the more exciting. While they come across like a bunch of mates who happen to make music together, their music really is something extremely special. Their fusion of genres is unlike anything else and they really must be seen to be believed. Everyone I met at the gig had seen them at least 3 or 4 times already.
Most importantly though, they want to make people dance. “I grew up to a lot of chin-scratching music and I still love it,” says keys player Chris, “but it’s more rewarding as a musician when you get physical feedback to the music you’re making. I wouldn’t call Fat Dog cerebral music but I would say it’s danceable.”
Watch/Listen to ‘King Of The Slugs’ here: