Contributed By: Jake Schell
In a world full of ambitious artists, it can be hard to break through the noise (literally) and create a sound that is both unique and delightful to listen to. However, since Doc Robinson’s latest album release, Ring of Love, they’ve done just that. Their sophomore album is a perfect addition to their already impressive debut album, Deep End. The Columbus, Ohio based band also recently released an EP, Licks, Vol. 1.
Doc Robinson’s music is, as a whole comfortably simple, but refreshingly new. The lyrical messages of love, relationships, the past, and the future are overwhelmingly relatable. And Nick and Jon would agree, self-describing their music as “backyard BBQ breakup music.”
Whether it’s the unexpectedly upbeat sounds of “Chattanooga” or the slow and steady beat of “Lemon Misty”, every song in Ring of Love elicits the pure feeling of summer life. No matter the time of year, the album brings you back to days at your neighborhood pool, drives to your local beach, and sunrays on the back of your neck.
Ring of Love truly is a warm album filled with just enough character to fill a void in the indie music scene. No matter where you are, you can’t help but tap your toes, flash a grin, and relax.
With all of this in mind, it’s no wonder we were so excited to sit down with Jon and Nick and chat about Doc Robinson.
The Feature Story: How long have you known each other? How did you meet and what inspired you to start making music together?
Nick: We’ve known each other for over a decade, but we didn’t start writing music together until we started this project two years ago. We played in different bands for a number of years, where I think we both learned what we liked and didn’t like about the co-writing process. So by the time we got around to really intentionally sitting down to try and write together we were ready to hit the ground running. We put out our first batch of tunes in November 2016. After lots of different band dynamics over the years in other projects, it’s very refreshing to have just two cooks in the kitchen calling shots.
TFS: You say your name is a mix of some of your biggest influences, Dr. Dog and Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, what does that mean to you? How does your music carry on their legacy?
Nick: When we sat down for our first writing session those two artists were sort of the book ends we were using to encapsulate the sound we were going for. Songs rooted melodically in the classics but with some modern production and lyrical elements. As we’ve gone along we’ve sort of used those two groups as our guiding lights on the journey. If you dig more into their histories and discographies they have a lot of things in common besides having a lot of great fucking music. They’re hardworking, solid dudes, that aren’t on noticeable ego trips, they’re glued together by long friendships and comradery. They’re happy to share songwriting credits, and they really radiate good family vibes, which when you boil it all down is what we’re all about too. We later found out via YouTube search results that Doc Robinson also happens to be a legendary fighting rooster that has since squired several generations of hatches of fighting roosters.
TFS: Describe your music to somebody who has never heard it. What genre is Doc Robinson? And what is backyard BBQ breakup music?
Jon: Our music generally combines elements of classic rock and roll, folk, and soul music with the modern pop sound and recording techniques we grew up with. It would take a pretty long grocery list to describe the recipe, but we like to call our sound a “throwback to the future.” Backyard BBQ breakup music was a phrase coined by our good friend and record producer, Mike Landolt. At the time we were trying to figure out a way to best describe a batch of tunes that were in essence, sad break-up songs, but had the melody and feel of upbeat and fun backyard BBQ party vibes.
TFS: What’s the ultimate goal with your music? How should people feel when they hear Doc Robinson?
Nick: When I started my first band I was 25 and going to night school to be a teacher. I convinced my wife it would be cool if I dropped out and started a band, and my goal became to make a teacher’s salary playing music. If I could do that, it would be all good. That goal still works for me. Going back to Dr. Dog and Smokey Robinson and many of our other heroes, I think they are heroes not just because of their music but because of how they managed their careers and what they were after. I’m always chasing the high of writing the next song. Each day that passes that I can pay the bills from making music feels like some kind of clerical error that the gods haven’t noticed yet. We have a lot of fist bump moments where we’re like, “I love my job.”
TFS: What has gotten you this far? Who and what has helped you?
Nick: We’ve co-produced everything we’ve put out so far. On the first EP it was our buddy Mike Landolt, then on the two records it was our good buddy and lead guitar player George Barrie. We’ve had a few different guys doing the mixing (Jay Alton on Deep End and Josh Antonuccio and Mike Landolt on Ring of Love). We’ve tried a different process on each collection of songs based on what sound and feel we were looking for on each. So on Ring of Love, for example, we went to an old studio in Columbus called Musicol that’s been running continuously since 1964, and actually pressed all of our vinyl in their basement. They had an embarrassment of riches when it came to classic mics and preamps. We really worked hard on that album to chase the sonic vision we were going for from start to finish. Our A team that plays on the vast majority of our full band shows (Aaron Bishara on drums, Jeff Bass on bass, George Barrie on lead guitar) have also been critical in the studio with helping us keep a consistent sound. And having George involved with production throughout as well as playing all the lead guitar has been critical.
TFS: Who writes your songs? What are some of your most common or favorite song topics?
Nick: Jon and I wrote about 85% of our songs together, then a handful were written with friends (Taylor Meier with “Older” and “Leave A Light On”, Seth Bain with “Slip Away” and “Break My Fall”, Rob Maccabee with “Ring of Love”, and Jason Quicksall with “Like You Do”). Also, a few were old songs I had that had never been used (“Cut Me Loose”, “Heavy Like”, “Never Goodbye”). Most of our songs at least on the first record tended to be sad love songs about the twists and turns of relationships gone awry. On the last record we started to branch out more, and I think our co-writing process is developing and maturing so we’re able to tackle more abstract concepts. For instance, “Miles Ahead” about losing friends to overdoses, or “Chattanooga”- giving the finger to a CD company we worked with that wouldn’t press Deep End because it had an f-bomb. [Love songs] can get tiresome, and start to feel artificial, especially when your both in happy relationships. The songs on Ring of Love were mostly written on the road while we were on a run opening for CAAMP. Some of the songs took weeks or months to piece together like “Lemon Misty”, others took one short sitting like “Morning Stay”. It never happens one way, and I hope it never will, it’s more fun that way. You just always have to have a line in the water in case there’s a song nearby.
TFS: Do you guys work with music full-time? What’s your ideal career?
Jon: We are fortunate to live in a city that supports its art community, where we can create and play music in live settings most nights of the week, and earn a respectable living. Aside from Doc Robinson, we both have other sources of income. Nick is one of the head honchos at Dick and Jane Project (http://www.thedickandjaneproject.org) and works heavily with the musical youth in our community. I teach voice lessons locally, and perform with other local music acts, like Popgun and the Floorwalkers. Our ideal career would be playing our original music for crowds of beautiful souls all over the planet Earth.
TFS: Where have you performed and where do you plan to perform? What can we expect for Doc Robinson in the future?
Jon: We were really fortunate to have joined our good friends, CAAMP on the East Coast leg of their first national headlining tour. A tour that brought us for the first time to New York, Chicago, Philly, D.C., and many other markets we had yet to visit outside of Columbus, Ohio. We love playing house shows and backyard parties at the personal homes of our fans and family. There is something really special about the more intimate, unplugged shows that allow us to relax and really tell a story along with singing our songs.
TFS: Any last words?
We are currently working on a new batch of tunes and we hope to have album 3 recorded and ready for the world by Spring 2019.