Dawg days

Dawg Yawp howls at Blind Bob’s

By Matt Clevenger

Photo: Rob Keenan (left) and Tyler Randall (right) jam at Blind Bob’s Aug. 20; photo: Michael Wilson


Part folk, part rock, and part techno, Dawg Yawp will bring one of Cincinnati’s most unique and critically acclaimed live shows to Blind Bob’s Aug. 20.

Named Cincinnati radio station 89.7 WNKU’s Discovery of the Month in March, the duo has gained national attention since releasing their latest single, “Can’t Think,” which was recently featured on NPR’s Heavy Rotation. Combining sitar, guitar, and drums with synthesizers and even an electronic sampler, Dawg Yawp will open a special show at Blind Bob’s featuring the Cricketbows, Brujas del Sol, and Nights.

“We’re excited to get up to Dayton,” says vocalist and sitar-player Tyler Randall. “We’ve never been to Blind Bob’s, but we’ve heard a lot of great things about them, and we’re excited to do it.”

Randall started playing the sitar in high school, after first hearing the instrument on the Beatles’ song “Within You, Without You.”

“I heard it, and I didn’t know what that sound was,” he says. “I thought maybe it was an electronic instrument or something. But I had recently met Rob [Keenan)] around that time, and he told me it was a sitar.”

“So, I got into Ravi Shankar, and started saving up,” he says. “Finally, after six months or so, I was able to order one, and it took months and months to come. I just started experimenting on it in my own way, just doing whatever I wanted,  because I didn’t know anyone who knew what it was. There was no one to really help me at first, except for my friend Dave Snyder, who is a great luthier up in Woodstock.”

“It’s kind of in a league of its own,” Randall says of the gigantic instrument. “The bottom is a gourd, and that helps give it the sound. It’s probably like four-and-a-half feet tall, and they can get to be a lot bigger. The bottom gourd is about the size of a basketball.”

“But the sound really comes from the sympathetic strings that run underneath the frets,” he continues. “You get them perfectly in tune, and then when you play the corresponding notes, the sympathetic strings are activated and you hear them resonating and creating higher frequencies. On mine there are 17, and, typically, there are 20 to 21 strings.”

Randall went off to attend music school at UC Berkeley and took the sitar with him (he auditioned on guitar). “It’s weird,” he says. “It just kind of wouldn’t go away. I kept getting all these gigs for the sitar because I played with all kinds of bands, and I was the only sitar player there.”

“I played with all sorts of bands around town, and I played in the streets a lot when I lived on the East Coast, in the subways of New York and Boston. I played with some reggae bands, middle-eastern fusion bands, electronic bands, and then I started getting into bluegrass.”

He eventually returned home, and formed Dawg Yawp with multi-instrumentalist Rob Keenan, a high-school friend who had recently returned to the area from Colorado. “Live, Rob has an MPC [an electronic sampler], and he plays this thing called a pocket piano, which is a small analog synthesizer, and then he’ll also play acoustic guitar,” Randall says. “When we record, we kind of all play whatever.”

“I have a hard time describing it,” he says of Dawg Yawp’s sound. “People call it ‘psychedelic folk.’ Our influences range from electronic groups like Air and LCD Soundsystem to Daft Punk and bluegrass groups like the Killers. Then, definitely some Rolling Stones and the Beatles – that’s at the core.”

Dawg Yawp has already put out one EP, Two-Hearted, and recently released two new singles. They are also currently recording a new full-length album that is planned for release sometime in October.

“We thought we were going to release an EP, but we’ve decided to do a full-length now,” Randall says of the upcoming album. “We’re including some songs from Two-Hearted, we’re including some songs from a three-song recording session we did, and then we’re writing a couple more.”

“I feel like we’ve kind of hit our stride with our sound,” he continues, “so I think it’s going to be pretty cohesive.”

The duo is planning to spend the rest of the summer writing and preparing for a fall tour. “For the rest of the summer, I just want to write and play some out of town shows that are nearby on the weekends,” Randall says. “We’re going to Louisville and Muncie Indiana, Columbus and…I just want to keep writing, and hang out with my dog Jim.”

Dawg Yawp performs Saturday, Aug. 20, at Blind Bob’s, 430 E. Fifth St. in Dayton. The Cricketbows, Brujas del Sol, and Nights are also on the bill. For more information, please visit dawgyawp.com.

Reach DCP freelance writer Matt Clevenger at MattClevenger@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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Reach DCP freelance writer Matt Clevenger at MattClevenger@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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