Breaking Bad get-ups, chunky crotchet hats, boxing matches in the pit at Battle of the Bands.
These are all quirks that highlight Couch Dog’s unwavering ability to bring high energy to each of their live performances.
Couch Dog’s debut album, How to Ruin Your Life Fast dropped on Friday, May 19! We sat down with Max (vocals), Tasha (Bass), Pablo (guitar), and Josh (drums) to chat about the exciting accomplishment. We wanted to know where the title came from and what fans can expect from this album versus past EPs that have dropped.
HTRYLF has a nice variety of sounds that allowed the band to explore different vibes. Couch Dog compares the album to a roller coaster, as it starts off pretty tame and then builds into a rowdy and fun vibe perfect for blasting in the car with friends or moshing at a show.
“Funnily enough it wasn’t actually the original title, we had something else that we were gonna use up until about two weeks until we had to submit it. When we looked up the title that we were gonna use we realized that it was already taken.”
Turns out the band had planned to call their new album, “What Could Possibly Go Wrong” and that title, ironically enough, was already taken. Euphoria star and singer Dominic Fike released an album with that title in 2020.
“So we had to scramble and think of something else and we wanted something that was similar in feeling to our EP titled, “Bad and Better than Ever” which is an oxymoron.”
I was curious about where their maniacal list of “How to Ruin Your Life Fast” came from. Hill bombing in a shopping cart, getting a bad face tattoo, sleeping through your final exam, eating gas station sushi, drinking too much, and starting a band with your friends are all things Couch Dog recommends to get you there.
Tasha: “We were just thinking of different life-ruining things and honestly most of them we come up with day of. We came up with gas station sushi yesterday, took the pictures yesterday, it’s all been quick and spontaneous.”
Max: “We do plan a lot of things, but when it comes to executing…. That’s another story. Most of the time it’s planned and then we get to it and we’re like… oh we did not plan enough. The details are always happening last minute. Even the name “Couch Dog”- we came up with that because we booked our first gig and didn’t have a name yet. When they asked us what to put on the poster, we had to come up with something.”
The band even had different plans for the album cover, including a convertible and scouted locations, but the plans fell through when the car owner backed out. However, the band is stoked about how the cover came out. They drew inspiration from a Jackass poster and their buddy, and roommate (aka in-house photo guy) Andy Sherar, edited and took the photos.
That’s DIY baby, that’s what we’re all about.
Amber: “What was the recording process like for the album? Any interesting stories or challenges you encountered along the way?”
Max: “This time we worked in a studio with our boy Grif at Blood Ox Recording Company. He’s a local guy who was kinda getting started when we started talking. He’s got a sweet setup, he let us use his space. He really hooked us up and helped co-produce it with us which was really cool because he gave us a lot more control than we were expecting when it came to working in a professional setting.”
Amber: “Sweet! That’s like our Alex Rennie. They’re fucking awesome when it comes to audio engineering (and everything else).”
As a DIY surf-rock/punk band, Couch Dog is well known for their energetic live performances with quirky get-ups. How do they plan to bring that same energy to each of their shows?
Tasha: “Truthfully sometimes we have nothing planned, but that’s not to say nothing will happen.”
Pablo: “We’re like a brainstorming mission, we just chuck ideas out and see what happens and what sticks. I feel like show planning, the one we went the hardest with was the Breaking Bad one at Guild Hall. We had to prep and make Heisenberg’s blue “candy” (wink wink) and get the costumes situated.”
Max: “It’s nice because Tasha, Pablo, and I all live together, so pretty much most of the time someone will say, “Oh shit we have a show coming up and we’ll yell across the house “What if we did this!” “What are you wearing?” “Let me see your outfit!”
The best things come from spontaneity.
Let’s talk about the epic night that was Battle of the Bands at the Fremont Theater. Not only was the band clad in crocheted hats and jorts, but they also orchestrated a full-on boxing match in the pit, complete with costumes and actors. After battling it out on the stage with a number of talented local bands, Couch Dog well deservedly pulled the win for the opportunity to play at Shabang Music Festival (for the second year in a row — whoop whoop!).
Amber: “How was performing at Shabang different this year from your first time around?” Were the nerves still nervy?
Max: “Definitely less nerves this time. I was really excited to get to play on the Laguna Lake Stage. Opening the main stage on Saturday was really cool. The venue was more spread out this year so we got rides on the golf carts, feelin’ fancy, the food truck was bangin’.”
Amber: “Max, as the vocalist, how do you prepare yourself before a performance? Any rituals or routines you follow? How do you keep yourself from losing your voice?”
Max: “I don’t! Halfway through our set at Shabang I lost my voice and it was awful, but that was the first time that’s happened. Typically I try to drink a lot of tea the day of with as much honey as I can get to dissolve”
Amber: “Do you come up with the lyrics for Couch Dog’s songs or is that a collaborative effort?”
Max: “Typically I’ll come up with the chord progression and the lyrics and basic melody. Once we’ve got a rough structure and some good bones, I’ll take it to these guys and they’ll help to fill it out and make it a full song.”
Amber: “Do you draw inspiration from life experiences?”
Max: “A lot of it is exaggerated life experiences, and I try to come up with lyrics that people can relate to.”
Amber: “Pablo, as the lead guitarist, how do you approach writing riffs for Couch Dog? Are there any specific techniques or influences that shape your playing style?”
Pablo: “As Max said, he comes up with the chord progression and as we’re all jamming together I’ll find spots in the fret that sound good and from there, I like to pull sounds from some of my favorite artists like Chris from Peach Pit, The Strokes, and The Black Keys. In this album, I got inspiration from the band Wilco to write a song about oranges which is the most challenging song that I’ve ever written the guitar for.”
Max: “Sometimes we’ll record our practices and Pablo will comb through and pick pieces that sound really good. Especially for this album, because most of the songs on this one we’ve been working on for a while, we’ve had time to workshop them. More and more parts of the solos that have been played freestyle started to reappear and become more consistent.”
It’s like Frankensteining the best pieces of sound.
Amber: “Tasha, What drew you to playing bass in a punk band?”
Tasha: “When I was growing up, I did piano and violin, in a ‘start piano when you’re five years old’ intense kind of way. I had a lot of earlier music experience and when I was going to college I didn’t feel like piano or violin would be the vibe. We had a bass in the house so it grew out of convenience at first. I started jamming with Max and that’s where everything started.”
Amber: “Do you have any specific influences that inspired you to pick up the instrument?”
Tasha: “I listen to a lot of punk music and I love how thumpy and constant the bass is. It’s always there as a layer and it’s a good thing to focus on when I’m listening to a song. Inspirations I really like are the bass in Beach Goons and Parquet Courts.
Pablo: “In this album, we really wanted to bring out the rhythm section, bass and drums, and they sound great in the album.
Piano prodigy to bass shredder.
Amber: “Josh, being the drummer, you’re responsible for setting the band’s rhythm and tempo.
How do you keep the band in sync during live performances?”
Josh: “Honestly, I feed off of them, that’s a big thing- all the energies and I try to find the vibe of the song. Tasha’s baseline is especially the driving force. We play off each other a lot, we have all this chemistry now.
Amber: “I’ve heard you guys play live a good amount of times and from first discovering you to now, you sound so much more in tune with each other and you’ve gotten really good at performing live.
Pablo: “Sometimes Max will come up with a couple of chords and Josh will just know what to do with it.”
Tasha: “Yeah, he just gets it, I don’t think any of us have ever not vibed with what he’s come up with.”
Max: “When we play older crowds we’ll have people come up to us and ask about the drummer.”
“That’s Josh- he’s a legend.”
The title, How to Ruin Your Life Fast, brings a sort of chaotic energy that makes you question your life choices, like getting a little too drunk with your coworkers. I asked the band if they had any similar moments to share. Tasha shared a story that evokes this feeling. When she was doing a group assignment with a friend where they had to rewrite Hamlet with pop-culture characters. The characters in question: Lightning McQueen and Mater from Cars. Upon googling for some images she came across Rule 34. Just joking around, the erotic pictures were pasted on the Google doc, and you guessed it, it was accidentally submitted to Canvas. Whoops.
So, what’s next for Couch Dog?
Couch Dog is dropping their first music video for the album soon and keep your eyes peeled for new merch dropping from .wav homie JUMBO Premium (aka Justin Pioletti).
Amber Gourley is a part of .wavzine’s Marketing and Events Team. She conducted the interview and wrote the article. Caileigh Poeschl is the manager of .wavzine’s Photo/Video Team. She took the pictures.