San Francisco-based Analog Dog has been making a name for themselves with a steady stream of groovy tunes and energetic live shows, including a recent festival at Golden Gate Park that harkened back to the days of Chet Helms Family Dog.
Front man Austin Wasielewski, along with Big Leap Collective, curated the event, aptly named “Do You Remember? A Psychedelic San Francisco Indie Festival.”
Austin remembers. And so do the members of Analog Dog. We sat down with Austin to discuss the band’s new record, psychedelics, the San Francisco scene, and a whole lot more.
Take a listen to the interview and enjoy an exclusive premiere of the Analog Dog video for “what future?”, the first single off their new record.
AUSTIN: Hello, this is Austin Wasielewski of Analog Dog, representing the five most beautiful souls in San Francisco. And I’m happy to be here with Dan Strickland today, talking about the tunes.
STATIC & BLUR: Happy to be with you, man. And really excited to talk to you about this record, Color TV. But before we do, tell me, where are you from?
AUSTIN: I am from Toledo, Ohio. Toledo, Ohio. Technically speaking.
STATIC & BLUR: Did you not grow up there?
AUSTIN: Well, in real terms, I’m from the center of the universe, 14 billion years ago. But on the physical level, yeah, I’m from Toledo, Ohio. That’s where I’m from, born and raised.
STATIC & BLUR: Is Joseph Arthur from Toledo?
AUSTIN: I don’t know, who’s that?
STATIC & BLUR: Oh, man, he’s incredible. He’s kindof lost his way recently, but he’s an incredible singer -songwriter who got discovered by Peter Gabriel when he was 19 years old and signed to Real World records.
STATIC & BLUR: But when I think of Ohio bands, besides the R&B bands, so many great funk and R&B bands, I think of Devo and the Pretenders.
AUSTIN: Absolutely. Proud export, Devo. You know, Neil Young was a huge Devo fan. I always thought that that was cool. Kind of random.
STATIC & BLUR: Oh, I didn’t know that.
STATIC & BLUR: But yeah, so you grew up in Ohio, but how long have you been in San Francisco?
AUSTIN: I’ve been here eight years. I took a visit to Golden Gate Park when I was like 23 and I felt it in the air. I said, I absolutely am supposed to come here and do exactly what I’m doing now. So…
STATIC & BLUR: Yeah, you’ve never heard a musician say that before.
AUSTIN: Yeah, exactly.
STATIC & BLUR: First one. The first one drawn to San Francisco by some sort of mystic vibes.
AUSTIN: Absolutely. So I have that claim to fame. No one else felt it before me, so…
STATIC & BLUR: Were there any bands that kind of held your imagination from San Francisco?
AUSTIN: Oh, I mean, obviously, you know, of course I studied the movement of the late 60s pretty deeply. And, you know, of course I was very deep into everything that was happening here. And even as I mentioned earlier in the last, whatever, 30 seconds, I’m a huge Neil Young fan and huge Joni Mitchell fan. And, you know, I know that they spent their time here and, you know, obviously we love the Grateful Dead and we kind of relate not necessarily as much to their music, but to their kind of way of doing things and thinking outside of the box and the psychedelic movement.
But yeah, I was huge on that. But when I moved here, I got really into kind of my big three where, like, Tino Drima, French Cassettes, and Spooky Mansion were all kind of the bands that I looked up to when I got here and said, oh, this is like what it would look like if we started to succeed. So we’re happy to be holding the torch for those cats.
STATIC & BLUR: Well, I was about to go down a rabbit hole with you and your citing 60s and 70s acts, but your sound doesn’t strike me as being influenced by 60s or 70s music.
AUSTIN: Oh, is this another joke?
STATIC & BLUR: No.
STATIC & BLUR: No.
STATIC & BLUR: Yeah. I see your stuff as being a lot more modern. To me, it sounds more rooted in sort of current interpretations of 80s new wave with some psychedelia, obviously.
AUSTIN: Yeah, right. Yeah, I think that’s the thing about Analog Dog is that you’re not supposed to know. You couldn’t even tell who a song is inspired by because we don’t really think about it like that. It’s such a melting pot of things, we’re all deeply involved musicians and we’ve been listening to the best of what the last 60 years of culture has brought us.
So it feels like whenever people ask us, ‘future nostalgia’ is what we say, we’re on multi genre tip and that definitely comes through a lot in some of the songs. But that’s the thing is, from song to song, I feel like you couldn’t tell where it’s from, it’s all different inspirations.
Each song is just a totally new inspiration. So I wouldn’t say that we are particularly influenced by one time or another, we just write songs and they come out, you know, and we just channel the songs.
And I don’t think that we are too hung up on any of that, yeah. It’s funny that you say that, though, we’re super inspired by the 60s and the 70s, particularly the 70s, but yeah, that not coming through doesn’t bother us because we just write songs and that’s just, it’s all we know how to do. We don’t really get hung up on genre or whatever.
STATIC & BLUR: I mean, that’s cool. And I didn’t mean that as a statement of fact, just my opinion, but I guess the seventies does come through more than the sixties.
Yeah, and it does. It’s more like mid seventies.
AUSTIN: Like Steely Dan is a huge influence too, so a few songs on the record, you’ll hear that, but it’s just that. It’s like, there’s songs that sound that way, they’re piano driven that sound like a modern interpretation of Steely Dan.
And then there’s a song that sounds like Tame Impala or Unknown Mortal Orchestra. And then there’s one that doesn’t sound like anything that we listen to because we just write songs together. And there’s, you know, so many heads in the process that we just, we meld like the great American melting pot.
STATIC & BLUR: Man, you blew through so many questions. So I had like a, you know, what do they call it? Like a speed round at the end of the interview. And you already anticipated, you already answered questions that I was going to ask you in the speed round.
So because time and space is only an illusion and everything is always happening at once, let’s just jump ahead to the end of the interview and then we’ll come back to this point in a second.
AUSTIN: Absolutely, brilliant.
STATIC & BLUR: So the speed round at the end was micro dosing or macro dosing?
AUSTIN: Wow, macro for sure. Can I go into that really quick?
STATIC & BLUR: Please.
AUSTIN: I have a friend who actually was my first bassist in my first band and him and I, he came up to SF, and he’s in like bio med now. He’s really smart, he’s from India.
And so he was just my first like best friend, my first musical partner. And he came to me the other day and he was like, what do you think about all this micro dosing? And I was like, oh, it’s great. Like people are getting normalized in the culture and, and like, you know, it’s this chance for kind of more normal people to take a step in.
And he was like, no, this is not being true to the trip and it’s like classic colonialism where we’re kind of breaking it down and we’re making it bite-sized, but we’re not taking a full journey.
So he made me think a little bit more about that. And like tech CEOs like micro dosing and like, wow, so cool, but maybe they need to macro dose and, you know, kill your ego and like, you know, come to a greater understanding.
But , tomato tomato, macro dosing, go ahead. Next question.
STATIC & BLUR: Well, yeah, maybe those guys really need to crack the head open, right?
AUSTIN: That’s what I mean. I think that he presented something interesting, because I was like, oh, it’s fine. But from his perspective, like working in biotech, I see that, oh, that’s who you’re thinking about. You’re thinking about this culture of people who are normalizing the micro dose, but maybe have never macro dosed.
So a hundred percent, everybody should do mushrooms. Everybody should do an eighth of mushrooms once in their life or a half eighth and find God or whatever you want to call it.
STATIC & BLUR: How many times could you, would you listen to this record on a trip? You can get through probably like five or six times, maybe on a loop.
AUSTIN: This particular record we made?
STATIC & BLUR: Yeah.
AUSTIN: Yeah, it’s about, it’s about an hour. So yeah, I would only recommend listening to it twice.
Once at the beginning of your trip and once at the peak.
STATIC & BLUR: So what would you put in between those bookends?
AUSTIN: For a long time, I always listened to Dark Side of the Moon when I took any psychedelics for like, years. I listened to Dark Side of the Moon at least once every single time I took psychedelics.
I think that record is cliche, but cliches are that way, because they’re true. I think, that’s the great trip. That’s the great gig in the sky right there. I think that it’s a basic answer, but I think Dark Side of the Moon is the greatest record to trip to or like animals by Pink Floyd.
I took my first mushroom trip and I listened to Animals. I’d never heard it and it just completely broke me open. Like dogs, 17 minutes long, you’re just lost in that incredible, incredible music. I’d say Pink Floyd or Flaming Lips.
STATIC & BLUR: Which Flaming Lips record?
AUSTIN: At War with the Mystics, I think is the best Flaming Lips record personally. I’m huge on a lot of those songs. I really like those songs.
STATIC & BLUR: You picked that over Soft Bulletin or Yashimi?
AUSTIN: Yeah. I’d pick it over any of them. I think it’s just like Cosmic Autumn Rebellion. That stuff just hits me in the gut. The W.A.N.D., I just, I love it.
STATIC & BLUR: Well, you’ve also, again, just jumped forward to later questions. So we’re just sort of, we’re just going through the spiral. Either we’re going in or out, I’m not sure. We’re getting smaller or larger. You just rattled off a couple of concept records. And am I right in understanding Color TV to be a concept record?
AUSTIN: Yeah, definitely. And in an interesting way where it was like, we wrote a lot of the songs separate from that. But we’re very conceptual people, deeply conceptual people. I think that the best thing about Analog Dog is that we have the freedom to dive in with confidence.
There’s really deep, heady, spiritual things that people are very sensitive about. Things that in a lot of bands, I’m sure that nobody wants to touch any of this shit, you know. And I understand why, like the modern, too cool for school thing, nobody says anything about anything anymore, except for, like, maybe some basic leftist politics that we all agree with, right?
That’s not super interesting. We’re all repeating the same, like agreed upon politics.
The basis of why we play music is, at least the members I can speak for is that, it’s just a spiritual endeavor. I don’t have a career, I have a vocation, you know. I don’t have something I do for work, I don’t do this for any other means other than that I was born to do it and I’ll die doing it and I feel more like a monk in it than anything else.
So the concept of Color TV is kind of surfing the channels of consciousness, you know. There’s three or four main songwriters. I probably wrote like half the songs on the record and my buddy Rob, he wrote a few of them and he wrote a lot of the songs with me and our old bassist Steven wrote a few and our sex keyboard player Jason wrote some stuff. So it’s like it’s not only just on the basic level flipping through our separate ways of expressing ourselves, but then on the deeper level,, we combined it with the TV channel bit and so there’s this kind of whole intro soundscape and the introduction to the Federal Communications idea, you know, recognizing Color TV and then kind of going in, from like AI bots talking to each other about what to do about the anxiety. And all the change and the anxiety of AI itself.
And then we’ve got Ram Dass speaking for a while on one of the instrumental tracks. So yeah, it’s a concept record and it’s hinting at what Analog Dog is about more than anything, which is magical thinking.
The idea that here on Earth, there’s more available to us when we tap into energy. We can kind of mold the world a bit more and we can see that maybe we’ve been born before and we died before, and maybe we’re everywhere. As you said earlier, maybe time is a construct and we’re everywhere all at once.
Maybe you’re everything, you know, like trees aren’t separate, they all share the same roots. So that stuff, just constant little dings at your psyche to be like, maybe there’s more in the end. My favorite line in the record is a Ram Dass quote, where he says, ‘maybe there’s something more than what the culture thinks there is.’
And that’s just where I hang my hat. Where, you know, these concepts are all so obvious to me, but somehow we we don’t really hear about them in any of our media outside of like smoking pot with your friends in a basement and being like, ‘wow, don’t you think it’s crazy that…’ So that’s the concept, it’s consciousness.
STATIC & BLUR: It’s interesting. You name check, you know, Ram Dass. Having him on the record, his voice on the record, he passed away a couple of years ago. Yeah, but he, and Timothy Leary, you know, were both part of that, that Harvard psychedelic project.
STATIC & BLUR: So a lot of other people came out of there. Andrew Weil came out of there and just in their names, he couldn’t represent different perspectives on how to move forward from those experiences.
You know, Leary went on to be sort of a cultural icon figure, very much trying to make psychedelics mainstream, which not everyone agreed with. And Ram Dass took the path of the ascetic.
AUSTIN: Yeah, absolutely.
STATIC & BLUR: Well, yeah, you’re not quoting Leary on your record.
AUSTIN: Well, no, I mean, I’m a little more into the Ram Dass school. My favorite Alan Watts quote is ‘When you get the message, hang up the phone,’ and I don’t think psychedelics are a play thing. I don’t think that they’re like a good time, as much as an experience to be had. But you know, mushrooms can be casual I guess. It’s fine. I’ve come to be more accepting of that. It doesn’t have to be so dramatic, but I don’t think the answer is in anything outside of ourselves. So I like the Ram Dass school more where it’s just like, it’s for the spiritual information.
And I’m not into the ascetic version either. That’s not my vibe. But I don’t think we should all be like tripping all the time. I think it should be normalized, But, you know, once a quarter, I don’t know.
I just, yeah, I’m not into psychedelics as an aesthetic or as some kind of like way of life. It’s more about the information that the plants want to communicate to us that I think is more important and more interesting.
STATIC & BLUR: Yeah. You mentioned a couple of concept records. You mentioned the Dark Side of the Moon and Animals. I think Animals is a concept record. And At War with the Mystics. What are some other, were there any concept records that you collectively as a band found inspiration or influence?
AUSTIN: Random Access Memories is the first other one that came to mind. Daft Punk. You know, I think that we have a little bit of that. And if that’s not coming through so obviously, it comes from the concept level. The whole Daft Punk thing, that’s the next wave of Analog Dog music. If you go to a show of ours now, we play dance music mostly and we don’t even really play a ton of these songs on this LP because we keep getting billed as the dance band, because there’s a definite desire and need for a dance band.
But yeah, Random Access Memories, I think is another one that is just kind of songs, but they put just enough clips and interludes and a couple reprises that make it that kind of cool concept record that is kind of subtle.
But when you really listen through, you’re like, wow these songs connect. And that’s another thing with the record that’s really cool is we have themes that come back, particularly C sharp major into E major. These two chord progressions, they happen a few times in different contexts.
And that’s a minor third movement, which is kind of a jazzy movement. I like those themes. For me, I’m also a huge fan of Jesus Christ Superstar. I think that’s one of the greatest records ever made.
I picked up a lot from listening to that over the years and being like, I love how they kind of transpose things but they use the same kind of musical melody. So I love that shit. I’m huge on it.
Those were a few concept records. I’m not sure if anything else explicitly came up. We really like Malibu by Anderson Paak. That’s another kind of really cool record in that he throws enough samples in between that it’s like, is it a concept record? I don’t know, but he’s got these cool samples. And so it works.
STATIC & BLUR: I think hip hop records are by nature concept records.
AUSTIN: Sure, yeah.
STATIC & BLUR: Whether they’re cohesive or not, it’s kind of the nature of hip hop.
AUSTIN: That’s true.
STATIC & BLUR: Yeah, they stay on that theme. Yeah, it’s like a hard press to find one that isn’t really. Tell me about the concept behind that Bandshell show you did at Golden Gate Park.
AUSTIN: Oh yeah. I think that’s the same thing with all of this, which is that for me, it was like 29 years in the making. I’ve just given my life to the wave of like, ‘something special needs to happen right now.’
And that’s what I always thought my job was. I think people get an idea in their head about their function in society. ‘I’m a good accountant. I could be a lawyer.’ My job is to create experience. I was like, people need to feel the way I feel inside, which is that like, wow, this is crazy, like we’re in control of our own realities.
We could change this world in an instant if we had the imagination and the trust to do so and the time to do so. So Golden Gate Park was me honoring the music that inspired me to move here and honoring the people and honoring the park and honoring the city, you know, because as we discussed, this was the center of an enormous change in the late 60s.
This place changed the world. And ‘Do You Remember?’ was our way of contributing to that mythology, you know, that was me trying to be Bill Graham and Jimi Hendrix all at once. And we pulled it off.
And it’s funny how people still come up to me and talk about that show. And if you were there, the people who were there at the end, it’s like something special happened. I refer to them as energetic portals.
They happen in my life where, if I put myself in the right place in the right time, these moments happen that are beyond time. They’re just like, oh, I could be in the 60s in San Francisco right now. Like that’s what it felt like, you know?
And that’s what everybody wanted to feel like. I think that’s the Analog Dog thing is we just want to lead you to water so that you can drink. We want to give you the experience.
It really is all about the listener and the audience. And I just want them to feel the magic that I feel and that my friends in the band feel. So that’s the concept behind all of this. The dedication is just to give people hope, you know, that the good days aren’t over, that magic still exists and that just because there’s a surveillance age and because inflation is like fucking destroyed your bank account and like wages haven’t gone up at all since the 70s, just because all those things are happening doesn’t mean that we can’t have a magical time together.
STATIC & BLUR: Dream venue anywhere in the world.
AUSTIN: For us? God, Golden Gate Park again with 40,000 people in like three years. And I’ll speak for like 15 minutes and I’ll cry and we’ll just get on with the show. Yeah.
STATIC & BLUR: Who would be the dream acts on that bill?
AUSTIN: Oh, wow. Wow. Like dream dream?
STATIC & BLUR: Dream Dream.
AUSTIN: We’re huge Franc Moody fans. Franc Moody is this band from the UK who plays dance music. If you listen to it, you’d think it was like a DJ, but they’re a band.
They play disco, modern disco music. We’re huge Franc Moody fans, all of us. I think we have to give a shout out again to our friends in the French cassettes. They’ve been really helpful in the making of this record.
I used to live very close to the lead singer, Scott. And I met him on the street one day and I was like, I’m looking for somebody to do drums and he’s like my buddy Mack who plays guitar and produces some of our songs, he records drums at a studio.
So that was huge. I have to shout them out where it’s like, I think I would definitely have them on. And I think that if we get success, whoever gets there first, I would love to help them out because they’ve been really helpful to us.
And yeah, Franc Moody. Rob loves Phish. I’m not huge on Phish, but maybe if we succeed, Rob will get Phish on the bill. I’ll be nice to him. And yeah, I don’t know, we just want to headline.
Ellie of Grooblen, she’d be on there because I love her and she’s the best. And yeah, I don’t know. I don’t really have a good answer beyond that.
I mean, we’re huge Red Hot Chili Peppers fans too. I think that’s the band that we most identify with. I had a moment the other day where I came back to the practice space and the rest of the band were all playing without me. I went to the bathroom and from the hall, I was like, damn, that band sounds good.
I didn’t know who it was, it was just them jamming. And I walked back in, it was just like
my people making those beautiful sounds. I looked at all of them and said to myself, ‘damn, there’s so many unique people in this band.’ The way this lineup is, I see all of their souls shining like true artists.
STATIC & BLUR: Before we end the interview, go through the lineup and who else worked on the record?
AUSTIN: Yeah, yeah. So the lineup currently, my brother Rob Nicol playing lead guitar and singing. Jason Blassingame on the keys and saxophone. Celia Ford plays the bass and she’s singing more and more. And Max Davis is on the drums. And yeah, they reminded me of the Chili Peppers a little bit.
STATIC & BLUR: Anyone else work on the record? Either as an engineer or producer or…
AUSTIN: Yeah, so Steven Jenny deserves a huge shout out. He mixed all the tracks on the record and played bass and produced for us. We worked very closely with him in mixing them very, very closely. But we did it all in his logic sessions. And Mack Bunch, he kind of helped us produce a lot of the tracks along the way.
We just kept coming to him. We recorded the drums with him and then we kept going to see him and like, hey, how do these sound? Is it too busy? Is it too much? So he was super instrumental. And Sam Levin, he played drums on the record.
So he was our drummer for a long time. He kind of pops back in and out. His drum kit’s still here. We love Sam. Sam’s a beautiful man. So he was on the record as well.
STATIC & BLUR: Well, uh, best of luck. Can’t wait to see how this thing flourishes in the wild.
AUSTIN: Thanks, man. I appreciate you. I love this line of questioning. Give me a good start. I wanted to get a few of these things on paper here. So it’s good.