INTERVIEW: Doc Robinson chats touring as well as new music!
”We make backyard BBQ break up music”, reads the Spotify bio for Columbus, OH duo Doc Robinson and that is spot on. On a wintery night in Cambridge with a low of about -5, I headed out to Sonia’s to interview this talented duo as they opened it up for Paradise Fears. The band released their first full length record last year and told me they already have two releases planned for next year.
The band is still relatively new to touring as Doc Robinson, but both have a history chockful of other projects. This one came together quickly and naturally as Nick and Jon started cowriting together. With a bright future and a tight live show, it’s sure Doc Robinson is meant for big things. Find our chat below and keep your ears open!
This is a small run with Paradise Fears, it’s only about three days. They haven’t come here in a while; maybe how have these last few dates been going for the band.
Nick: Fantastic. Chicago was a sold-out show and New York, school had been called off that day since it was so cold, but we still had a great crowd. That theater is unbelievable.
Jon: You can tell that their crowds are really into what they’re doing. They’re very supportive, they’re good attentive listeners. Very smiley, happy. It’s been a good run, obviously the weather is not ideal, but a couple days out from the tour we thought it was going to be bananas.
Nick: A lot of smiles, a lot of high fives.
And obviously you’re not far from Chicago, you’re only based in Columbus, Ohio.
Nick: We did that one in one day, there and back.
Oh you went back home afterwards?
Nick: Yeah, we got back at like 4:30 in the morning.
I would do that too!
Nick: Yeah common, get to sleep in your own bed.
Then Doc Robinson is still new in releasing material and being available on the internets.
Nick: Very much so.
Catching you in the early phases, how did Doc Robinson first get started?
Jon: A cowrite. We got together to just cowrite some stuff and see what happens. We discussed calling it something because we figured if we were going to try and do anything with it, like licensing or whatever, we should have a name to it. So that happened, and that a lot of our friends were kind of hyping it up.
Nick: We just immediately got excited about how the writing process worked too. It just felt like we were creating something that was truly a fusion of both of our different backgrounds musically. It was one of those things where we were finishing each other’s-
Nick: Finishing each other’s sandwiches!
Jon: Every part of it, you start to wonder how it will go live. You get excited about playing live.
Nick: And the first few times we did, it was just really fun. It felt good. All the people that had been playing on our recordings with us were able to play with us live. So, it made it just come to life quickly for us. We were kind of an ensemble of naughties. Including Aaron over here and the two other guys on tour with us and they were instrumental from the beginning. All three of these guys have been on all our recordings and are very instrumental to the whole project. So, it’s kind of a big ensemble.
Jon: Like hired guns, but like weird squirt guns.
Nick: Super soakers!
Jon: Hired nerf guns.
Then you’re obviously still very new but I have also talked to Walk the Moon a lot who are also from Ohio. It’s not exactly a burgeoning music scene. Maybe advice to bands to kind of try and break out of that scene? You’re still new on this touring level but you have played with other bands before, you have this musical history.
Jon: Make music you like, people will find it.
Nick: You can be smart these days.
Jon: Because of the resources available these days like Spotify and your mailing lists and things like that. You can kind of hone in on what markets you should be going to. Instead of back in the day when you just kind of had to pick from like thirty different cities to go to. I mean that’s also fun and there’s also lots of reasons why you should do that. But I think the model these days is that you set it up, so you can hit markets where you know people are listening to your music. If you’re recording content online.
Nick: Yeah Spotify is good about the artists where you can see exactly what cities people are listening to you in, so you can go to those cities and focus on that.
Jon: Just releasing the most content.
Nick: Yeah exactly, but make sure it’s good and you like it. People can listen to any music ever recorded at the click of a button now, so you better be bringing it. You better be bringing something worthwhile.
Jon: We’ve also learned that the time we’ve attempted to do something where we’re trying to write something specifically for licensing or something, it’s not right. It’s often the songs that we’re writing where we’re completely genuine or honest, the stuff where we didn’t conform to what we thought it should sound like is the stuff that people like the most.
Nick: Which makes sense why that would resonate. People are drawn to sincerity in music especially.
Then you kind of said, this is your first time in Boston, out to this coast?
Nick: We’ve done a duo tour. We did twelve dates with this band, Caamp, who’s also based out of Columbus who’s doing really well. Speaking of Columbus bands who are going on to much bigger things. They’re fantastic.
Jon: Caamp with two A’s. They’re very much a rootsy duo. One is a banjo player and the other plays guitar and sings. They are kind of the exact model of how things work these days. They got to show up to cities and people knew their music because of Spotify. They were able to get on playlists because they had written killer stuff and their shows brought out lots of people.
Nick: It was cool, I mean we got to go on stage for the first time and play to sold out crowds in like eight cities.
Jon: And we realize, having done this before, that that is not how it normally works. We’re fortunate for that.
And then maybe considering you both come from previous bands, maybe something that you took from that experience and maybe something you left behind?
Jon: Well, it’s two of us so we do things quick. We make decisions fast and then its’ just him and I in the writing process. It’s nice.
Nick: I would say, there was a very deadline driven recording process with my other band where it was like this is the deadline. We’re going to get these songs done in this amount of time and being deadline driven like that was helpful for me coming into this project. And trying to think like that still. But then also I think with this, there’s a lot more time to be genuine and not putting on a character as much as with previous things. So, it’s really refreshing to just be able to be yourself and perform as yourself rather than performing as a character.
Jon: First time I launched a band, I was eighteen. Now doing it again in my thirties, it’s a completely different experience. You learn a lot in many ways and you realize you didn’t do things correctly as a youngster. Like when you said what is something you could offer to other musicians in our situation, it’s like I don’t man we’re trying to figure that out right now. We’ll figure out how it works and then talk to you about it in a think tank.
Then this tour is small, I believe it’s just the three dates.
Nick: Yeah, it’s been great for us. It’s introduced us to a whole new audience.
Jon: Diehard fans and obviously music fans so you know we’ve sold vinyl which is always great. The young people buying them, it’s helpful for the future.
Nick: Dude you sound so old.
Jon: I feel old. The only gigs we’ve done are with bands that their average fan base is younger. We had an experience with the Caamp shows back in the day where some girl came up to us after the show and had questions for us afterwards. I was like she’s good, she was asking us great questions. She goes, this is for my high school paper. After that, I was like man you’re good. Some other girl was like, put your number in my phone. I was like no, where are your parents?
Nick: It’s kind of like The Beatles, right? John Lennon was like married with a kid when they were blowing up and then you have all these teeny boppers, 13, 14-year olds.
Then to end it off, I keep on saying it, but the band is still so new. We’re so early in 2018, what is the plan for Doc Robinson over these next few months? Is it putting out a big record, just constantly touring?
Jon: That word.
Nick: We’re putting out two releases on 4/20. The day before Record Store Day. For the record.
Is it something that you’ve had done for a while or are you still finishing it?
Nick: Yeah, we’re just getting final mixes back now.
Jon: It wasn’t planned like that, when did we put out the last record?
Nick: July of 2017. It just happened, we just started working on it when we were out with Caamp. Well on the road, we were writing a lot. When we were spending a lot of time in the car, we got a lot of songs finished. Songs were like done so it was nice, we could take it to the band and take them into the studio when we got home.
Jon: Or take them in to the band in the studio.
Nick: Take them to the band in the studio for the first time is what I meant to tell you.
Jon: Which is a testament to our musicians. We love the way everything turned out.