Written by Breton Spiller
Last weekend I had the pleasure of returning to one of my favorite events of the year, Electric Forest Music Festival in Rothbury, MI. Music, love, laughter, and overall good vibes surrounded me as they did in years past.
Flooded with incredible art, breathtaking light installations, immersive psychedelic experiences, and more, Electric Forest exceeded expectations yet again. On top of that, every set I managed to catch was top-notch as well.
That said, one group, in particular, made their way to the forest for the first time and absolutely crushed it. Known as Dogs in a Pile, the group kicked off the festival’s Ranch Arena stage on Sunday.
Who are Dogs in a Pile?
Known for their fusion of jazz, funk, rock and roll, and psychedelia, Dogs in a Pile consists of Brian Murray (rhythm guitar/vocals), Jimmy Law (lead guitar), Sam Lucid (bass guitar), Jeremy Kaplan (keyboards), and Joey Babick (drums). The guys are from various locations in New Jersey and New York but generally find their home base in Point Pleasant, New Jersey.
I had the honor of sitting down for a post-festival chat with Murray and Law this past week and learned more about this “eclectic quintet.”
Of course, one of the first things I wanted to know was where the unique band name of Dogs in a Pile came from. If you’re a fan of the Grateful Dead, you may have already been able to figure it out.
Babick’s father made a list of names he liked, and Dogs in a Pile was first on the list. The phrase comes from a line in the Grateful Dead song “He’s Gone”. The lyric goes: “Nine-mile skid on a ten-mile ride, hot as a pistol but cool inside/Cat on a tin roof, dogs in a pile/ Nothing left to do but smile, smile, smile.”
With that in mind, it’s common for folks to assume they are about to see a Grateful Dead cover band. Even though the band does love to play their songs, the name Dogs in a Pile represents more than just the band’s love for the Dead.
“It’s a family… Between the band members, the audience, and all of our friends,” said Murray. So, while the group pulls a lot of inspiration from the Grateful Dead, their music and community stand on their own.
Additionally, inspiration comes from various places for the Dog’s music. Their other musical inspirations include Frank Zappa, Steely Dan, and Phish. Real-life experiences, though, play a big role in the band’s work.
“A lot of songs Sam writes are about people… different people and friends that we’re surrounded by,” Law said.
“We are influenced by our surroundings quite a bit,” Murray said. He also mentions that the “road lifestyle” plays into their inspiration as well.
Although Murray and Lucid take the lead on a lot of the songwriting, it truly is a group effort for the band to create each piece of music.
“A song can’t be played without every member being involved in the arrangement,” Murray said. “You need every group member to be involved for a song to come to life.”
Brian Murray and Jimmy Law
While also learning more about Dogs in a Pile as a whole, I got some insight into who Law and Murray are as individuals, too. These two have unique histories in the world of music yet a paralleled love for what they do and passion for the art they produce.
Music has been part of Law’s life since he was a child.
“My dad’s been a deadhead most of his life and got me into music at a really young age and always brought me to shows,” Law said. This family influence lead Law to pick up a guitar around age 4 or 5, take lessons, and then get into playing with a few Grateful Dead cover bands.
Around 2011-2012, Law and a musical partner and friend set out to Muscle Shoals, Alabama, to record with Donna Jean of the Grateful Dead. After that, the connections continued to form, and Law’s network grew.
Ultimately, this influx of connections led to Law meeting Babick and playing with him for a while before the other pieces of Dogs in a Pile fell into place. Lucid would be the next of the Dogs to come along, followed by Kaplan and Murray.
The band was officially formed in 2018. Murray, who plays finger-style rhythm guitar and sings, was the last to join the group in 2019.
“I’ve been a fan of music my whole life. I started playing guitar when I was really young and got into the improvisational and jam band music scene around age 13… Since then, it’s been a really wild ride,” Murray said. “There’s never been a dull moment. It’s been a blast and a constant thrill to be able to create music with my best friends for an audience of my best friends.”
Now, if you’re a Dogs in a Pile fan, you’re likely already familiar with The Dog Pound. The Dog Pound is the official Facebook “fan page” for the band, although I’d suggest using the term fan loosely when it comes to this one-of-a-kind group. The term “family” may be more accurate.
Every city the Dogs in a Pile find themselves in tends to have a “dog pound” of its own.
“They take over every freakin place they go,” said Law. “We’ve met most of the dog pound in various ways, and we have made so many best friends from that… It’s just family. Everyone really looks out for each other and really really cares about each other in every single way.”
Dog Pound members love getting involved and helping in any way they can, whether it’s sharing their unique talents or contributing to the planning of an upcoming setlist.
The ages of folks in this family of fans range from 17-18-year-old newcomers to the scene to people that are 70+-year-old original deadhead types. Given the multi-generational stretch of its members, this demographic range makes the fan group even more like a full family.
“It’s really cool to have that diversity, you know?” said Law.
Dogs in The Forest
So, after years of hard work and dedication to their journey, Dogs in a Pile made it to one of the largest stages they’ve ever played: Ranch Arena at Electric Forest Music Festival.
“Since I’ve started going to festivals… I’ve been hearing nothing but great things about Eforest and have been hearing that it’s nothing but the best… It definitely lived up to the expectations,” Law explained. “The vibe of it is like a family vibe. It’s super cool and super welcoming.”
“It’s super well put together, too,” added Murray.
When the guys prepared their set for Electric Forest, they definitely took into account the unique combination of artists on the lineup.
With the ever-present EDM influence in the forest, Murray explained that they wanted to keep the “overall feeling of the festival in mind” by including some “wubby stuff” and elements that resonate with the electronic music crowd.
“We want to try to catch the ears of everyone passing by while also keeping it true to our sound and within our vibe,” Law said. He went on to explain how this also helps them expand as artists.
Further, grabbing an audience’s attention is one thing, but what the crowd leaves a set with is often just as important. I was curious to find out what exactly the guys want their audience members to walk away with after a Dogs in a Pile set.
“I want people to be able to walk away with a couple less worries on their mind and maybe feel a bit better about themselves. Music is therapeutic, you know?” Law said. “I also want them to feel a little mindfucked at the same time.”
“I want them to feel excited to come back,” added Murray.
The group also had the opportunity to catch a few other sets while at the festival. Two standouts mentioned were fellow jam group Goose and experimental bass duo Eazybaked.
“Seeing Goose on the same stage right after us was insane,” Law said.
“Jeff sat in with us, too, and that was a big part of planning our set. Having [him] was such a pleasure and a blast,” Murray said about having Jeff Arevalo from Goose play with the Dogs.
Law also commented on Eazybaked: “They’re so talented, and I think they’re innovators of this scene. They’re just killing it… Their energy is insane.” I was able to catch both of these sets as well and agree wholeheartedly.
Where are the dogs off to next?
If you missed Dogs in a Pile at Electric Forest, don’t worry because there are plenty of opportunities to catch them coming up!
You can find a list of all of their upcoming events here.
Among these upcoming performances are Oxbow Music Festival, The Great Divide (their event with two nights of Dogs in a Pile), Rye Bread Music and Arts Festival, several tour dates as support for Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, and a live podcast performance on the Osiris Podcast at Stone Pony. I also hear that the Osiris Podcast performance may even feature Tom Marshall of Phish… wouldn’t that be something?!
I hope to make it out for at least one of these upcoming events and hope you all get to see the guys soon, too.
Thank you to Brian Murray and Jimmy Law for sitting down with me and the entire Dogs in a Pile team and family for everything you do.
Find out more about Dogs in a Pile here.
Connect with Dogs in a Pile:
Find out more about the Good Music Collectiv here.