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Glam and Grime

Glam and Grime

Kevin J. Elliott

The Cadaver Dogs are fueled by suggestion.

Many new attendees of their shows stand slack-jawed at first, unsure as to whether the leather-studded, eye-lined, tongue-wagging spectacle before them is an act, or a lifestyle…the Dogs delight in such ambiguity. In fact, it doesn’t matter to what extent Mat Franklin and Lex Vegas live out their hard rock fantasy, it’s the suggestion of excess and dirty deeds that sells the show.

Our interview is also fueled by suggestion; namely a happy hour location where we can find the cheapest cans of PBR.

Now that we’ve convened at Bossy Grrl’s, where the tallboys are a cool buck, I’m convinced their entire existence is one long happy hour.

It’s a lazy Thursday in my mind, but Franklin and Vegas are particularly hyped for the week ahead, which promises a set full of ZZ Top covers and hopes to hang backstage with Mötley Crüe at the Nationwide Arena show.

There’s no time for sleep.

For the constantly touring road warriors, Columbus serves as a way station for multiple jaunts. The Dogs feel more at home in locales of pure sin, places like Las Vegas and Los Angeles, where the band recalls adventures of drunken recklessness and saying “yes” to all things – at all times. Their only pet peeve is the fans who pass out too early. When the Dogs are in town, there will undoubtedly be a party. I mean, c’mon, these guys are sponsored by Jägermeister.

Courtesy Mike Edmonds

For most other groups, an interview laced with frequent quips about how “life is a vacation” or how one must “pay their dues” and other scattered expletives, might come across as clichéd. For Cadaver Dogs it’s part of the vocabulary, a blueprint, the norm.

I ask, with a disclaimer not to take offense, if the personas they inhabit are caricatures they switch on and off.

“The stage is just an amplified version of self,” says Franklin. “It’s a blurry line, especially when we are on the road. But people want it, and expect it, and I love giving it to them.”

Even when it comes to their origin story – forming Look Afraid in 2010 as the house band on a Marion cable-access late-night show – debauchery seems at the heart of their aesthetic.

That same year, Franklin and Vegas, along with former bassist Cole Walsh-Davis, won a prestigious “battle of the bands” which won them a gig at the legendary Stubb’s at Austin’s SXSW. There they wowed the pants off of industry insiders, but proceeded to spend their $10,000 prize money on a tour van, a ridiculous hotel room, and an epic after-party. Along with a guy they call Johnny Trashpockets and a fridge stocked with $1,000 dollars of Joose (the precursor to Four Loko) they boozed until a 9 a.m. flight. Such is the way of the Dogs.

But last year, when the trio was reduced to a duo with the departure of Walsh-Davis, it seemed corners might have to be cut. Then again, as survivors, the trimming only made the Dogs hungrier, and more poised than ever.

Their third album, the recently released Too Much, is a testament to that re-invention. As a duo, they claim to be louder than every other band they play with. It’s definitely a badge of honor for Franklin, who now has to execute plugged into both bass and guitar amps, if he is asked to turn down. A less-is-more freedom has re-energized them. The math equates to more free drinks. By necessity, on Too Much, Franklin and Vegas had to sideline the complexity and soloing of previous efforts and focus on simpler, pummeling riffs and blunt beats that could be pulled off in live settings. They boast, with typical Cadaver Dogs hubris, that the album was recorded in 3D.

During our interview the bartender insists on blaring the contents of her iPod, an onslaught of Katy Perry and Iggy Azalea. It’s loud enough to muffle the Dog’s answers, but pertinent enough for me to ask about their thoughts on pop music these days. In listening to Too Much, it’s hard not to find similarities – both the Cadaver Dogs and Lil’ Wayne contain mindless, easy-going vibes broadcasted for the party. It would be hard to exclude “Feel the Heat” from many glossy Top 40 playlists if not for their worship of bands like Monster Magnet and Queens of the Stone Age.

“What we do is accessible for everyone, and I think we like going right down that middle,” Vegas said. “We’ll see 16-year-old girls and 60-year-old bikers at our shows. So for some, they think we f*cking shred, but the other side is happy they can also dance to it.”

An equal conflict of acceptance and drive occurs when asked about their upcoming appearance at the first annual Fashion Meets Music Festival. As far as the theme is concerned, their usual uniform of bandanas and black leather is perfect for the part, but I was determined to get their official statement concerning the controversy surrounding the fest.

“It’s becoming like a ridiculous car crash and I want to look,” Franklin said. “All I know is we are going to destroy the lives of how ever many thousands of people we play for and we could care less about seeing R. Kelly.”

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