Dog in the Snow
BRIGHTON is a fertile Muse and a city…
producing some of Britain’s most original and passionate musicians. This is the case with Dog in the Snow. I speak with Helen – the woman behind the moniker – and what it is about Brighton that provokes such consistently alluring music. She talks about the new single, Child, and the story behind it. The song is taken from the album, Consume Me, so I was keen to know about the album’s creation and the ideas that go into it.
She will be touring alongside (former Cocteau Twin) Simon Raymonde’s side-project, Lost Horizons – the dates and venues we can catch Dog in the Snow play. I ask Helen to choose the albums that have impacted her most and the musicians that have influenced her most.
Hi, Helen. How are you? How has your week been?
All good here, thanks!
For those new to your work, can you introduce yourself, please?
I make music and write songs under the moniker 'Dog in the Snow' - and am currently based in the seaside city of Brighton.
What is the story behind that moniker, ‘Dog in the Snow’? What does it represent to you?
It's inspired by The Trial by Franz Kafka – specifically, with what happens to the protagonist at the end of the novel and his final exclamation of “Like a dog!”
I liked the darkness and existentialism I felt behind that phrase - and how that actually contrasts with how surface-level cute one may assume the project title is.
Child is your new single. Can you reveal the story behind it?
I was just thinking about the idea of protesting in the twenty-first-century and how you can still feel powerless.
I grew up in Singapore, where it is illegal to protest (unless you ask permission beforehand, which very much defeats the purpose) - and I still feel just as powerless as I did then.
So, I thought; in a very idealistic way, wouldn't it really say something if every woman in the world just refused to have children - until humanity actually sorts its short-sighted, patriarchal; selfish bullsh*t out.
That'd really put the ball in our park.
How easy was it to put together? Did you have to slowly piece it into a whole or was it quite a quick process?
It was very quick!
I wrote the words, phrases and ideas to the whole ten songs when I was out touring in the U.S. - in my friends' band, Fear of Men, last year. When I returned; the melody and structure for every song was very intuitive.
I can't really even remember the specific writing process to Child. I definitely remember that recurring bass-line coming first, though.
The song seems to gain control of your body – not be threatened to express, reproduce and do as you please. Was there a particular occasion or event that compelled the song?
Nothing personal - nor any particular event.
A lot of my ideas stem from more universal thoughts and happenings - which I, then, try and break down.
PHOTO CREDIT: Clémentine Blue
It seems like it is a protest song and, in a humorous way, rallies against discrimination and judgement. What is your view on the way we live - and how issues like sexism are treated? Is it something that needs to be tackled more proactively and productively?
All forms of discrimination need to be tackled all the time until the end of humankind...
Society still thinks it can find its identity in the archaic ideas of borders and boundaries. I think that's where the problems stem from.
Child is taken from your album, Consume Me. What sort of themes do you address in the album? How influential are subjects like consumerism and human connection to you?
Finding the ‘real’ in the consumerist-age is a goldmine of ideas and thoughts; they most certainly have influenced the album. Environmental issues are a big influencer, too. How will humanity continue to sustain itself on this unsustainable path?!
The fact that climate change can still be denied as fact is ridiculous.
Give me an insight into your beginnings. Who were the artists you grew up to and fell for at a young age?
I was born in the U.K. but I spent all of my childhood and teenage life growing up in Singapore.
It was an interesting place to grow up in: always mixed feelings. I was a massive Neil Young fan from a very young age but was then side-lined for a few years by MTV during my teen years. I started to think, maybe, I could try and create music after my dad introduced me to Sufjan Stevens' Illinois album – which, thankfully, put me back on track...
Sufjan's music allowed me to really think about melody and arrangement in a way no other artist has.
Brighton is your pace and, to me, a place one can reconnect with humanity and feel at peace. What does the city do to you and why are you based there?
No doubt, being by the sea creates a sense of re-invigoration and calm: it's most certainly part of the reason I'm here - amongst more practical things.
The city does have its problems - as does everywhere else, though. There's a lot of homelessness, which I've noticed has gotten worse over the years.
How inspiring are the people and musicians of Brighton to you?
Brighton is a bit of a conveyer-belt when it comes to musicians: a lot of the people I used to know here have all moved away. There's a lot of people in Brighton, who I find inspiring, for sure, but I don't see it categorised nor different - because of them just being in this city.
PHOTO CREDIT: Rob Orchard
In the past, you have supported artists like D.D. Dumbo. Does it feel weird seeing how far you have come and how positively people are responding to your music?
The music world is far too saturated for me to ever feel weird about my music being out there. It's, of course, nice when people find a connection and appreciative understanding of it.
Can you reveal the tour dates coming up and where we can see you play?
I have two headline L.P. launch-shows and, then, I'm going on tour with Simon Raymonde (Bella Union boss and Cocteau Twins)'s new project, Lost Horizons. I'm, also, part of the live band - so it's a double-duty for me!
25.10 - Human Performance Presents: Dog In The Snow, London†
28.10 - Spectrum: Dog In The Snow LP Launch, Brighton†
18.11 - Lost Horizons at the Rialto, Brighton*
19.11 - Lost Horizons at The 100 Club, London*
20.11 - Lost Horizons at Brudenell Social Club, Leeds*
21.11 - Lost Horizons + Dog In The Snow, Manchester*
23.11 - Lost Horizons + Dog in the Snow (Ex Cocteau Twins), Ramsgate*
*Supporting Lost Horizons
IN THIS PHOTO: Mother Me/PHOTO CREDIT: Pandora Jane
Who are new acts you recommend we check out?
There's a lovely Brighton Indie-Pop duo called Mother Me who makes delicate, but powerful, tunes.
/please/, from Bristol, is the project of Ellen Davies…dreamy gems.
Tony Njoku, from London, is super. If you ever get a chance to see him live, I really recommend it.
IN THIS PHOTO: Tony Njoku/PHOTO CREDIT: Theo Williams
If you had to select the three albums that mean the most to you; which would it be and why?
Mirrorball by Neil Young (and Pearl Jam)
The album I used to be obsessed with as a child. I used to invite friends to my house; play the album and jump maniacally on the sofa. They never returned.
Come on Feel the Illinoise! by Sufjan Stevens
It turned me on to creating music. Chicago was, maybe, one of the first songs which made me cry.
Actor by St. Vincent
I loved the story that Annie Clark wrote this all on GarageBand with headphones on - because her neighbours wouldn't let her make any noise. That's when I started properly paying attention to recording software; writing, recording; arranging on the computer.
What advice would you give to artists coming through right now?
Work really hard; don't expect anyone owes you anything. Do it because you love it.
If you want to make money you're in the wrong profession. Oh...and appreciate people and be nice, please!
Finally, and for being a good sport, you can name a song and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that).
4 DEGREES by ANOHNI
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