Hey, these guys are Sirius
There's more to Dogstar than a filmstar on bass
by Kendall Morgan
Dogstar is another name for Sirius, the brightest star in the sky. It's also, rather coincidentally, the name of a band that features actor Keanu Reeves, one of the brightest stars in Hollywood.
But Dogstar differs from other actor-turned-musician projects such as Lou Diamond Phillips' Pipefitters and the late River Phoenix's Aleka's Attic in that Reeves is just a group member - and not even the lead singer.
"Keanu just loves playing bass," says guitarist Gregg Miller, who shares vocal duties with guitartist Bret Domrose and drummer Rob Mailhouse. "He's not the front man of the band, although he's the focus of the band. We're faced with that, but I've been doing (music) my whole life and Rob and Bret have been doing it for a while. We've had this opportunity, but it's not like we have this break and we don't deserve it. We feel that we can put on an entertaining show. Otherwise we'd just play in the garage for our friends."
Dogstar, which is launching its first national tour in Dallas on Friday at Deep Ellum Live, really did start in a garage. After a chance meeting at a supermarket and discovering a shared love of hockey, Reeves and Mailhouse started playing instrumental jazz and blues for fun. Once Miller was brought in, the then-trio began to take the project a little more seriously.
"They formed a band once I arrived. I was living in New York and once I came out and we started playing together, I realized it was worth pursing," Miller recalls. "This started as completely just something for fun three and a half years ago, we didn't think it was going to attract that many people. Then a friend of ours said, 'Let's do a music video.' and it came out really cool, and we started taking it a little more seriously."
Once Domrose (a veteran of San Francisco punk band the Nuns) was added in 1994, the Dogstar sound was cemented. Miller describes the band as "definitely in the alternative category of music - it's toe-tapping music." In the past, Dogstar has done covers of Joy Division and the Jam, and they currently render their versions of godfather of grunge Neil Young's "Rockin' in the Free World" and Fugazi's "Merchandise." Dogstar members cite such disparate musical influences as Cheap Trick, Minor Threat and the Pixies, a logical mix for a group of music-loving guys in their early '30's.
Mailhouse and Miller are also actors so Dogstar deals with the time constraints of filming schedules.
"It's a little strange when we take a three month break but I have other things going on," says Miller. "It actually works out perfect - when our schedules can meet, we can get together. I think without a doubt it's Keanu's favorite thing to do when he's not doing a film, so the day he gets back he wants to play."
The actor-musicians have had enough time off recently to complete six sold-out shows in Japan, and to start work on a documentary on the band that's being filmed on the current tour. A record deal isn't in the near future, but the band members are interested. That is, if the company is into them for the right reasons.
That is, "if the songs are recorded right," Miller says, "(and) not just because there's a major movie star in the band.