With Dogstar, Keanu's just part of the band
by Kendall Morgan, Dallas Morning News
Gregg Miller | Dogstar
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 member of the group -- and not even the lead singer.
"Keanu just loves playing bass," says guitarist Gregg Miller, who shares vocal duties with guitarist Bret Domrose and drummer Rob Mailhouse. "He's not the frontman 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 performs tonight at the Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach, 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 pursuing," Miller recalls. "This started as completely just something for fun 3 1/2 years ago, and 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 30s.
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."
Dogstar 9 tonight. Belly Up Tavern, 143 S. Cedros Ave., Solana Beach. Sold out; 481-9022.