Keanu Reeves Rockstar?
by Alice King
Is Dogstar the next big thing? From the amount of attention the band's been getting from the media, you'd think so. While the as yet unsigned band does a creditable job on stage, it's clear to see that the reason it has garned so much press (so so many screaming fans) is its bassit Keanu Reeves.
Reeves, star of the recent film A Walk In The Clouds, as well as last year's hit Speed, pluse movies such as Parenthood, My Own Private Idaho, Little Buddha, and of course the Bill and Ted flicks, was by far the biggest draw of the band's recent "Dog Days of Summer" tour. Aware that his star power--and hunk status--were what were selling out venues such as Washington D.C.'s 9:30 Club and New York City's Irving Plaza, Reeves told Entertainment Weekly "We're trying to change that and make it about the band, not me." Still, he admits of the screaming females who turn out just to get a glimpse of him, "That't basically our whole audience."
No flash in the pan, Dogstar has been around since 1991, when a chance meeting between Reeves and drummer Rob Mailhouse started the ball rolling. Other members include guitarist/vocalist Gregg Miller and Bret Domrose on second guitar. Variously described as altern-rock, folk punk and gargae-y good old-fashioned rock and roll, Dogstar's sound, Reeves assured EW, predates Nirvana and the whole grunge cavalcade. "We didn't sound like them," he said. "We had our unique sound."
Reviews of the Dog Days tour were not nearly as harsh as some of the reviews have been for Reeves' acting ("I'm the whipping boy, man," he's said with his relationship with the press). In fact, while USA Today's Anne Ayers said that to describe the music as good "might be stretching it," she did admit "the band CAN play." Metal Edge's Marina Zogbi said "I've heard a lot worse, and actually some of their songs are quite good. This tour will undoubtedly make the band tighter. By the time they make an album, the band will be ready."
Perhaps wisely, the band has so far turned down offers to sign to any major labels, althought a three-song demo is being shipped around to labels, according to co-manager Kenny Funk. In the meantime, they are practicing their chops and working on their songwriting. Songwriting (and singing) duties are mainly shared, although Reeves sings--or rather, shouts--only one song. Sample lyric: "Isabelle is a girl, Isabelle loves her world. You can tell by the way she smiles. Cutest girl by a country mile."
Keanu whose name means "cool breeze over the mountains" in Hawaiian, and the rest of Dogstar aren't your typical garage band on the road. Obviously, haveing a movie star in the ranks has affected their operation. Their tourbus, for example, is a 40-footer formerly leased by Pearl Jam. And any future tours will have to fit into Reeves' filming schedule.
Reeves isn't the only actor in the bunch, either. Mailhouse was a star of the soap Day of Our Lives and gave the band something to worry about when his TV pilot, Road Warriors, almost got picked up--the filming would have conflicted with the tour schedule.
The verdict on Reeves and Co., who would prefer, I'm sure to be called Dogstar, is that they're off to a good start. They're playing it smart by not jumping the gun and releasing an album before they're ready just because they know it will sell, and taking their time to get up to snuff. With or without their bassist's movie star status, the band CAN play and deserves a shot.