Will Dogstar have its day? Reeves, bandmates hope tour has 'Happy Ending'
by Sarah Rodman
Keanu Reeves may be the big star in Dogstar but he's learning an indisputable truth about rock 'n' roll: The lead singer is always the focus.
The "Matrix" heartthrob is bringing his band of six years to Axis tonight in support of their U.S. debut, "Happy Ending," out Tuesday. In a somewhat chaotic interview Thursday with all three members of the group - bassist Reeves, drummer Rob Mailhouse and lead singer-guitarist Bret Domrose - the amiable Reeves was definitely out-chatted by his bandmates.
The trio - who tease each other mercilessly and were distracted by watching the broadcast of the Williams sisters' match at Wimbledon during the interview - formed in 1994 after Reeves met Mailhouse, also an actor, who had a small part in "Speed," and Domrose, formerly of the punk band the Nuns. The trio began jamming in Reeves' garage. Local gigs led to a record deal with Zoo and the recording of "Our Little Visionary" in 1996. Unfortunately, the label went bust and the album was only released in Japan.
Work on "Happy Ending" was a long process complicated by Reeves' work on "The Matrix" in Australia. Eventually, his bandmates went Down Under and finished the album during the course of a full year.
"It almost hindered us in that band morale was at an all-time low when the album release date kept getting postponed," says Domrose about the gaps in recording. "It was really difficult. Especially since our last record didn't get released, it's a real nail-biter until it's actually out."
"It's a little like the Academy Awards," Mailhouse chimes in, with Reeves adding, "Yeah, they can't seem to find the shipment."
Musically, Dogstar have shed the harder rocking grunge trappings they had on their last trip through the Hub for a more ringing, U2-style sound, with Domrose's vocals evoking Neil Diamond, whom Domrose admires.
"I think he's one of the most incredible songwriters from the '70s," Domrose says, while all three cite songs Diamond wrote that were recorded by the Monkees as favorites.
Domrose writes the lyrics. The trio collaborates on the music and then labor mightily to sound unique. "When we write we are all very quick to say that sounds like, say, Serena Williams' band," Reeves says with a laugh, with an obvious eye on the television in their New York hotel. "We came up with a song that we were playing around with the other day that sounded a bit like the Replacements, so we cancelled it."
Reeves' celebrity has certainly helped Dogstar get gigs and press coverage, but like all actors who've attempted a musical crossover the band has taken many critical hits. Still, considering their recent sold out Japanese tour they hope to do well in the United States. Advance word is good as fans on their Web site, who got their previous album via the Internet, gush mightily, for all three members. Asked about their individual groupies Reeves jokes, "mine are hotter," while Domrose says, "Rob's are male." But clearly the trio is just happy to have some. Their main concern, says Domrose, is to have this record "reach enough people so we can make another one."