Dog In The Snow brings the magic in an age of overconsumption
Naming her act in reference to the closing of Kafka's The Trial, you might be expecting something rather bleak.
But thankfully Dog In The Snow’s synth-pop isn’t always that dark.
Take recent single Magic, and its refrain of ‘I want to feel the magic again’ – looking to dreams to help recreate the magical nature of childhood. There’s postivity in there too.
Helen Ganya Brown, who is Dog In The Snow, spent most of 2016 putting her own project on hold to play as a touring member of cult indie-pop act Fear of Men.
Both acts hail from Brighton and as Helen explains, she’s known frontwoman Jess Weiss for ‘quite a long time’.
‘It’s basically playing with friends, but I’m not involved with any of the actual music-making stuff.’
Even though she wasn’t making music with Fear Of Men, it was still a valuable experience for Helen.
‘I probably learned the most with them, because I’ve never played with a band before. I did play in Dog In The Snow as a duo for a while, with Eva (Bowan), but she moved out of Brighton, so it was a practical thing coupled with the fact that I wasn’t really doing anything.’
And ironically, it’s helped give her the courage to play solo.
‘I think I’d been wanting to do it for quite a while, but I was a bit scared. It’s still a bit overwhelming, but I’m enjoying doing it by myself at the moment.’
With a brace of singles and an EP to her name, October 20 will see the release of Dog in The Snow’s debut album, Consume Me, which was largely written on the road.
‘It was quite amazing because this was the first time it all came as a cohesive piece. I was in the back of the van with Fear of Men and I just started writing into my notebook and it all came out. It was mainly words – I wasn’t able to do the music until I got back, but it came really quickly. I’ve never found it diffcult writing, but it was a bit scary just how freeflowing it was.
‘This is the first time where I’ve done something like this. It’s going to be 10 songs and it’s this amazing cohesive thing and I went with it.
‘It was written when we were going down the west coast of the US, mostly in California. I loved seeing the ocean go past me on the right, and going past the slumland on the other – once we went past this massive slaughterhouse - it was this mass of buildings.
‘There’s a theme of overconsumption, and being consumed by overconsumption in our generation, if that makes sense, and then wanting to be part of something that’s a bit more real.
‘The first track is called The Sea, and it’s about just wanting to be consumed by the earth rather than all the stuff on TV, and being overwhelmed by everything , which I am daily. It’s about wanting something that’s not fragmented and something that’s a bit genuine. The idea of consuming can be negative and positive.’
With a name derived from Kafka and an earlier song, Hunger Tower, inspired by Dante’s Divine Comedy, there’s been a clear literary influence in Dog’s output up to now, but she’s moved away from that on the album.
‘When I read, I still do tend to underline and Post-it a lot of stuff, but in terms of any direct literary influence there isn’t much on this album. It’s definitely a bit more personal because I’ve had to look inwards rather than through other people’s lives, which is a bit scary and a bit revealing.’
Her childhood has also played a role in shaping her art. Born in Swindon to a Thai mother and Scottish father, they moved to Singapore when she was five. Helen returned to the UK at 18 to study.
‘Singapore’s a funny one. I really enjoyed my time living there, but I like to call it a utopian-dystopia. It’s got all this amazing architecture, but there’s something a little detached about it, and everyone’s really well off economically, but culturally I find it’s abit behind, and so when I started writing music, it was when I discovering books by people like George Orwell, so I was finding weird parallels with that.
‘I don’t regret being brought up there because it really has influenced me, but I don’t know if it’s influenced me in an existential angst sort of way! It’s an interesting place.’
And it’s all been part of Brown’s growth as an artist.
‘I do feel like I’ve grown a lot in confidence in the past year. Playing in a band with other people has helped me, just being a bit more comfortable in my own skin. I definitely used to kind of hide, I think that’s why I worked with someone else on stage, and I used to work with a producer.
‘Now I do it all myself and I feel comfortable enough to do that.’
Talking Heads, Southampton
Thursday, June 15
Green Door Store, Brighton
Saturday, June 17