CMJ Music Marathon
There’s no one in Niagra that looks the way The Dig sound. I’m searching for all black, leather jackets, bowl cuts…a little paisley perhaps. Four men assemble on the foot-tall stage, looking like they play in completely different bands. The lineup is no longer on schedule, the bartenders don’t know who’s up next, and I have no idea if The Dig have already played, are about to play, or will ever play. Fortunately the Brooklyn-based group has cultivated such a recognizable sound that from the first note, their identity is apparent; I know these mismatched gentlemen are in fact the band I chose to see out of all the other CMJ acts that evening.
Taking notes from the sluggish side of psych rock, The Dig write music that could sit on a shelf next to The Stone Roses and Spiritualized with a more contemporary pop edge. It’s no coincidence that their name connotes the 2004 documentary on The Brian Jonestown Massacre, simply coined Dig! Their music nods to a subtler side of 1960s psychedelia, as well as its more minimal and fuzzy revival in the 90s. Yet their reference of a reference is somehow fresh and non-derivative. The Dig’s songs are full-bodied walls of sound melding bright keyboards with gritty guitar riffs, driving bass lines and ethereal vocals.
Formed in 2010, the band has a rich history that borders on folklore. Bassist/vocalist Emile Mosseri and guitarist/vocalist David Baldwin came of age together in Westchester, New York and have been musical accomplices since they were 10 years old. The remaining Dig members drifted together with seamless ease.
Baldwin and Mosseri met keyboardist/guitarist Erik Eiser as teenagers: “We met Erik when we were in high school. We were going to this music program in Boston and Erik was playing keyboards in a Guitar Center right next to Berklee [College of Music] and he was ripping some nice blues solos by himself, and he looked so depressing that we felt bad for him and asked him if he wanted to jam.”
In a similar vein of serendipity, the band picked up drummer Mark Demiglio in NYC. Mosseri and Baldwin quickly realized that his last name sounded familiar. In fact they’d played a gig in Texas with his brother’s band The Demiglios not long before. To add to their air of myth, The Dig used to rehearse next door to The Strokes, making one wonder if they’ll follow a similar path of success as their ex-neighbors.
To date they’ve released two full-length albums: 2010’s Electric Toys and 2012’s Midnight Flowers as well as Tired Hearts and You and I, both EPs from 2013. Midnight Flowers has garnered the most attention, though the band is still relatively under the radar. Given their longevity and resume-they’ve opened for The Antlers, The Walkmen, and The Lumineers–-it’s slightly surprising to see them in a microscopic venue for no cover charge. But it’s a pleasant surprise, as these are the kind of shows you really remember and hold dear when a band outgrows CMJ and the small club circuit. I wouldn’t be shocked by a sudden growth spurt from these guys, considering their music casts a wide sonic net that is unique without being exclusive. They have the ability to write indie music that retains an infectious pop profile: I’ve had “I Already Forgot Everything You Said” from Midnight Flowers lodged in my head for days since the show. Despite the malfunctions of Niagra’s fairly subpar sound system, the band delivered a powerful and tight set last Wednesday with an admirable amount of patience for the quiet, feedback heavy microphones.
No member of The Dig is lacking in their respective chops, yet the songs sung by Mosseri stood out as the most dynamic, at least live. This is of course a personal preference, and certainly not a dig (had to) on Baldwin’s vocal style, which particularly shines on “Cold Afternoon,” a sorrow-steeped detour from dream pop. Mosseri’s vocals on “Made My Bed” and “I Already Forgot Everything You Said” lend a sweeter, more folk-infused quality to the music that rescues it from being too genre-specific.
At the end of the day The Dig’s vagueness is what saves them. In their own words they simply play “Rock n’ Roll” and employ a direct method of writing and recording music (“We record as much as we can live”). There is nothing unnecessarily complicated about these guys — no rock star attitudes, fur vests, or sparkly pants. Their dynamic is that of four friends who enjoy what they’re doing, and take their music more seriously than themselves. Maybe next year they’ll be selling out venues across the country. Regardless, I’ll always remember the gig they played in a tiny bar by Tompkins Square Park for CMJ 2014.
Article by Madison Bloom for The Untitled Magazine