Fat Dog: “Ecstasy Beyond All Bounds”.

Words: Ingrid Marie Jensen | Photos: Lou Smith

“Music has always been a matter of Energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel. I have always needed Fuel. I am a serious consumer.”–Hunter S. Thompson, “Hey Rube! I Love You: Eerie Reflections on Fuel, Madness & Music,” May 13th 1999 issue of Rolling Stone.

I saw Blade Runner for the first time, recently. Since then, I’ve been wondering, if Deckard had gone into a rave, or a club—what might the music have sounded like? I’ve come to the conclusion that it would have been something akin to Fat Dog: a furious barrage of full-out rock n’ roll, laced over futuristic synth. Urgent and harsh, a strong backbeat layered with siren-song calculated to intoxicate even the most tech-warped minds.

Formed during lockdown, Fat Dog are the rarest of jewels, a good rock n’ roll band. They’ve gigged around London for a solid year now, and have put in the blood, sweat and tears necessary to hone their sound. But despite being playbill regulars at the Windmill, spoken of in hushed, awed tones in watering holes around the city, they’ve retained an air of mystery. Hunting down info on Fat Dog feels like chasing a ghost.

Outside of photographer Lou Smith’s videos of the band, there are no recordings, no singles, no EPs. You have to be there, in the right place, in the right time, in the right room with the right people, to hear Fat Dog. They are gathering a fan base vis-à-vis instead of thumb-to-screen, and it will serve them well. A band can’t grow up big and strong on the empty calories of internet publicity alone.

By the grace of Lou Smith, I was granted an interview with Fat Dog’s synth player, Will, and allowed a glimpse behind the curtain. The unruly lineup consists of Joe (lead guitar and vocals); Jazz (vocals and keys); Will (synth); Johnny (drums); and Ben (bass) joined occasionally by a sax player, Morgan. In terms of individual taste, there is hardly a square inch of common ground between band members. Some favor dream pop and karaoke standards, some prefer Mongolian folk-singing.

The ensuing conflict culminates in a delirious, delicious mix which Will describes as techno “superimposed,” on top of rock n’ roll written with Jewish and Balkan-inspired scales and electro influence courtesy of Underworld. Every show is different. Some nights there are costumes; furry pillbox hats, cow-print shirts, executioner’s hoods. Some nights there are Fillmore-East-style light shows. The general impression that a Fat Dog set gives is a sense of imminent firepower, of potential energy coiled and waiting to spring out and seize the audience by their throats and hold them in such rapture that escape is impossible. And you’d have to be crazy to want the amps unplugged so that you could go back to being mortal, because noise, sheer noise, creates a special kind of high.

When the decibels climb high enough, there comes a point when all else is pushed away, when everything vanishes except the sound. It’s lucid senselessness; an adrenaline rush that no drug can hope to touch. This ritual overpowering of the senses, when combined with the confines of a crowd, triggers a sort of compounding of elements. There is a merging, a union. It is very difficult not to become in some way entangled in the thoughts and feelings and problems of the person next to you when you are crammed up next to each other more tightly than sardines in a tin. (It is the ultimate brotherhood, and it’s waiting in an independent venue near you.)

Fat Dog’s particular brand of chaos seems a fine antidote to the remains of pent-up lockdown frustration. The collective scream has found a mouth; the potential energy has been activated. Joe’s singing, his words slurred and distorted in the time-honored tradition of delta bluesmen, melds to Jazz’s wordless vocals, high and keening like some punk banshee princess, equal parts Grace Slick and Yoko Ono. Beneath the schizophrenically flashing lights, Joe and Jazz could be siblings with their wild curly dark hair and pale faces intent on the music, dancing as though held in thrall by some invisible bacchanalian spirit.

“I think they just feel ecstasy beyond all bounds when they’re playing live,” Will says. “I always turn…and see them, and they’re going absolutely ham. I think they get a sort of quasi-religious experience out of it.” The audience does, too. The band never fails to churn the crowd into a roiling mass, and record labels are taking interest—how could they not? It’s Fat Dog mania. Hopefully, an album looms in the near future, but until then, you must go and see them, live, in person and as soon as possible. Remember always, the urgency of fun.