Text: Žikica Milošević
The new millennium’s new wave of Serbian bands has given birth to many names that possess genuine power and integrity. One such band is Belgrade-based Stray Dogg. Usually slow and poetic, their music has conquered audiences in Serbia and around the world. He we talk to Dušan Strajnić Dukat, the band’s frontman, about the vision, origins and future plans of this amazing five-piece band which performs music that cannot be easily defined.
How was Stray Dogg formed?
I started playing guitar very late, when I was 21 or 22 years old, but I almost immediately began composing my own songs, instead of doing covers, as most people would probably do. Very soon I got the chance to play as a support act for Chinawoman at KC Grad, a sold out concert – two days in a row. That’s when I realised I had to form a band, because I couldn’t do a 45-minute gig by myself at that time.
Where did the name come from? There was a band Stray Cats, was that the inspiration for the name; and why the two G’s at the end?
It’s mostly connected to my surname, the Stray part. Dog seemed like a logical thing to add, because it sounds kind of bluesy I guess. We tried to make a Band-camp page as Stray Dog, but it was already taken, so we added another G. Stray Dogg. That’s all.
It’s rare to hear a band in Europe, let alone Serbia, that plays such good Americana music. How come you developed an interest in this kind of music specifically? Who inspired you? You seem to combine everything from REM to Mazzy Star and The Jesus & Mary Chain, but in a new and fresh way, originally mixed.
I think the term Americana is very much abused in the region. It is actually a very specific genre, and we are just not an Americana band, and not only that – for obvious reasons, I think we could never be one. Just because we have a harmonica and an acoustic guitar, or sing in English (or American), that doesn’t make us an Americana band. We were inspired by many musicians, from folk and country, through soul, to grunge, classic rock and finally pop. Everything you listen to defines you in a way, in little details that you use while creating and performing, and then when you have five people in the band, you actually cover probably all genres of modern music as possible influences.
You sing in English. You have decided that English is the universal way to be accepted worldwide?
It was mostly due to the music I listened to, and this need to sing in English, since most of the songs I listen to are sung in English. If you would read only books in French, and you spoke French very well, would it be weird if you decided to write in French even though it’s not your native language? Many famous writers wrote in their second language, like Kundera, Kosinski or even Kerouac, so it would be more appropriate to question the quality of the work and not the tool (which language is) with which the work was made.
How do you find the strength to make music that corresponds with world trends in a country where a folk-rock joke flourishes, with music and bands that have been recycling old styles for 20+ years?
Our country was closed from influences for some time, so I think the music didn’t have anywhere to go. It is finally happening a little bit, opening up, and I am happy that we are part of this new wave.
How did your videos, which are also very impressive, come to life?
We have a great team of people around us who help us do that. We decided to give total freedom to the people who do our videos, because I believe we chose those people well, and now we just trust them.
What can we expect from you in the period ahead?
We are travelling around Europe a lot this year, promoting the latest album, and this is very exciting for us, and something new – to get out of the region and try to find an audience in Europe. This autumn we will record our fourth album, and hopefully it will be out by spring next year.
ROMANTICISM AS A MAIN INFLUENCE
The songs are very lyrical. How does it feel to be a man-poet at the time of machismo?
I really love poetry, especially the romantic period. The singer-songwriters that I listened to a lot, like Nick Drake, Bert Jansch or Jackson C Frank and Neil Young, turned out to be influenced by the same era, and the same poets, from William Blake to Paul Verlaine. That definitely has an impact on my own writing. On the other hand, I see my writing as a way of going out of the world that we are all living in, to slow it down and become clear in my thoughts and emotions, and so my real life persona is actually very different from the one that could be imagined by reading the lyrics I’ve written.