Toby Leaman and Scott McMicken grew up together in the city of brotherly love, but while they don't share the same mother, what they do share is arguably more binding:Dr. Dog.
No. Not a pet. Dr. Dog is a retro rock band, which plans to make a stop at the Wiltern Theatre in Los Angeles on Thursday after a sold-out show on Wednesday at The Observatory in Santa Ana.
“I'm ready for that 80-degree L.A. weather,” said McMicken, guitarist-vocalist for the band, during a sunny, snow-capped day in Connecticut. “We had already been through some severe winter months so I'm excited to go to the West Coast.”
Dr. Dog returns to tour after a two-week break to support the band's seventh full-length album, “B-Room,” which was released on Anti Records in October.
The album is named after the studio room in the old mill turned music haven the band built with their bare hands in the suburbs of West Philadelphia just a year ago.
“We had been in our original studio for about eight years and it was starting to feel so uninspired and crowded,” said the band's bassist-vocalist, Leaman, from his home in Delaware. “Now we have this gorgeous 5,000-square-foot space with beautiful windows and hardwood floor and everything. It really added to the overall sound and vibe of this album.”
The renovation took nearly two months with the band members hammering away “every day, all day,” Leaman said.
But the experience was an enlightening one.
“It really got us to hone in on everyone's role in the band,” Leaman said, explaining that “B-Room” essentially felt like a live record since the band recorded together on many songs instead of track-by-track.
McMicken added that this was the first time other members aside from himself and Leaman really began contributing to songs. Dr. Dog is rounded out by the sounds produced by Frank McElroy on rhythm guitar, keyboardist Zach Miller, multi-instrumentalist Dimitri Manos and drummer Eric Slick. But for many years, through the comings and goings of other band members, McMicken and Leaman were at the helm writing and producing songs themselves before the rest of the band would record in the studio.
Leaman and McMicken are still the main songwriters — the two have been divvying up the song tracks on an album and alternate performing during live shows since their debut in 2002 — but Dr. Dog can now call itself a six-piece band with “B-Room.”
“It's stupid and weird because I'm describing the most basic way of making music, but it's true,” McMicken said. “Ten years on the road and we're finally recording albums as a band. It's not like Toby and I ever directed some hired musicians or anything, but we did things differently than we did for ‘B-Room.' ”
All those hours of simply jamming while building the studio really paid off, the two said.
“We really started to acknowledge everyone else's interest and ambition. I mean, any one of those guys can lead their own band,” McMicken said. “So Toby and I told everyone, ‘Hey, anything you want out of this is available to you. Whatever ideas you have in the back of your mind and not have a chance to fully explore, let's put it on the table.' ”
And the band does put it out there. Leaman, for instance, belts out a bare-bones tearjerker with “Too Weak to Ramble” to the sorrowful strums of a few guitars. McMicken watched the song come together over the course of two weeks “like a fly on the wall just listening to Toby piece it together.”
“We both are of the mind that if you can't make a piece of music good enough to listen to with just your voice and a couple of guitars, you should question, ‘What kind of musician are you?' If you could do it in a sparse way and make it feel full, and deep and intricate, that really says something of musicianship,” McMicken said. “We both admitted to ourselves that if we failed here, we failed as musicians.”
With more than 21,000 record sales with “B-Room” and counting, Dr. Dog is far from being a failure.
After its L.A. concert, the band heads to Santa Cruz, San Francisco and more than a dozen other cities throughout the country, including stops at music festivals Bonnaroo in Tennessee and Sasquatch in Washington.
After the band catches its breath from the tour, McMicken said he and Leaman are embarking on a whole new project.
“It's 100 percent conceptual and thematic in nature,” McMicken said. “Right now, it's just building and growing, but if this whole thing works out this will probably be our first album where we actually started with a theme and then worked on filling the holes toward that goal.”
Follow Mariecar Mendoza on Twitter: @LANGMarMendoza