Dog Voices

An Interview With Rob Monte (Part 2)

Dog Voices morphed from two rival cover bands in the mid '90s, Voices and Who Brought the Dog. Starting fresh was not easy for the newly-formed band, but they kept with it, playing their asses off and making a new name for themselves. They eventually gained a following their former band members could only envy.

The band now stands next to the Nerds as one of the most popular cover bands on the scene. They pack clubs in Jersey from north to south, satisfying returning audiences along the way. Their success isn't just a result of what they do on stage; it's their friendliness and desire to meet the people who watch them that puts them a step above those who choose not to.

The band manages to sweat and groove on the stage until bar time ends, leaving you feeling like the show just started. They also have their rough nights when crowds just won't respond. According to their lead vocalist, Rob Monte, they play each show whether it's one person or a thousand in the audience by giving 100 percent.

The band's club set list is made up mostly of today's hits, usually attacked with a note-for-note performance. Sometimes guitarist Rich Moscola will treat the audience to some of his versatile improvised guitar solos. It's the band's showmanship that stamps it's own patent on each Dog Voices cover song. The songs were written, recorded and originally performed by another group, but on stage this band takes it and gives it their own energy. They've developed an original stage presence that would take other cover bands years to copy.

Chorus and Verse: When did Dog Voices form?

Rob Monte: Dog Voices formed in '96, I think, '95 (or) '96.

It was a culmination of two bands, right?

Yeah, Voices was one band and I was with Who Brought the Dog and they got rid of their singer, I got rid of my band.

So what happened from there?

Well, that's when club owners were going nuts, my agent was going nuts, people going nuts because at one point we were a big competition. When I was in Who Brought the Dog, Voices was kind of big, but we were the most similar to the two Voices. They were better than us as a band. But we were the five guys in the band and their singer used to run around, too. Not as crazy as me, but used to run around and he would have his thing.

So, it was kind of competition and they felt that way, so they weren't very warm to us. But you know, whatever. So, you know, the crowds were kind of split. If you liked Voices, you didn't like Who Brought the Dog. If you liked Who Brought the Dog, you didn't really like Voices.

So, all of the sudden, I got to meet the guys and they got to know me. And, you know, they were pretty cool and they were having problems with their singer, and I'm having problems with my band, so it's natural.

But the crowd, people who saw the band, some people were in shock, some people liked it. So it was tough, man, it was tough. And then, club owners used that against us, to try to keep our money down and that whole thing. Because they figured, oh, it's a new band, it's a new thing and blah, blah. So, we went through a lot of shit with that. But, we proved everybody wrong and kicked some ass, you know.

Is there a chemistry you feel now, when you're on stage?

Well, now we got two new guys in the band from the original members. We got a new keyboardist and bass player. And yeah, the one thing I gotta say that we do have, which I don't see in a lot of bands, is we always have fun on stage.

There's always something funny going on, you know. My bass player says something to me and it's just fucking hilarious. I mean, you can't help but laugh. Or I'll see something in the crowd and I'll point something out to my guitar player and we just start laughing. So it's still fun. Chemistry in that way, yeah. Plus, we play so much, we kind of know someone else's moves, so you know what's going to come next or whatever.

We all don't really hang that much, outside of the band, because we play so often. You know what I mean. If we hung out outside of the band I might as well move in with the damn guys. (Laughs)

But you get along really well?

Oh yeah, we all get along great.

Do you guys feed off each other's energy on stage?

I mean most of the time, I'm the one always on 11, you know. But there's definitely times when they follow my lead or there's just some nights when I just don't have it. Or some nights I'm just too beat. I do a lot of shit, I really gotta slow down. I'm just one of those guys, when I wake up in the morning, I don't care what wakes me up, I just can't go back to sleep. I try to, but my brain is going, "what am I doing, what am I going to do."

So, I'll get up and go to the gym. I'll do some errands. I'll do this, I'll do that, the whole bit. So, there's definitely some nights, man, when by the time 11 o'clock rolls around and I'm on stage, I'm like beat to shit.

Maybe those guys will feel that and they'll start stepping it up a little bit and I see them stepping it up and I realize I gotta step it up. And it's good to feed off each other that way. We know each other so well, I guess, that we'll be able to feel what the other guy is feeling.

How does the crowd get you into the show?

The crowds are great man! There's some crowds you gotta work on, some crowds just stand there. You know, we played Long Island the other night. They don't know us from a hole in the wall. You know, they don't know who Dog Voices is. They don't know where we're from. So I gotta, you know, mention where we're from, "how you doing," blah, blah. And then, hopefully they'll take to you. You know, if you get done with a song and put in all the energy and they start clapping and getting into [it], you feed off of that. And it's just the opposite too sometimes, well not the opposite, but if they don't, you feel like you want to work harder.

That's where the band will follow my lead. Sometimes the band gets a little discouraged and, hey, you're up there and you're jumping around and your giving it your all and people couldn't give a shit. You know, but to me I think that it's a challenge. You know, and if through everything else, you're still busting your ass all night long and people still aren't taking to the band, I still want to go nuts and give it my all because at least they can say they don't like us. That they didn't like us. They can say that the singer's an asshole, whatever the hell they want to say. But they can't say that we didn't give it our all. That really is like a pet peeve of mine. I always tell the guys that, "look, you're not going to please everybody." And I'm the worst one with that, I always try to please everybody.

But, if someone wants to say, "ah, you suck," and it's their opinion, fine. Everybody has an opinion. But I don't want anybody to ever call my agent or to say, "ah, you guys weren't that good. You guys didn't move around, you didn't do nothing." I don't want anyone to ever say that we didn't put the effort out. That's important.

You know, with a crowd, if a crowd's not going to take to it, some bands just take it as, ah, you know what, fuck this. We're never going to play here again, let's just get through this night and get it over with. I'm more like, no, no, no. Fucking go nuts. Go even crazier than you want to. I don't care if they clap or not.

I'll goof on people too sometimes. You know, there's always one person who claps, so I'll just point to them and say, "thank you." (Laughs) You know. And fuck everybody else, I think. (Laughter) You know, whatever, you can have fun with it too.

Do you have a certain routine you follow or when you get up on stage do you just let it all go?

I make a set list up. Now, like you said, I know the rooms so well. So, now if I go to a room and I know what type of room it is, I'll make a set list up. For the most part, a set list is there for guidance. Then, you know, if things go different, then I'll switch things up. Which really helped us on the "Cover Wars" thing to tell you the truth. (Laughter) Because, that's what the whole show was about.

You know, all of the band used to get really mad at me for changing things up all the time and doing that stuff. It ended up being ... ended up working out in our favor when it came to "Cover Wars".

How did you develop such a huge following? You guys keep drawing like crazy.

Man, I guess it's just word of mouth. People like to go out to the clubs and they like seeing bands. Some people are like just fans of one band or another. Either they like the [Big Orange] Cone and they don't like anybody else. Or they like the Benjamins and they don't like anybody else. But, then there's those people who go out and like to get entertained and see good bands. Which is what I encourage a lot, all the time. You know, anytime I go out, I'm always telling people to see Cone or Benjamins or Nerds or whoever. Because to me, if I'm not around, go see another band.

But, I guess it just starts with word of mouth. People who like to see good bands, go out and they saw us and thought we were good. They start telling their friends and eventually their friends will see us and a I guess that's the way it works in clubs. I'm not really sure, you know. I don't take it for granted, that's for sure.

I guess it's a combination of that and a combination of, also, people get to know us, you know. People come out and see us. And plus we play a lot of different gigs too. It's not just clubs, man. We played at outdoor gigs where a lot of people bring their kids. That's in the summer time, The Shell [The Sea Shell Motel] down in L. B. I. [Long Beach Island, South Jersey].

Um, you know, we do our ski trips every year. We play up in Vermont. We played in Boston. We've gone to Florida. You know, we've done a lot of stuff, so we got to know a lot of people. We play in different sections of, I guess, the scene, you know what I mean. Instead of just clubs, we don't just play clubs. If we played clubs, we'd have a limited audience. So I guess that helps our following, too.

Josh Davidson

Josh Davidson has written music feature articles for Jersey Style and served as the Jersey Shore rock columnist for Steppin' Out Magazine. Other music writing credits include Aquarian Weekly, Jersey Beat, Backstreets and He has written free-lance for the Asbury Park Press' Community Sports section and has written featured articles for its news section, as well as covering campus news and sports weekly for the Signal, the College of New Jersey's (formerly Trenton State College) student newspaper. He has worked as a staff writer for The Independent, and his work for Greater Media Newspapers has also been published in the News Transcript. He is a former beat reporter for the Ocean County Observer who presently is a news writer for Symbolic Systems Inc. supporting the US Army's Knowledge Center. His music writing covers a vast range of topics, from the current cover band craze, highs and lows of the original scene, to the early days of the Jersey Shore rock scene in Asbury Park. He is also a musician, having written hundreds of songs as a singer/songwriter, and playing them out as a solo/acoustic artist. He has also played with cover bands, including It Doesn't Matter, and several original bands, including as the guitarist for the solo project of singer/songwriter Dave Eric. He continues to work on solo material and is presently the guitar player for Jersey Breeze.