INTERVIEW: The Dig find NY familiarity in new Highland Park digs

In HBO comedy Crashing‘s closing moments of their season two premiere, creator and star Pete Holmes gets laid. To those familiar with the comedian’s work as a clean happy-go-lucky guy, it’s an odd sight. Even more bizarre is the song choice — The Dig with “I Already Forgot Everything You Said”. The six-year-old song is bleak, but somehow fits Holmes performing coitus with a blubbering smile on his face.

“We definitely didn’t picture Pete Holmes having sex when we wrote that,” bassist and vocalist Emile Mosseri told Pass The Aux over the phone.

“Well maybe you didn’t,” guitarist and fellow vocalist David Baldwin shot back jokingly.

“I guess I should speak for myself,” Mosseri laughed. “It was a trip to see that. You don’t know exactly how they’re going to use it. You kind of have a rough idea and then that was a really cool one. We didn’t know what to expect and we saw Pete Holmes having sex and that sex scene face he made (laughs). We’re big fans of that show so we would’ve been watching it anyway.”

That song in particular is what first drew me to The Dig five years ago in downtown Vegas at the inaugural Life is Beautiful. I made a new friend in the crowd that day who talked me into checking them out. They were playing the festival’s smallest stage, which must have been positioned right next to the dumpster on smell alone. But the set was so good that I stayed for the duration. And more than any other song I heard that weekend, “I Already Forgot Everything You Said” became an earworm for me.

“That’s the main thing I remember from that set too is that it smelled like shit and I broke a string and Alabama Shakes were playing next door in an area that smelled much better,” Mosseri laughed.

The next year I caught the band playing a late-night set at The Satellite that cemented my interest in them even more. Last year, they played a wonderful set at The Echo in support of their album Bloodshot Tokyo. That would be their last LA show before becoming LA locals themselves.

The Dig have spent this year putting out a couple excellent EPs called Moonlight Baby and Afternoon With Caroline.  It dropped as a double EP last month via Roll Call Records. In the last couple months they moved from Bushwick in New York to Highland Park. Baldwin came first, then Mosseri, then drummer Mark Demiglio and then guitarist Erick Eiser. They play their first LA show as locals on Friday, November 16 at the Moroccan Lounge.

The band has found familiarity in Highland Park to their Bushwick roots.

“I feel like Highland Park is really similar to Bushwick where we lived in a lot of ways,” Eiser said. “Just going out at night or walking around during the day, it feels really similar to me. I know my life is almost the same in a lot of ways other than it being warmer and sunnier outside.”

“Ironically, I feel like we sound more New York now,” Mosseri said. “I feel like we are kind of going in a direction that’s less psychy or smooth or vibey.”

The Dig compiled songs over a period of a couple years that made up a playlist called El Dig: A Year of Music. Most of those songs made up Bloodshot Tokyo, many of the ones they didn’t use ended up on the two EPs. The way they were separated was so Moonlight Baby was the more guitar-driven and Afternoon With Caroline was heavier on the synths.

“Don’t Stop Running” falls on Afternoon, a very funky bass hook complimenting the dueling falsetto vocals of Mosseri and Baldwin. The only band I can think of that employs two male singers capable of climbing the register like that is former tour mates Portugal. The Man. That’s a band that toiled as credible indie rockers for years before breaking through into mainstream success.

“Love those dudes so much,” said Portugal the Man lead singer John Gourley in a Twitter DM reply to me. “One of my favorite bands and hilarious people. They need to be the new wrecking crew. Nothing they can’t do. Incredible talent across the board. Not a weak link in the bunch.”

That high praise is well deserved. I wouldn’t be surprised if they strike gold with a radio hit soon the way Portugal the Man did. The songs on Afternoon fit the mold of a natural progression from the electro-driven rock ripping up alt radio right now. Their music is cinematic as cleary evidenced in the Crashing appearance.

The stomp-clap aspect of Moonlight Baby opener “You’re Not Alone” has a folky acoustic guitar riff. But the sound of what appears to be a theremin permeates towards the end. The title track has Baldwin and Mosseri contrasting wonderfully with their deep and falsetto vocals. The song makes me a believer they would crush a cover of U2’s “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me” — the only good thing to come out of Batman Forever.

Emile Mosseri at The Echo (2017) photo by Kelsee Becker

The new songs were co-engineered by the late Richard Swift, whose passing earlier this year was a big blow to the indie rock world.

“You can’t sit in a bar in Williamsburg or Highland Park for an hour and not have something that he touched come on,” Mosseri said. “I feel like you’ll hear Foxygen or [Kevin] Morby or The Shins or Black Keys. He had his hand in so many things. He touched so many things.”

The Dig sent Swift the song “Simple Love” to mix, which the band immediately loved and began sending him the rest of the tunes. Eventually, they wound up at Swift’s famed studio in Cottage Grove, Oregon called National Freedom mixing the rest of the songs over three days.

“One of the things that I thought was so cool about Richard was that we were only there for three days mixing songs and all of these habits that we noticed came out in other artists who came out with things they remembered about him,” Eiser added. “Specifically one of the things that we noticed was he listened to mixes super loud. He would turn the music up really loud, a lot louder than anyone would normally listen to music.”

Swift left a lasting impression on The Dig even though they spent less than a week together.

“I think another huge thing we took away is there’s so many things about his process being so natural,” Baldwin said. “I don’t want to say effortless but just seeming effortless and natural. If left to our own devices we can sometimes be a little bit overkill. Just his process kind of rubbed off on us in just those three days. I think it kind of inspired how we want to go about our records in a big way moving forward.”

The band has been writing new songs ever since they made it to LA. They intend to go into a studio in the new year and start laying down tracks for a new record. But first, they’re at the Moroccan Lounge on Friday, November 16, playing some of these EP tunes for the first time.

They’ve become aware that when played live, many of their songs rock hard enough that the falsettos can be buried under the track. In my experience seeing them, you almost have to close your eyes and feel the falsetto reverberate through the floor to fully hear it. On “I’m Coming Home Today”, Baldwin sings the lone vocals over a very quiet almost ballad. It’s a song that could certainly land in a particularly moving premium cable drama.

The falsettos have become more prevalent as time has gone on. Mosseri and Baldwin have found comfort in climbing the register. Both vocalists agreed that it’s just something that’s subconsciously happened as time has gone on and they establish a familiarity.

“I think that over time you sort of fall into your sound and that’s a part of our sound is the falsetto vocals and singing together in unison, Mosseri said.” They have found this range that’s sort of pitch-perfect like Thom Yorke meets gritty like Damon Albarn.

All I can say in trying to convince you to check these guys out this month is I withstood a literal dumpster smell to watch an entire set. That was five years ago and they’ve only gotten better with age.

BUY TICKETS TO SEE THE DIG AT MOROCCAN LOUNGE ON NOVEMBER 16
WIN TICKETS TO SEE THE DIG AT MOROCCAN LOUNGE ON NOVEMBER 16

Photos by Kelsee Becker