Q&A: That Dog.'s Anna Waronker On Her Band's Reunion Shows, Josie And The Pussycats And Sweet Valley High
That Dog. are proof that the '90s were a very different time, one when an alt-pop band with three women, one guy, extraordinarily catchy songs ("Never Say Never" and "Long Island" were every bit the equal of "Buddy Holly" and "Say It Ain't So"), and a cool gimmick (full-time violinist Petra Haden) could have full major-label backing and still fall between the cracks. They released three albums before parting ways in 1997, including the great Totally Crushed Out! and the absolute classic Retreat from the Sun. After various projects and solo ventures in the 2000s, they've finally reunited for a handful of shows (and, one hopes, a second shot at improving rock radio playlists). Frontwoman Anna Waronker spoke to Sound of the City about the future of the band, the influence of her biz-legend dad Lenny Waronker, and why she prefers After School Specials to Sweet Valley High.
Your band has reformed and your husband [Steve McDonald] is in OFF! and doing a new Redd Kross album. Did you two recently hire a babysitter?
What's been different about the reunion shows so far?
Well... everyone is more confident. Rachel and Petra always considered themselves musicians because they played together when they were really young, like children. But you know, I don't think we ever considered ourselves, like, serious musicians until after the band. So going back and revisiting that material, some of which is really sophisticated, with the confidence and knowledge of what we can do now, I think that's made it really good. Singing live for me, it's great singing with them. Some of the stuff I think was so low, that I'd like, cheat. [laughs] It was ridiculous.
You mentioned that you worked with a string section and did some songs that were never performed before. What songs weren't you able to tackle before?
We just did two shows at [L.A. venue] Largo at the Coronet, and we wanted to do something that we'd never done before and we wanted to play songs we'd never played before, like "Until the Day I Die" from Retreat from the Sun and "Rockstar" from Totally Crushed Out!. Kind of the weirdo, orchestrated stuff. String section and we got a percussionist and we got a piano player, and a horn player for one song and um... we played all those acoustic-y ballad-y songs or the midtempo ones that we never really played live and it was really cool.
Yeah, that sounds awesome. But I guess we're not going to get to see that in New York?
No, no. Because we hadn't... no, no. But you'll get to see all the hits, so to speak, in New York.
Yeah, we like the hits too. Do you guys play any of your other well-known material like [Weezer duet] "I Just Threw Out the Love of My Dreams" or the one from Josie and the Pussycats?
No, we're just doing That Dog. stuff.
By the way, how great is that movie?
[laughs] Josie and the Pussycats? I was a little underwhelmed when I saw it but it was fun to work on. It was a little sci-fi.
I liked it a lot! I found it really subversive for what it was.
Yeah, I guess that's true.