The songs on Madison band Trophy Dad’s latest EP, Dogman, are relatively old in the band’s lifespan—they formed just a few years ago and began recording these tracks in early 2016. That said, it represents a big step forward from their 2015 debut EP, Shirtless Algebra Fridays. Both releases capture the band’s gift for skewed, catchy guitar figures and smart-assed but bittersweet pop songwriting. It’s just that Dogman is a bit more deliberate about it all.
“I knew what I wanted my parts to sound like and what I wanted to happen,” says bassist/vocalist Abby Sherman of the process of making the new EP. The band has actually been a bit quiet since putting the record and going on a short tour in May, but will be back to play an opening slot for The New Pornographers on August 18 at Live On King Street.
Shirtless Algebra Fridays, an early release from Madison label Rare Plant, has plenty of strong moments, especially the charging indie-rock of “Trichotillomania,” but reflects a faster process. While writing Dogman, the band thought ahead more about where songs would fit into a sequence, and guitarist Henry Stoehr, who mixed and mastered both releases (but actually joined the band between them), improved his engineering skills as the band’s sound developed. “It was more of a big-picture thing,” says guitarist/vocalist Jordan Zamansky. They released Dogman on New York label Sad Cactus and got a bit more national press attention for the release—also parts of the plan.
Zamansky and Sherman started Trophy Dad in 2014 after meeting at UW-Madison, where both are still working on their undergraduate degrees. “I was just sad in Sellery [Hall, a dorm at UW-Madison] and I was trying to make Microphones songs, and Abby had a really good voice,” Zamansky says. They recorded Shirtless Algebra Fridays as a trio with drummer Jake Witz, who later was replaced by current drummer Justin Huber.
Both EPs show a tendency to jump around, with Sherman and Zamansky trading off lead vocals. Dogman‘s high points include the beautiful, slow-mounting sadness of “Addison” and the more playful “Louis Sachar.” It’s cohesive in its way, but Trophy Dad don’t really seem all that interested in repeating themselves too much.
Ahead of the Live On King Street show, I talked with Sherman (in person) and Zamansky (who joined by phone) about the band’s maturation, getting outside of the campus bubble to play venues like Williamson Magnetic Recording Company, and their plans for the future.