Big Dog Run – Everyday Folk
Over in the Union Square area of New York City, I met up with the warmest, funniest, and most laid-back bunch of people at the Heartland Brewery—a band called Big Dog Run, and their folk rock sound has pleasantly opened up my musical palate. I was introduced to this band because one of their lead vocalists, Jamie Unruh, is a dear friend of mine that I used to work with at an independent postproduction company when I lived in New York City some years back. I found out about her band via Facebook about two years ago, and have thoroughly enjoyed watching their evolution. Plus, their music perfectly compliments a glass of Moscato wine while winding down after a tough day at work. Currently residing in New Jersey, I haven’t seen or hung with Jamie in a little while, so once I arrived off the NJ Transit train into the city I was excited to catch up with my old friend, and introduce myself to her clan of musical soul mates.
Big Dog Run is an Americana rock band that ambitiously strives to push the boundaries of modern folk music. The bands’ five members are comprised of, Brennan Brooks, Jamie Unruh, Ken Shoji, Andrew Geller, and last but not least—Shane Larue. They’re an eclectic bunch based out of the New York City Metropolitan area, and their multi-talented regime is bravely paving a new wave sound of a traditional musical art form.
Andrew, Jamie, and Brennan all grew up together in Colorado as high school friends that shared a love for music and actively performed in their school’s marching band and chorus groups. Along with other friends, the three moved out to New York City about six years ago, and always played as a band for fun. About three years ago, the band collectively decided to start performing professional gigs to release their music to the world and grow an audience. At the same time, the name of the band was dually inspired by a song they wrote with the matching title, and a friend’s dog named Monty that was their unofficial mascot but has since sadly passed away. Along the recent years and exchange of different band members, the present band is solidly unified with fellow members Shane and Ken.
The band mainly tours and performs throughout Colorado and New York City. They openly share the difference in energy of their audiences in both areas with me as I sip on my Ginger Ale and they digest their lunches. At their Colorado shows, they feel have the best crowds and are very welcoming and have an engaging response to their music—as opposed to New York City, where they feel that they have to work a little harder to capture and steer the enthusiasm with the audience. Collectively, they thoroughly enjoy the challenge and the gradual win!
The communal vibe of the band is also reflected in their songwriting. Brennan and Shane usually start off the original melodies then they present it to the rest of the band. They all equally partake in the fun in building structure of production. Their comradery also spreads onto their live stage shows. Each member is a trained musician and vocalist and that artistry is craftily revealed in their live sets. Shane, Brennan, and Jamie blend their voices together to grace the audience with their three-part harmony. Andrew’s gifts are expressed through the rhythms of the cymbals, congas, cajon, and shaker bells—which allows the band to play around with a Middle Eastern flair to their sound. Ken, who is the only full-time musician in the band, finishes out their live instrumentation with his classically trained skills on the fiddle. Their collective musical influences all vary from: The Beatles, Neil Young, Trampled by Turtles, The Civil Wars, and various genres that include, jazz, bluegrass, folk rock, and funk. Big Dog Run aims to continue evolving with their melting pot blend of folk rock music by challenging themselves and experimenting with their sound.
Their overall goal is to have fun with their audience—wanting people to feel like they’re invited to an intimate party where everyone can engage and interact with one another. Brennan discusses the joy they all felt at their album release party performance at LIC Bar. The band was performing their popular song “Shoes on a Wire”, and that was the first time the band could hear and see people singing their song lyrics. The gratitude the band felt from the engaging audience participation was priceless. They truly appreciate the followers that they’ve gained thus far, and the word-of-mouth growth that continues to build their platform.
In the future, the band hopes to book and perform at more music festivals that embrace their American folk sound. They feel it will be a great networking experience to meet and experience other bands that share their brand of music, and also market their music to larger audiences. Additionally, the band has a unique method of selling their music at their live shows. They sell their music on custom bamboo flash drives that have the band’s name engraved on front. This crafty and cost-efficient method coincides with the tech-centered platform of how music is shared in our modern times; people can re-use the flash drive for any multi-purpose, and the wooden cover reflects the backwoods, organic signature swag of the band.