In most cases, being within close proximity to beer isn’t the worst scenario. For Joey Siara, formerly with Los Angeles bands Henry Clay People and Fakers, it was just the cool sip he needed following his former musical endeavors, moving forward and onward with Near Beer.
Formed by Siara, along with longtime friend bassist Jeremy Levy, drummer Brent Stranathan, and former guitarist and Henry Clay producer Dan Long, who ultimately named the band, Near Beer aren’t trying to capture any pre-teen or 20s musical angst but something “older” on their new single “Yelling at a Dog,” off the band’s upcoming self titled debut, out summer 2022.
“Lyrically, it’s very much a blender of 30s-band-person anxieties—being broke, being terrified of the future, questioning your life decisions, but still kinda okay with it all,” reads a descriptor of the track. (Disclaimer: Near Beer actually love dogs and don’t condone yelling at any canines, and all pets filmed in the video were never harmed, only given a bounty of treats.) “Consider this an anti-yelling-at-dogs song,” says the band.
“Yelling at a Dog” is a near-to-midlife restlessness around musical hopes and dreams… not yet fulfilled. I guess we splatter-painted our 20s because we thought we would be okay, sings Siara through the slacker punk song, accompanied by a video of snarling dogs in various states of motion, and chowing down.
Named by Long, who called Near Beer a “proper slacker dad rock band name,” the name stuck and the trio has come a good distance since their first single, “The Alarmists,” off their 2020 EP Sleeping is For Suckers.
“Our music’s often a push-pull between keeping stuff loose and succumbing to our maximalist tendencies,” says Siara. “There are days where I want to channel ‘Bee Thousand’ and days where I want to do ‘Born to Run.'” He adds, “It’s a sort of slacker restlessness. You can be lazy as shit. You can love beer, and a good nap but still want more out of life.”
Siara broke down the band’s upcoming album, getting through a just-above a quarter-life crisis, and why the band is “Yelling at a Dog.”
American Songwriter: Near Beer was technically a decade in the making. How are you feeling in anticipation of your new release? What are you particularly proud of with the single and the album?
Joey Siara: Honestly, I am feeling grateful. It’s been 10 years since I put out a full-length—feels like a lifetime ago. I actually thought I was done being in bands, but I missed it too much. It brings me joy to play tunes with my friends and share them. It brings me joy to see and play live music, and I never want to take that for granted again. I realize how many truly lovely people I’ve gotten to meet through music over the years. [I] made a lot of friends who I hope to be close with for the long haul. I’m excited about making some more and hopefully starting a new chapter with this record as we emerge from our pandemic cocoons.
AS: How would you describe the dynamic between you, Jeremy, and Brent.
JS: I’m proud and grateful for my bandmates. Brent is always pushing us to play better and care more. Jeremy is always keeping the vibes positive and celebratory. Both of them love doing the band as much as I do, which isn’t always the case with a lot of bands. I’m proud that this record feels like a personal document that captures various shades of life anxieties.
AS: What made you choose “Yelling at a Dog” as your first single?
JS: We’d always wanted “Yelling at a Dog” to be track one on the record because it’s sort of the smorgasbord of all things Near Beer—sad stuff, tongue-in-cheek stuff, loud guitars and drums, and what not. We actually had a different first single out the gate. It was initially supposed to be “Dead Drummers,” which was written in the aftermath of losing a couple of old band buddies during the pandemic. That one is easily the most emotionally raw tune on the record, but given the recent death of Taylor Hawkins, who Brent pretty much worshipped musically, it just didn’t feel right leading with that one anymore. We wanted to give it some time. So we opted for “Dog” instead, which I’m pretty excited about. It feels like a nice intro to the band.
AS: How did you go about translating “Yelling at a Dog” visually?
JS: The video idea started because my dog, Pinky, loves these dental bones and gets so excited when she eats them, despite the fact that she’s old and missing a bunch of teeth. I filmed her in slow-motion one night, eating the hell out of one of the bones, and I loved that you could see this intensity in her expression, which is pretty rare because she’s normally super mellow. I talked to my buddy Matt, who directs, and we asked some friends to film their dogs eating stuff in slow-motion. So, it’s cool because they are all our friends and family pets in the video, and all the dogs got tons of treats.
When I saw it edited together, I felt oddly moved. It’s meditative and disgusting and silly all at the same time. I get a little sad at the end because the final dog in the video was my best dog bud for the last 13 years, Edna [who recently died]. I got the title for the song because as Edna got older she went deaf and would bark at her reflection in this sliding glass door, so I’d have to try to redirect her attention away. It was sort of this pathetic routine that we found ourselves in, that definitely felt like we were both aging. Anyhow, the spirit of that dog looms large on the record.
AS: For those unfamiliar with Near Beer, how would you describe your sound within the context “Yelling at a Dog”?
JS: I feel like “Yelling at a Dog” is fairly representative of the band’s overall sound. When I wrote it, I think I was trying to convince our guitarist, who is a huge Echo and the Bunnymen fan, that we could pull off some minor chord 12-string stuff. Also, Pulp is one of my favorite bands, and I think I often imagine other people singing our songs as I write them. So with this one, I kept imagining Jarvis Cocker, who has pretty much the opposite voice that I have. His is all deep and sexy and mine is, again, the opposite.
Now that I think of it, I guess this song does have a bit more of the British influence, whereas I feel like a lot of our other tunes are either more with a nod towards Tom Petty, glorified bar-band rock, or Superchunk-y punk-y indie rock, which I guess both sound pretty American. Guided By Voices sounds British a lot of the time and Teenage Fanclub often sounds American, so it’s all just a big fun intercontinental mess of influences.