"Back in 1998, when we were 16-17, I was living as a squeegee kid down at the corner of Bay and Lakeshore in Toronto," says Dima (Dmitri) Filippov, co-founder and mouthpiece of Pavlov's Dogs. "That's pretty much where I met all my bandmates. It was during this time I met the drummer and the two guitar players, who I sort of knew before. We used to jam together all the timeónothing serious, we were just enjoying the music. That was the first version of Pavlov's Dogs."
Whereas a lot of Toronto-based bands cut their teeth in the surrounding suburbs or nether regions of southern Ontario, the members of Pavlov's Dogs originate from a bit further afield; namely, the Soviet Union. With all the Dogs being Soviet purebred, it gives their precise brand of indie rock a truly unique flavour. And considering seven separate humanoids comprise the band, the Dogs certainly stand out from the glut of other wannabes. The band originally focused their melodies on Toronto's Russian community but after Filippov reconstituted the band after a brief layoff in the early 2000's, he and bandmates opted to focus on the English music market instead. The results so far have been encouraging.
"Our focus has been on the indie rock community for really only about a year now, playing clubs like El Mocambo and Sneaky Dee's," says Filippov. "(Fellow Russian-born/Toronto-reared musician) Lenin I Shumov really inspired me in this direction. I've known him for eleven years and we've collaborated on a lot of music and theatre projects. Before that, I worried about language problems and whether Canadians would enjoy our music, even though we play a lot of instrumentals. I've noticed already that in terms of reaction of a crowd and acceptance, the language issue doesn't seem to be a problem since people like new, interesting music in any language."
Filippov first came to Canada in 1991 and by the time Pavlov's Dogs formed later that decade, he had ensconced himself in a pool of musicians willing to tinker with the trad guitar/bass/drums set-up of your average rock and roll band. The current version of the Dogs features, amongst others, Ruslan Nebesov (a former member of the Odessa Symphony Orchestra) on violin and Anton Priz on both bass and percussion ("Anton plays the kick drum and a hi-head simultaneously while playing bass," says Filippov. "I believe this is a unique situationóit looks awesome live!"). This fluidity of members and instrumentation has been a trademark of the Dogs since the very beginning. "In the first version of the band, there was only four players," says Filippov. "Eventually, we added a second guitarist and then a violinist and a guy who'd play saxophone and other brass instruments. Once the line-up hit seven people, the music started to really improve. Our original violinist played with a band in Russia called Aquarium, who are to Russia what the Beatles were to the rest of the world. It was pretty funny because at the time, we were playing Aquarium covers as part of our set and when he told us he'd played with them, we thought he meant covers tooónot playing with the actual band."
Pavlov's Dogs have found themselves a champion in Louis Marc Vautour, guitarist/songwriter for Toronto twinkle rockers the Hope Fiends. The ties between the two groups run deep and it was Vautour who was instrumental in the Dogs' tour of eastern Canada in the summer of 2004. "The Hope Fiends basically paid for everything, which was really nice of them," says a very grateful Filippov. "I met Louis from the band last year at the Rehearsal Factory, when he was practicing with a band called Linus right next door to us. I knew he seemed familiar from somewhere so we got to talking. He says, 'Let me tell you a story about the first time I met Russians. About ten years ago, I was hitchhiking to Ottawa and this car picked me up on the 401. It was these two Russian guys, one of whom was tripping on LSD in the backseat. I was on acid too so it was a really weird situationÖ" Right there, I clued in to who he was, as I was the one in the back seat on that trip. It was really strange. He told us he was going to meet some messiah in Ottawa and trying to make us detour from Montreal, which is where we were heading. It was definitely one of those moments of astro-connection ten years later."
In terms of other connections the Dogs have made, Filippov took a meditation program with Charles Spearin, bassist for Do Make Say Think and Broken Social Scene. "I hang out with him a little and go to his showsóit's great. I'm hoping to make more friends and more connections in the next year. Really, it all cumulated for us last summer with the east coast tour, playing cities like Montreal and Moncton and Halifax and many others. It confirmed for us that we can be accepted by Canadian audiences and won't just be labeled a 'Russian band'."
For more information about Pavlov's Dogs, please visit their official web site at: www.pdogs.net
Writer: Cameron Gordon