Ain’t Nothin’ But a Dog
A rejuvenated Sick Puppies return to Alaska
This weekend, Australian rock band Sick Puppies returns to Alaska for a special, personal start to the Hard Live Tour. The band rose to fame after collaborating with the Sydney-based Free Hugs campaign, which swept the globe in the mid-2000s. But after a line-up change and a shift in their focus, the band is back with a new album, a new sound, and a lot of enthusiasm.
Sick Puppies was born as many bands are: A group of teenage musicians decided to give it a go and put a band together. Original guitarist and vocalist Shimon Moore and bassist Emma Anzai, who bonded over a shared love of alt rock, teamed up with drummer Chris Mileski in the mid-1990s. They saved up enough to record their debut EP, Dog’s Breakfast, in 1999.
But unlike most high school acts, Sick Puppies didn’t fizzle there. A year after they finished their first EP, they entered a Sydney music competition and their co-win landed them a management deal. That was the launch the group needed, and they soon made their way to the US. Their breakthrough came in 2006, when the Free Hugs campaign included their song “All The Same” in a video that went viral. But while a multi-decade career with a loyal fan following is, of course, the dream, it hasn’t been one the band was handed. “It’s been a long road of trials and tribulations,” Anzai says of the journey from the band room at their Sydney high school to 2016.
Those trials and tribulations included a couple of lineup changes. Miluski left the band in the early 2000s and Mark Goodwin took his place after the band moved to LA. Moore departed in 2014, with Bryan Scott joining the band as vocalist in 2015. Moore’s departure led the band to take a brief hiatus, giving Sick Puppies a chance to reinvent themselves. It was an opportunity to think about the next phase of their career as they head into their third decade as a band. They’ve been enthusiastic in proclaiming “a new era” for Sick Puppies. “We’ve had a lot of time to reflect,” Anzai says. “People love the heavy stuff. We’ve been focused on that on the new album, and it’s what we’re most excited about.”
But the shift toward a heavier sound isn’t the only change the band has made in recent years. The way they connect with audiences has also evolved and the band makes it a point to foster those relationships. They have meet-and-greets after every show, making sure they get face time with the fans that make it possible for them to perform. It’s a connection that’s become more important in recent years; getting the word out via traditional media is trickier than it was when the band first began.
“Formats have changed,” Goodwin says. “Bands like us and heavier bands aren’t really on alternative radio. Which is okay, but there’s still a market for heavier bands.” Like many bands, Sick Puppies has turned to social media to help them connect with fans. But they also have another tool: The Sick Puppies World Crew. Through their website, the band maintains a forum for fans to connect with each other and with band members.
This spring, Sick Puppies returns to the road for the Hard Live Tour, joining Red Sun Rising, Stitched Up Heart, Hudson and Smashing Satellites for a month long nationwide tour. The official tour starts in Houston, Texas in late April. But Sick Puppies decided to take it back to the start to kick things off, with two sets in Alaska. “We haven’t played live for a while, and so what better place to go to than the place we started?” Emma says of the decision.
Sick Puppies takes the stage at Koot’s (2435 Spenard Rd.) on Friday, April 7 at 8 p.m. Tickets start at $30 and are available at sickpuppies.com.