As far as band names go, Best Dog Award’s moniker is about as arbitrary as it gets.
“It really just comes from my great dog,” said Nicholas Mazza, multi-instrumentalist and a founding member of the band. “When we didn’t have a name, we’d always joke that my dog should get the best dog award, and it’s true. That one stuck.”
Of course, a name can hardly encapsulate a band’s sound, much less a band as original and well put together as Best Dog Award.
However, Mazza’s explanation captures the clever earnestness that has put the group on the local map during the last year. Its growing recognition will culminate in a support spot for indie darling Youth Lagoon in Phoenix on Sunday and at Tucson’s Club Congress on Monday.
“Nick and I have been playing together since we were probably 12 years old,” said Joel Crocco, the band’s singer and guitarist.
“It’s only been recently with this project, though, where I’ve been fortunate enough to play places like Club Congress, opening for great bands like Youth Lagoon, and it’s just a satisfying feeling to be getting such positive response.”
Friends and bandmates since childhood, Crocco and Mazza formed Best Dog Award in November of 2011 as a side project from a band that Mazza simply described as “heavier.” It was originally just the two of them playing shows, without a drummer.
“When we started out, it was almost in rebellion against our other band,” Crocco said. “We wanted to do something that was in the complete other direction from heavy, post-rock stuff.”
What they came up with proved to be intricate yet restrained. Mazza’s droning organ, Crocco’s powerful and often-hushed vocals and the pair’s harmonizing guitar lines together made for something that was unlike anything else in the local scene at the time. As Crocco said, it was a sound that caught the attention of more than a few fellow musicians.
“Really, the first positive response came from Andrew,” he said, pointing at the band’s current drummer, Andrew Ling, who joined the group in July of last year.
“I was a huge fan of what they were making from the beginning,” Ling said. “They had ideas that to me were unexpected musically.”
Since Ling joined, cementing the current lineup, the band has played an astounding number of shows at venues all around town, which Ling credits to Tucson’s “sense of connectivity.”
“Tucson is a musical town,” Ling said. “Being a musician here means that you just have the opportunity to know so many people from all over.”
Mazza agreed. “We enjoy doing it,” he said. “It’s just our pleasure to play.”
Following its opening for Youth Lagoon this Sunday in Phoenix and Monday at Club Congress, Best Dog Award plans on doing as much for the future as it can, including releasing a follow-up to last year’s digital EP TViolence and performing more shows.
“It’s all just a process,” Crocco said. “Just a few weeks ago, we ordered some band stickers online, and it was the first time I’d ever done something like that in any of my bands. It’s incredible to be able to have the support and resources now to do things like that.”
The group is also looking at a physical release of its music, possibly on a 7” vinyl record that would feature both tracks from TViolence and recordings from a separate session done last August.
What’s certain, however, is that Best Dog Award is a band with a big heart and great intentions.
“We all have ideas of what we want to do,” Ling said. “Doing more and creating more is always on the agenda.”