A Q&A with the Dough Rollers’ Jack Byrne and Josh Barocas

Jack Byrne and Malcolm Ford formed the Dough Rollers in 2008, after bounding over their mutual love and appreciation for the blues. And much like countless bands before them, there have been a number of lineup changes and adjustments — initially, the band started as a duo before adding fiddler and vocalist Julia Tepper. With Teppler, the band experimented with blues, bluegrass and country and released a self-titled debut in 2009. However, after some time as a trio, Byrne and Ford decided that they needed to refocus on the blues, and as a duo they toured playing original blues tunes that Byrne and Ford had written, and then released a follow up to their self-titled debut, Someday Baby as a limited run effort. 

After the release of Someday Baby, Josh Barocas (bass) and Kyle Olsen (drums) were recruited to help Ford and Byrne flesh their sound out. Through hard work and relentless touring, the newly minted quartet has opened for the likes of Queens of the Stone Age, Bob Dylan, and John Mellencamp and others. And with the release of the “The Little Lily”/”The Sailing Song” 7 inch through Jack White’s Third Man Records last month, there’s a sense that the NewYork-based quartet may well be embarking on the national scene. 

From the bluesy opening chords and the boozy howl of their vocalist, their sound evokes the gritty, fried Deep Southern rock of acts such as Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Allman Brothers Band38 Special, or the Black Crowes. It’s simply put straightforward rock for the sake of rock — in other words without pretense or bullshit. and it rocks out hard. In an age of sneering irony, such straightforwardness is wholeheartedly refreshing. (Personally, I’ve often wondered “what happened to rock songs about girls — especially girls who are evil heartbreakers and good girls whose heart the songwriter broke through his selfishness/heartlessness/drinking/cheating or what have you?) 

In this emailed Q&A, i had a chance to speak to the Dough Rollers’ Jack Byrne and Josh Barocas about how they got into music; their new 7 inch; how they got involved with Jack White’s label, their creative process and more in an interview that’s both candid and playful. At the end of the interview, Byrne and Barocas also hint at some new material down the pipeline — perhaps new material that may put them on the national consciousness for a while. Check it out below. 

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WRH: How did you get into music? And when did you know that music was the only thing you wanted to do?

Jack Byrne: Not sure really. I guess when I realized I wasn’t going to be playing 2nd base for the Yankees. I got a guitar for Christmas when I was around 9 or 10. I didn’t take it very seriously – the guitar just seemed like the type of thing girls would be into if they knew that you played. A couple years later I started getting turned on to all different kinds of music and I wanted to be able to play like the people I heard on records. So I just started spending all of my time practicing and listening. I guess that’s when I knew that music was the only thing I wanted to do. Not to mention I’m fucked at this point anyway because I don’t know how to do anything else.

Josh Barocas: I got into music as a kid when my older brothers started giving me their old cassette tapes. Lots of Grateful Dead and stuff. At some point all of my friends started playing guitar, and it seemed like they were having a lot of fun, but didn’t really need any more guitar players, so I started playing bass.  

WRH: How did the band meet? When did you have that moment when you knew that you had to play alongside your band mates? How did you come up with the band name? 

Jack: Malcolm [Ford] and I started hanging out a few years ago because I was giving him lessons when he was first trying to learn guitar. So because of that we’ve always played well together. It’s like the kind of bond you get from popping a cherry. Anyway then one day he started singing and it sounded great so we decided we’d make some recordings and do some shows. We didn’t really have any material at first so we just played the old blues songs and shit like that. But we felt good about the way things sounded so it seemed like the next step was make it a “real” band. The other guys joined about a year ago — Josh and I have known each other since we were little kids at school though. And actually he’s the one who introduced us to Kyle [Olsen]. I think we came up with the name just by going through old blues lyrics and trying to find something that sounded like a band name. 

Josh: I joined the group most recently, about a year ago. Kyle and I had played on a couple of other gigs together before this band and always enjoyed it, and Jack, Malcolm and I had played together a while back. I figured that it would be a good fit and it definitely was. 

WRH: Who are your influences? 

Jack: Anybody who ever made a song I like. 

Josh: I’m a big fan of all the old Motown artists like Marvin Gaye, the Temptations, Smokey Robinson, etc. The playing on those recordings is so air-tight but I look to a lot of different things for influence. 

WRH: Who are you listening to right now? 

Josh: Little Feat, James Brown and Madonna are on heavy rotation at my apartment right now.

Jack: The top of the pile of records sitting on my floor right now is:  Ralfi Pagan, Little Willie John, Moby Grape, Ray Charles, Caruso, Carl Butler, Ed Bell, Freddy Fender, the Lovin’ Spoonful, Duke Ellington, Ike & Tina 

WRH: Your 7 inch single was recently released by Jack White’s Third Man Records. And to me it seems fitting because the 7 inch manages to possess that sweaty, swampy, fried chicken, waffles and grits sound of Deep South rock. I can’t help but think of the Black Crowes, the Allman Brothers Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, 38 Special, and others. In other words — it sounds like 1974 or so. How did you guys end up hooking up with Third Man Records?

Jack: I guess it was a couple years ago – we were on tour with Queens of the Stone Age and we played at the Ryman in Nashville and after the show everybody ended up hanging out. Then cut to 2013 and we got a call about recording a single … 

WRH: “Lily” has one the better power chord riffs I’ve heard this summer, and the song has it’s narrator declaring that he’ll do anything to get his love interest’s heart. And it manages to do so without seemingly cringe inducing or creepy. Is it based on real experience? 

Jack: The real experience is both creepy and cringe inducing.  

WRH: Both tracks on the single manage to possess the improvised feel of a bunch of dudes jamming out while being carefully polished and thought out. Was this a conscious decision as you guys headed to the studio? 

Josh: If you watched us come up with our material it would definitely look like a bunch of dudes jamming out. But then we spend a good deal of time arranging and all that. So I think the improvised feel comes through a bit even though we work out a lot of the parts in advance.

Jack: Yea it’s a fine line to walk. I think it’s just because of the process we have for generating and working on new material. 

WRH: What advice would you give to artists trying to make a name for yourself? 

Jack: Let me manage your career. I’ll make you a star. 

WRH: So after the 7 inch, what’ll be next for you guys? When should we expect more? 

Jack: We’ve been writing a lot lately so there is a much of new material to be dealt with. We’re just finishing up work now on some new songs we recorded recently. They should see the light of day sometime in the fall. Stay tuned for updates on that…. 

Josh: Yea we’re really exited about this new batch. Hopefully it will be out soon.