How to Work for Your Favorite Band

Written by
Dr. Dog at KCRW. Forrest is in the grey hoodie, with a hand on his head (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

Editor’s Note: I watched my good friend Forrest Reda, a longtime member of the LA music community, go from writing about music to managing some local bands to being the merch guy for Dr. Dog and now directing their newest music video. And I thought, how did that happen!?! 

For those of you out there who have always wanted to hit the road with your favorite band and become an integral part of their world, THIS is how you make it happen:

From Forrest Reda:

Right before “We All Belong” (2007) came out my friend Kevin Taylor, (who worked at Dr. Dog’s label at the time Park the Van) gave me an advance copy, and also the “Taker’s and Leavers” EP – needless to say I was hooked from the first note. Soon after, the band came through LA and they needed to borrow a guitar amp, which I was able to arrange. The first time I met Scott and Toby was at 3am when I dropped the amp off at their Santa Monica hotel. The next evening I saw them live for the first time at the Echo and it blew my mind.

The next few times Dr. Dog came to California I tagged along with Kevin and basically volunteered for the band, in any capacity they needed. @@@

Eventually Dr. Dog was able to hire a crew, and I was brought on to sell merch on the band’s first bus tour in Fall 2009, right before “Shame, Shame” was released.  Dr. Dog’s tour and production manager, Sean “The Whiz” Whisner, got me the job, and I owe him big time for the opportunity.

I have a background in journalism and photography, as well as tour management, so it was only natural for me to supplement my work as merch guy and I started documenting Dr. Dog’s tour with words, pictures and videos.  As my relationship with the band has grown, their level of trust has increased, so they don’t mind when I have the camera rolling.***   

photo by Forrest Reda

When they decided to record the new record at their home studio in Philadelphia, their manager (Brian Winton) asked me if I wanted to come to Philly for the summer to document the process, and also handle the day-to-day management. It was a dream job for me.  I was able to watch and participate as my favorite band made a record!

I got a sublet in Philly for the summer and lived with Dimitri, who is also in the amazing band Golden Boots. He is now a full time member of the band on percussion, sampler and guitar. We started touring with Dr. Dog at the same time. He’s brought a whole new level to the music, and is far as I’m concerned, is doing something new and extraordinary.

Scott and Forrest (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

That brings us up to now and the video for “That Old Black Hole which will be on their new record “Be The Void”.

The band had several studio pets, including Frank’s dog (Huddy Bedwetter), a mouse named Calarance Clemons (who showed up on the same day that Clarence Clemons passed away) and a dwarf hamster named Rubin.  He’s so small that he fits inside a shot-glass.  Since Calarence wouldn’t let any of us touch her, Rubin was the favorite of the two rodents.

photo by Forrest Reda (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)
photo by Forrest Reda (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

This video was shot late at night after a 12-hour day in the studio. Scott and I let Rubin out of his terrarium and put him on the carpet so he could run in the wheel.  It’s a little bit too big for him, so his momentum flips him around, but he really seemed to enjoy the ride, and he kept coming back for more. All the footage in this video happened — nothing was repeated, and there is actually lots more! The photographs are all macro-shots of stuff in the studio.

Be the Void” was recorded in the band’s own studio, so we all worked on projects within the studio when we weren’t recording.  We built shelves, painted walls, we even built a swing, and we named each project for a member of the band and crew.  I have plenty of footage of the band actually recording, but for this song, the band wanted to memorialize Rubinowski, the dwarf hamster, whose energy was an integral part of making this record.

— Forrest Reda


@@@ I filmed them playing an in-store at Amoeba, picked out the plants they used onstage at the El Rey and joined them on tour for a few shows in California serving as the van-driver and merch dude.

*** Dr. Dog is one of the hardest working bands out there, and we’ve all become great friends.  There’s no other way we could spend as much time away from our homes and families…they are all amazing people and I feel like the luckiest guy alive to be able to work for them.

Editor’s Note: See Dr. Dog at the Music Box on February 10 and make sure to say hello to their merch guy Forrest!