I remember drunkenly meeting Dag’s Dusty Anastassiou at a gathering of sorts a few years back. The conversation we had is pretty hazy, but I do remember a couple of things – Dusty telling me about a plan to release some sort of electronica under the name ‘Ass Nastis’ and that he struck me as a friendly sort of fella that seemed pretty genuine (He could have been pulling my leg with the ‘Ass Nastis’ thing. Great name, though). Dusty’s band Dag is also a genuine outfit that has kicked around Brisbane (and now Melbourne) for a couple of years, playing an entertaining brand of salt-of-the-earth rock’n’roll that is sublime in its earnestness and honesty.
A little while back some news came down the pipeline that Dag has been working on a full-length recording, which was confirmed when it was announced that Dag had joined the burgeoning roster of label Bedroom Suck and the album (called Benefits of Solitude) will be out in February 2017. I wrote about Dag’s cassette EP back in 2014 and I described the sound as ‘breezy, acoustic-leaning, suburban-grown Australian independent rock’. Looking back it seems like I undersold the group’s steez a tad, because Dag has just offered up the first taste from the forthcoming LP – ‘Staying up at Night’ – and it’s so much more than ‘breezy’.
‘Staying up at Night’ has a bit more meat on its bones; the composition incorporates more intricate and delicate parts (courtesy of new members Skye McNicol, Matt Ford and Josh Watson) that come together to make something remarkably strong. Like Dag’s earlier songs, Dusty and co don’t try to do too much but the succinctly communicated sentiments are more than enough to get the point across. In this song Dusty is lonely – he’s dwelling on the effects of his self-imposed isolation on a once blossoming relationship. Contentment with being an idle homebody has served to push away a source of joy, and now Dusty remains alone, wishing someone would come around. Like the opening says say: “I’m staying up at night / wishing I had company / yes, I’m staying up at night / wishing you would visit me”.
From all accounts it seems apparent that Benefits of Solitude will explore the idea of loneliness extensively. Dag is born from a mindset forged in the stillness of country existence. Dusty’s song writing draws heavily from his upbringing in Central Queensland, where isolation and spare time were driving forces behind depression, excessive substance abuse and art among the young members of the populace. The latter is where Dusty seemingly found his escape, though the sparseness of cattle stations and the plodding workings of country living are woven throughout each languid guitar strum and lethargic-but-poignant vocal take. Don’t take this as me describing Dag as understated – the music is very much ‘real’ and beautiful and also relatable to anyone that spends periods of time in solitude – mentally or geographically.