A Giant Dog is a band with a reputation for loud and fast singalongs about sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. That could change with the Austin quintet’s new album, “Toy.”
The band switches up its pace on songs like “Survive.” Singer Sabrina Ellis wrote it after a bad car crash. She says it was a breakthrough moment for her songwriting.
"I had a black eye, a broken hand, pain pills coursing through my body," she says. "And we wrote this song that’s very raw and kind of sad but triumphant. And at the end honestly sounds like a Disney princess wedding."
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Ellis says she didn't plan to write a song about her accident. In fact, music was far from her mind as she recovered.
"In that hospital bed, I really questioned where my life had brought me," she says. "I wondered if I was causing my own collapse. And I didn't know if it was a product of my career or just a product of my own weakness. And I strongly considered giving up on what we were doing."
But she didn’t give up. And “Survive” became a mission statement for the new album -- to write about embarrassing or uncomfortable subjects and come away stronger as a result.
Ellis says that’s a new direction for A Giant Dog.
"We can talk about our party lifestyle some more," she says. "But I really wanted to talk about what it's like to come to the edge of your sanity. To look at yourself from outside of yourself and to see this vulnerable being."
Ellis runs with that theme all over “Toy.” She creates some bizarre and insecure characters in her songs -- there are kidnappers, murderers, addicts and people on the verge of mental breakdowns.
She says some of these unsavory subjects come from her own life. But not all of them.
"Some of it is not stuff I would honestly want to take credit for thinking. For instance, in the ‘Toy Gun’ song, that is a caricature of a live-at-home, middle-aged, weapon collecting nerd who lives in paranoia and has a urinary tract infection."
A Giant Dog finds new musical directions on “Toy.” Still, Ellis admits that the band’s growing pains can be unpleasant for her. And it’s bittersweet to leave behind parts of the band’s old sound. But she says it’s necessary.
"That’s what a lot of this album is about -- forcing oneself into transformation," she says. But there’s a sadness to it. It’s like if you were harboring a creature in a closet, and you had to kill other small creatures that were cute to keep it alive."
A Giant Dog could have crumbled under those pressures, along with a demanding touring schedule and Ellis’s accident. But the band survived -- and it’s fierce in a new way on “Toy.”