Whether or not he realized it at the time, Erick Eiser committed to his future career — namely, as keyboardist/guitarist in New York City-based, Indie Rock-leaning four-piece The Dig — at the tender age of 17.
Eiser, who comes from the Palm Springs, Calif., area, began his history with his future bandmates as he bonded with close-knit pals David Baldwin (singer/guitarist) and Emile Mosseri (singer/bassist) during a five-week-long summer program that allowed would-be students to measure their interest in attending Berklee College of Music in Boston. (Baldwin and Mosseri were practically music veterans, having played together since they were 11.)
“I remember they were rooming together, and I met them through a friend, and then we all decided to jam one night. We were like, ‘Let’s get a room and jam,’ and there was about 10 of us at one time jamming,” says Eiser, now 29.
“The three of us kept in touch after that. I would go fly to see them and things like that. We ended up playing music together and maintaining that relationship throughout the years, and then we eventually all moved to New York City together to really go for it and create The Dig.”
Eiser’s teenage aspirations of being in the music business are as old as recorded music itself. But what sets types like him apart from the dreamers is his willingness to commit to the idea of a band and see the concept through.
“I think a lot of (The Dig’s formation) had to do with the fact that (the) three of us, out of their friends and my friends and people I played music with, really wanted to do that for our lives — to be in a band,” Eiser says.
Stability in shared music taste also helped unite the trio, which today also counts drummer Mark Demiglio among its ranks. Eiser grew up listening to Nirvana, Grateful Dead, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Iggy & the Stooges, Joy Division, Black Flag and older Blues. After bouncing between sources of higher education, The Dig’s members drifted around the East Coast, playing in other bands before launching The Dig in New York City in the summer of 2007. The band’s moniker sprouted from multiple inspirations: a Boston newspaper (The Weekly Dig), a cult 2004 Rock documentary (Dig!) and the nickname of a massive, failed construction project in Boston (The Big Dig).
Although The Dig’s output stylistically feels closest to Indie Rock, the group has repeatedly self-identified as simply Rock & Roll.
“There’s so many different genres of Rock & Roll,” Eiser says.
“We never really thought of a term or maybe felt a little silly to try to create another genre, (because) there’s so many of ’em. I guess (we) leave it up to other people to figure it out. (With) the latest EP, there’s a lot of people saying that it’s kind of Psych Pop, which is cool, ’cause I like the genre of Psychedelic music a lot. That fits into some of the songs.”
Earlier in June, The Dig released its first EP, Tired Hearts. The five-track release drew comparisons to The Cure, T. Rex and Joy Division, but the tracks do indeed have Psychedelic whorls. But like everything else in The Dig’s current style, they are dispersed with great care and tasteful subtlety. This band eyes both anguish and hope, never playing its hand too broadly as it heads toward either. Calling this stuff minimalist doesn’t quite feel right because of its many elements, but it’s certainly on the path there.
The band began getting off the ground in New York with a short residency at the NYC club Pianos around early 2008. This put it on the path toward building a hometown following and playing more local venues, which in turn led to headlining shows locally and then touring behind bigger bands.
The Dig’s first album, Electric Toys, was issued in 2010 and the band hit the road in support of artists like Portugal. The Man and The Walkmen. Inspired by time touring with The Antlers and Baldwin’s repeated listens to Bob Dylan’s TIme Out of Mind album, The Dig crafted its second album, Midnight Flowers, which was released by Buffalo Jump Records last year.
Today, the band is mostly headlining its own shows countrywide. But The Dig is still very much on its way up rather than actually there. When not focusing on band work, Eiser gives music lessons and takes moving jobs to pay the bills.
“I definitely wouldn’t want to do anything else, but yeah, it’s frustrating a lot of the time,” Eiser says of the “day job” situation. “Being in the same van, not having a lot of money, hanging out with the same four people all the time. Everyone has their moments where they’re frustrated and I feel like maybe they need a break from everyone, but for the most part, we get along as well as you possibly could for being trapped together all the time. To me, it’s a pretty fun life. I don’t really have any complaints.”
As far as the goal of breaking the band out goes, Eiser is very committed to the idea of building a reputation through a steady flow of releases and tours. He doesn’t give much thought to a hypothetical scenario in which The Dig would become huge through one viral video or some other novelty. The band intends to record and issue another EP this year to follow Tired Hearts and keep its momentum going.
Though The Dig’s career trajectory suggests bigger and better things for the band are just around the corner, for Eiser, the goal is simply to make a living with the group and leave those “day job” necessities behind. Quitting the band really isn’t an option for any of these guys. They are in it for the long haul.
“We’re grinding it out. We take pride in being a hard-working band and putting out as much music as we can and hitting the road hard. We’re still not where we want to be,” he says.
“I don’t know that we necessarily had any timeline of where we thought we’d be. We just kind of figure it out as we go along. We’re still making progress all the time and making new fans, so as long as we’re doing that, I think we’re in a good place.”
THE DIG plays a free show at MOTR Pub Saturday with Saturn Batteries. More info: motrpub.com.