"Wander" from Dog Shepherd & Sacred Pact: Dark Visuals and Deep Bass Lines
It was a rainy night at Alphaville, a staple Bushwick music venue, when Jacqueline Davis and Sunny Facer of female-owned film company Sacred Pact saw Brooklyn band Dog Shepherd. As soon as the duo saw Naejee Reffell and Brendan Picone live, they immediately knew a collaboration had to happen. Fast forward six months later, and the two duos came together as one to create the music video for “Wander.” Mixing pungent bass and cave like reverb with dark and eerie visuals, the video follows dancer Karon White as he floats through unknown forests and lots. The four friends got together to talk shop, hostess snacks, and the release of their first music video “Wander” from the album “End Days.”
Jacque: Okay to get the ball rolling, we really like how you (Naaj) told the story on stage at your last show. It would be cool for you two both share a unique story, as it seems to be the theme of our entire relationship (laughs).
Naaj: Brendan, you gotta start. (In a theatrically exaggerated voice) “I was a boy once, I was born by the river...”
Brendan: Once upon a time… (everyone laughs).
Brendan to Naaj: Remember when we were shooting the music video up in Yonkers and you talked about that Hostess factory that you used to go to as a kid? I used to go to a Hostess factory too when I was a kid.
Sunny: Just for context, while we were shooting the music video—the area that Jacque and I had scouted on our own just happened to be Brendan’s hometown. Simultaneously, the van we were borrowing to drive up there started breaking down on our way home and we had to stop by a Pep Boys which was right near where Naaj grew up.
Naaj: Oh, yeah, the Hostess factory by the Pep Boys! That was weird.
Sunny and Jacque: Wait, you both went to the Hostess factory?
Brendan: We both went to the Hostess factory when we were younger, but separately—different locations.
Naaj: We grew up about 45 minutes away from each other in upstate New York.
Brendan: And both lived in places that sold discount Twinkies (laughs).
Naaj: Okay, I have another strange coincidence. We did live close to each other, like as children. We didn’t know each other at all and then I didn’t meet Brendan until about three years ago. We worked across the street from each other and were neighbors for like two years and didn’t know each other.
Jacque: Wait, here in Brooklyn?
Brendan: I lived with Skyler and Viktorsha (two good friend’s of Jacque’s) in Bedstuy on the top floor. Naaj was living over on Bushwick Ave, just straight over.
Naaj: I was just right there, like our backyards were touching. I could’ve pee’d in your backyard if I wanted to.
Brendan: (Laughing) You probably actually saw me peeing into my own backyard.
Jacque: Okay, so let’s start from the beginning. Can you guys explain how Dog Shepherd was formed and specifically how you guys did ended up finally meeting?
Brendan: Yeah, so I was working at Saraghina, a pizza place in Bedstuy. I used to after work get drinks at Lunatico where Naaj worked, and we started talking. And I think he said “Hey, do you wanna play some music?”
Naaj: Yeah, I asked him if [he] wanted to jam or something.
Brendan: I said, ‘yeah sure’ because i feel like I’ve heard that a million times.
Naaj: People say that all the time, and it’s usually bullshit.
Brendan: It usually never happens but then Naaj actually hit me up. And we started playing.
Jacque: From there, what is the core essence of how Dog Shepherd formed? Because your sound is very unique.
Naaj: Dog Shepherd was a concept, and it had many small reincarnations, but had never quite become anything.
Naaj: I had it going on for like a year and half before I met Brendan. I mean, originally we were suppose to be a shoegaze band. It was me, a kid playing a guitar, and this kid who was a producer playing synth. Initially I was rapping and I got bored with it, so i started playing bass again. The kids who joined my band were all the ones who were in my hip hop band—and that did not last long. I don’t know, the shit just did not work out. And then I met Brendan.
Brendan: And as far as the music goes, it was just easy. Really organic. Naaj had songs. I think at that time we started practicing we were doing it at Stanhope.
Naaj: Omg, dude.
Brendan: Yeah, we were practicing in a box. It was like a tiny closet.
Naaj: (Laughing) Yeah, that was great.
Brendan: He already had like five or six songs prepared.
Jacque to Naaj: Because you write all the songs?
Brendan: We just worked really easily with one another. We immediately had a groove for it.
Naaj: I’ll work on one part of the song, and ask him what he thinks about it. And he’ll already have something going on for another part of the song, and then we’ll already have half the song done by then.
Jacque: So that’s how you created the sound for Dog Shepherd?
Brendan: Yeah, I think we both hated our jobs, so we would commiserate over that. (Both laughing) And ultimately it became a lot about what we were making our music about. We literally have a song called “Fuck My Job”... It’s not that subtle.
Naaj: It’s on the first record. The first thing i say on that track is “All I do is work.”
Brendan: That’s how we came together. Me venting to Naaj over beer and shots.
Jacque: Around the corner from where you worked?
Brendan: Yeah (laughing).
Naaj: Actually across the street! I could have thrown a rock through your window from my job.
Brendan: I would offer him free pizza and he would give me free drinks.
Naaj: I would be smoking a cigarette and see this motherfucker (laughing).
Jacque: Do you think New York has any specific influences on your music?
Naaj: I would say the overall feeling of the music feels very “East Coast” to me.
Brendan: We both grew up here. I’d definitely say it’s in our music.
Naaj: It’s East Coast vibes, it’s dirty. It feels like you’re walking under the J train on Broadway. But not in a satire cheesy way. But actually there are like syringes and glass bottles and shit everywhere. But not as depressing as I’m making it. It’s kinda like “upbeat despair.”
Jacque: What was the inspiration for the song “Wander”?
Naaj: “Wander” is about me moving to Philadelphia from New York. I had this idea, and I’m kinda impulsive. So i moved to Philly and as soon as I moved—Dog Shepherd started to get some traction. So then I was always kind of wandering between the two, not having an actual home in New York.
Brendan: We started getting really busy when you moved. So you were back and forth, back and forth. You’d be working still in New York, and living in Philly.
Naaj: It was fucking nuts.
Brendan: We didn’t really have time to practice. But it was good, it was fun.
Naaj: We were playing so much, it didn’t really even matter. It felt like i was kinda lost, and I didn’t realize why I was living in Philadelphia. Once, I came from Philly to New York to play a show at 4 in the morning, after working. But I’m so glad that’s over.
Sunny: How did the video come together for “Wander”?
Jacque: My good friend Viktorsha had reached out to me one night and said “You gotta come to this show tonight.” She had been talking about your guy’s music for a while and I really wanted to check out the show. That night was kinda crazy, I had a friend from out of town visiting, and all this stuff was happening but I had to make it to the show. It was pouring rain when we got to Alphaville on our bikes.
Sunny: I was actually super reluctant to go to the show, because I had never heard of you guys and kept being on the fence about whether to go or not.
Jacque: But as soon as we got in, and you guys started, Sunny and I looked at each other and said “We gotta shoot their music video.”
Brendan: That’s so crazy because then a week later, we ended up running into each other (laughing) while we were actually in the midst of trying to storyboard for our music video. Not very well. We were in the middle of recording, and we had just finished a session and we went to a coffee shop... bar? called Skytown. We wanted to get a beer and it was the only place around the studio. And in our head we were working out a music video. I literally had went to a dollar store and got a giant pad of paper and we were trying to storyboard ...shittily. We had this whole concept and you guys (Jacque and Sunny) happened to be there. And we had just met you the week before.
Sunny: I actually don’t think you and I ever exchanged or said hi, but I was definitely there. So while we were sitting at Skytown, Jacque had pointed you guys out at the table across from us and said “I think that’s Brendan from Dog Shepherd.” When I saw you coming back to your table, I said “hello,” you looked at me in the eyes and kept walking. (Everyone laughs).
Jacque: You didn’t know who she was.
Brendan: Did I really do that? OMG (laughing).
Jacque: So it took the second time when you got up from your table—I was like “Heyyyy, I’m Viktorsha’s friend. You might not remember me…”
Brendan: I mean, I don’t know if guys have noticed, but I am very blind.
Naaj: I was just trying to eat tacos. Brendan, you started talking to Sunny and Jacque and I just had it on my mind to finish these tacos I had just ordered.
Brendan: (Laughing) We’re a very social band, if you can’t tell by now.
Sunny: Then that lead us to shooting your music video for “Wander.” And now we spend our holidays together, 4th of July, Birthdays, Christmas…
Naaj: In terms of the concept, Sunny and Jacque wanted to use a dancer and we all saw it as being a rather dark, eerie piece. It’s kind of crazy because the dancer they ended up finding, Karon White, is a street dancer and it seemed to be so coincidental for the song itself. The video came together as a fusion of ideas and not that much money, but worked in our favor.
Jacque: What is some music that you guys are listening to right now?
Brandon: I’ve been listening to a lot of ESG. That was really awesome to run into you at that show (Sunny). Their music is fucking awesome, how minimal and raw it is.
Naaj: I’ve been listening to a lot of 70’s African and Brazilian music. Especially this guy Gools from Ghana. It’s really dope.
Jacque: What was the first album you owned?
Naaj: That’s embarrassing son!
Brendan: I might have you beat on the embarrassing factor. I think it was a Twisted Sister compilation album. It was like the “Best Of” album, which is really not a very long list.
Naaj: Wait what? Is that country?
Brendan: No man, it’s like a shitty hair metal band.
Naaj: That’s fucking great!
Brendan: Yeah my favorite song was probably “We’re Not Gonna Take It.”
Naaj: Haha, that’s bad ass bro!
Brendan: No, are you kidding me? That’s not bad ass.
Jacque: Okay Naaj, what about you?
Naaj: It was actually Usher…*long pause* “Confessions.”
Jacque & Sunny: Ohhhhh yesss!
Sunny: That’s a classic.
Naaj: I bought two of those albums. I bought the real one, and a bootleg.
Jacque & Sunny: (Starts singing “U Remind Me” in falsetto).
Jacque: Last question—if you were a dog, what kind of dog would you be?
Naaj: Well, we are dogs. I think I know what kind of dog Brendan is. He’s a shepherd dog, you know like a St. Bernard.
Jacque: I can totally see that.
Brendan: Ohh okay, I’ll take it.
Jacque: Okay what’s Naaj?
Naaj: I think a Bulldog.
Brendan: That’s about right, a St.Bernard and a Bulldog.