Tuning In with Rob Dobson

Posted on August 21, 2014 by

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Rob Dobson, of Big Air and formerly of the Fire Tapes, is packing up his belongings and moving to Los Angeles this week. Before saying au revoir to C’Ville, though, he made a playlist for your late-summer listening pleasure.

Rob Dobson in the studio, recording for Big Air Photo by Tom Daly

Rob Dobson in the studio, recording for Big Air
Photo by Tom Daly

When Dobson first moved to C’Ville, he played solo shows for a few years, “but I couldn’t get anyone to pay attention,” he says. “I wanted to get a band together but had a hard time breaking into the music scene and getting to know people.”

He then joined the Fire Tapes as the band’s bass player, and says he was “happy to put my own stuff aside and just be more of a side man.” It seemed that Dobson, who remembers his “actual first gig” as “an anonymous member of the inappropriately-large alto sax section in elementary school band,” had found his niche.

Magnet magazine declared the Fire Tapes’ debut album, Dream Travel, “buzzworthy,” but soon after their second release, Phantoms, the band split. Guitar player Betsy Wright moved to D.C. and joined Ex Hex, and Dobson joined up with drummer Greg Sloan to form Big Air. They call themselves a “two-man rock factory.”

WarHen Records released "Buds" as a cassette with artwork by Thomas St. Clair Dean.

WarHen Records released “Buds” as a cassette with artwork by Thomas St. Clair Dean.

Big Air released its first recording, Buds, on cassette tape. It’s a bit unusual for a band to release its music on cassette tape; though the format is making a bit of a comeback in some (super hip) circles, most bands push their music out in other formats (CD, mp3, even vinyl). “As for the tapes,” says Dobson, “the main reason we put our album out that way was because it was really cheap! When we did that recording we had only been playing together for a few weeks, and were both in other bands that were getting most of our attention. Since we weren’t sure what was going to happen with Big Air, it didn’t make sense to sink a whole bunch of money into printing vinyl, and CDs just didn’t appeal to us.

“We figured that tapes were cheap enough that we could give them away if nobody bought them, but we sold enough to do a second pressing, so I guess people were into it.” People were definitely into it. Here’s what Pitchfork had to say about Buds:

“They’re called Big Air, they’re from Charlottesville, Virginia, and their self-released tape Buds is an infectious pop punk record by a pair of dudes with some serious chops.”

It’s the truth.

The recording and mixing process is one of Dobson’s favorite things about being a musician. “Actually making the music come alive is really fulfilling,” he says. He enjoys playing shows, but he acknowledges that booking and promoting “can be a drag sometimes.”

Dobson says that he’s not exactly sure what he’ll be doing when he gets to L.A., but one thing is certain: he plans to write as much as he can. “Hopefully before long I’ll meet some folks and have a band going again. I’m putting the finishing touches on a full-length Big Air record right now, but I’m not sure what going to happen with it,” he says. “Hopefully that’ll see the light of day in some form or another.”

We hope so, too, and we’ll keep our antennae tilted towards L.A. to see what Dobson comes up with next.

In the mean time, listen to his playlist and check out the video for Big Air’s “Cemetery with a View,” shot by Tom Daly and previously unreleased to the world.


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Posted in: music, Tuning in