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The best kept secret in music


"Doublehorse Member Sticks Around for the Ride"

Doublehorse! member sticks around for the
Staff reporter
When Doug O'Donnell's former band got the big break they were waiting for
- opening for the soaring, national act My Morning Jacket - O'Donnell had a
decision to make.
Should he stay with his side project, Dr. Dog, and reap the benefits of a
high-profile tour or go back to Doublehorse!, the band that he had been part
of since fourth grade?
For O'Donnell, 27, of Wilmington, it was a no-brainer. He decided to stick
with his old mates.
"Doublehorse! goes back all those years, so there was never any question I
would be in it," he says. "Obviously, it was a drag to bow out [of Dr. Dog]
just as they were taking off."
O'Donnell is a guitarist and singer for Doublehorse!, but the bulk of the
songwriting comes from Matt Fuga, who also plays guitar.
With a sweet voice and a penchant for an eclectic mix of musical genres,
Fuga makes Doublehorse! a band that rises above many on the local scene.
"He writes really amazing songs," O'Donnell says. "That's our greatest
asset. Well, that and my physical appeal."
Just like O'Donnell's comments, the band's songs are saturated with humor,
easily reminding listeners of bands like Ween, who use humor and revel in
mimicking different types of music.
But also like Ween, Doublehorse! is not a joke band. Behind the sly puns
and one-liners there are well-crafted, well-arranged songs.
"It's really a broad range of stuff that we're trying to do," O'Donnell says.
"We're all over the place."
The majority of the band members have known each other since grade
school, where they started the band under the name The Monkee Twos. "We
always took it serious, even then," he says. "We'd do publicity stunts on the
O'Donnell lived with the other members of the band in Philadelphia until he
got married last month and moved to Wilmington. He, along with his wife,
Heather, and two band members work as social workers at the Philadelphia
Corporation for Aging.O'Donnell's foray with Dr. Dog began when the band was formed as a side
project by members of the now-defunct Philadelphia band, Raccoon.
"It wasn't ever really taken seriously," he says.
But then a band member got a CD to Jim James, lead singer of My Morning
Jacket, and he was so impressed that he asked Dr. Dog to open several
With that came write-ups in Mojo magazine and other press, making the
side project a hot commodity.
Even now, members of Dr. Dog and Doublehorse! also perform in the
Delaware-based bluegrass band, the Conowingo Homeboys, who played in
Newark at the Blue Crab Grill this past weekend.
As for Doublehorse!, O'Donnell says the exclamation point was added to the
band's name for "flair."
Also, they discovered a Japanese chemical company had the same name
and they got worried. "I don't know if punctuation keeps you from infringing
on a copyright, but that's why we did it."
Over the years, the band has put together four self-produced- and-distributed
discs that are available for fans at shows, including one titled
"Flabbey Road."
The albums and EPs were recorded in a home studio, where the band
spends a lot more time than on stage, leaving them as a relatively unknown
band. But recently, they have booked several shows, including Thursday
night's show at the East End in Newark. The idea is to jump-start a
"We always had the idea that we should be superstars," O'Donnell says,
"but for years it took the form of being serious, but in a basement."
Reach Ryan Cormier at 324-2863 or Read
his blog at
When: 10 p.m. Thursday
Where: East End Cafe, 270 E. Main St., Newark
Cost: $5
On the web: www.
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- Wilmington News Journal


Above the Law (2004): Self-released EP
Doublehorse! The Early Years (2004) Self-released full-length
Flabbey Road (2003)--self-released EP
American Basement Music (2002)--self-released full-length


Feeling a bit camera shy


Doublehorse! formed in 1999 in rural Chester County, Pennsylvania. The original line-up consisted of current members Matt Fuga and Doug O'Donnell on guitar and vocals, drummer Dan Swift, and ex-member Toby Leaman (current bass player for the Philly-based band Dr. Dog). For some time the band existed primarily as a studio project, where it spent countless hours experimenting and refining its sound. The result of these efforts was the band's first full-length album, the self-released "American Basement Music". An obvious love for variety, pop song-craft, and playful experimentation is exhibited in the disc's 11 tracks, which bring to mind influences as diverse as Beck, Prince, and The Beatles. The band re-located to Philadelphia in 2002, and began playing the local club circuit while continuing to pursue its home-recording obsession. At this time, Leaman was replaced on bass by Tom English, who had played with Fuga, O’Donnell, and Swift in their college band, The Overtones. Leaman and O'Donnell continued to collaborate in the increasingly popular Dr. Dog, until that band's success forced O'Donnell to step down in order to continue focusing on Doublehorse! In 2003 the band released the EP “Flabbey Road”, which sharply contrasted its rather bombastic live show by focusing entirely on stripped down, moody, acoustic-based songs. In 2004 the band added additional members Tim Powell on keyboard and harmonica, and the classically trained female vocalist Safula Lewis. The new line-up has allowed the band to move away from the guitar-dominated sound typical of many of its indie-rock peers, to a more dynamic mix that focuses on rhythm, texture and vocal harmonies. In 2004 the band re-packaged its back catalogue of early recordings as the self-released full-length "Doublehorse! The Early Years" and the EP "Above the Law". Most recently, the band has collaborated with respected Philadelphia-based producer Brian McTear on several tracks that will be featured on its next LP, which is tentatively scheduled for release in the Summer of 2006.