Spencer Krug on His Labradoodle Oliver, a.k.a. "The Prince of Brown Town"
"He's a goof, mostly. And he loves naps. We have those things in common."
Published Apr 28, 2022A new wolf has joined the parade — his name's Oliver, and he's a seven-year-old Labradoodle belonging to Spencer Krug. Anyone who follows the Wolf Parade member's social media accounts will have likely noticed pictures of the pup, who has been a fixture of the artist's solo work, appearing in press photos (above) and on tour posters.
With Krug gearing up for the June 17 release of Twenty Twenty Twenty Twenty One — his second solo album under his own name since retiring his prior moniker Moonface — Exclaim! caught up with the Vancouver Island-based songwriter to discuss the dog's quirks, his many nicknames, his unrequited love for a Rhodesian Ridgeback named Stella, and the slightly chilly relationship between Oliver and Krug's young son.
Tell us about Oliver!
Oliver is a Labradoodle: half chocolate lab, half poodle. We first met him in the summer of 2015. He was 10 months old, and being "surrendered" because his original owner could no longer care for him. The deal was we would take him home for the weekend to see if he was a good fit for adoption, which is a ridiculous idea for a softy like me. As far as my heart was concerned, he was ours the moment he jumped in the car.
Now he's already seven years old, but still acts like a puppy a lot of the time. Still won't let me pick up a branch in the yard without trying to steal it, still digs at the earth under my feet if I stand still too long, still barks at me to throw rocks in the water so he can try to catch the splash in his mouth. He's a goof, mostly. And he loves naps. We have those things in common.
How did you choose Oliver's name?
He came to us with the name Oliver. We didn't like the name, and he was still a puppy, so we considered changing it to something else at first. Then we thought a little harder and came to the conclusion that changing an animal's name is a strange thing for humans to do. Like, the dog is not worried at all about whether or not his name is cool. He's already learned his name and does just fine with it. So, it's kind of just self-concerned to change your pet's name.
Now, I can't imagine him as anything else but Oliver. His full name slowly evolved into Oliver Brown, and he is sometimes addressed in French: Olivier Brun. He has also, over time, become "The Prince of Brown Town," which may or may not have its origins in something dog shit-related. Mostly though, he's just "Ollie."
I hear you had a child a couple of years ago. How does Oliver like having a baby around?
Oliver is in love with an aloof Rhodesian Ridgeback named Stella. He would live on her front porch if allowed. And Stella humours Oliver, but she doesn't truly love him back. I think that was probably the hardest thing in Oliver's life until my wife gave birth to our son two years ago.
My son was born at home, and Ollie was in the room when it happened. During my wife's labour he was concerned, then curious right after the birth, but then almost immediately against the whole "baby" idea, a position he's more or less maintained ever since.
He still doesn't love being around the kid (yet is protective of him when we're out in the world — can't help his genes I guess). I'm sure he just misses being the primary object of affection. (Don't get me wrong, he is still very well taken care of, loved, and doted on — forever a prince.) He's actually started warming up to the kid in recent months, now that things like unwanted crackers and noodles are being offered directly from the high chair.
Has Oliver inspired any of your songs?
No, except for maybe how taking him for long walks will usually clear my head, and I probably wouldn't take that walk as often if it weren't for him. And I get a real kick of how he'll sometimes sing along when I play the piano, as seen and heard here:
Amazing! Here's one of my fav duets with Oliver pic.twitter.com/LPJ6efcGZH— spencer krug (@KrugSpencer) July 20, 2019
Is Oliver your first pet?
We had a family dog when I was a kid, but Ollie is my first dog as an adult. Before him, I had a couple cats back in Montreal, who were great, and they'd convinced me that cats are better than dogs. Turns out they were wrong. Now I'm a dog person. I didn't even know I was a dog person until we got Oliver. Getting a dog was my wife's idea.
As for obedience and tricks — I'm mostly just into letting Oliver be himself. I enjoy his idiosyncrasies, and I let him know when I think he's being a dick. I take this approach with most of my friends.
For the most part, he's a very considerate dog. He never pushes open doors, never tries to eat food he shouldn't eat, he's super smart, loves games… He does have a barking problem, but hey, none of us are perfect.
His favourite games:
"Stare Down," where we sit about six feet apart with a toy between us on the floor, and stare each other down, perfectly still, until someone finally makes a break for the toy. Sometimes we sit there for a full minute like statues before one of us moves. He usually wins, and then is very proud of himself. Not a very gracious winner, actually.
"Car Wash," where he repeatedly walks back and forth under my legs and I scratch his back with my fast-fingers-on-stationary-hands as he slowly goes through.
"Fetch" — some things are classic for a reason.
What's next for you?
My next solo album is called Twenty Twenty Twenty Twenty One and it comes out June 17. The first single is out already and can be heard here.
The tracks on the album are selected from songs I've posted to my Patreon page, where I upload a new song every month. This album is like a 'best of' — my personal favourites, anyway — from 2020 and 2021, remixed and remastered for an LP. Overall the record has a kind of 'anxious dream' vibe — indie but arty, cynical but hopeful.
Right now I'm working on solo piano versions for most of that album, just to have up my sleeve in case I decide to play some shows around it.
Then it's off to California in May to play a few shows with Wolf Parade, where we'll have our original lineup on stage (for those dates only), playing our first album, Apologies to the Queen Mary. After that we'll pivot back to the three-piece we were playing as, before the pandemic, for some dates in July.
Later this year, I'm recording some new solo material with some talented friends on Vancouver Island, to release and hopefully tour next year. And then some other secret stuff I don't want to talk about yet. And on and on, and on and on…