North Carolina band Satellite Dog’s distinct and constantly-improvised sound helps them stand out among the many bands trying to expand from Boone into the Raleigh music scene. The group consists of Josh Velazco on bass, Walker Howell on guitar, Kole Pjetraj on guitar and vocals, Hermes Velazco on drums, Henry Horan on keys and Parker Williamson on vocals.
Previously known as Melted Minds, the members got their start after attending high school in the Raleigh area and being inspired to begin a band after attending another local band’s show.
“We got together in high school, and then we just moved to college last year,” Pjetraj said. “At one point, we wanted to formally make a band just because it was fun. We also went to Late Notice’s first show and were thinking ‘Oh, that’s really fun.’”
Pjetraj said although Satellite Dog got their start doing mostly covers, they began writing original music in January.
“It’s about half and half nowadays, depending on the set length, of course,” Pjetraj said. “We started doing a lot more original stuff that I’ve been writing. We kind of have a similar vibe as some of those jam bands that we’ve been covering for a while, but with a Satellite Dog twist, which is fun.”
The band described its style as psych groove and said the genre is unorthodox and involves a lot of spontaneous improvisation.
“It’s pretty fun,” Pjetraj said. “We try to play it a little bit differently every show to keep things interesting. A lot of it is kind of based on instrumental improvisation, so … most of the actual time that we’re playing, it’s us just jamming out and making cool sounds.”
Josh Velazco said the spontaneity of their music keeps both the band and the audience entertained.
“All the time, we don’t know what’s going to happen next,” Josh Velazco said. “We’re trying to predict what’s going to happen next. … It’s a guessing game. And that’s the fun part. It makes it challenging for us to execute what we want to do at that very moment.”
Pjetraj cited the band’s largest influences as Goose, Phish and Grateful Dead.
“We’re kind of big Phish heads,” Pjetraj said. “We like listening to a lot of Goose and Phish lately. I’ve learned so much. The way I listen to music is different because of those bands, because of Phish and Goose. And those guys were able to just put on these weird, wacky performances and just be able to just be who we truly were on stage. And so Phish is a huge part of my playing for a reason.”
Pjetraj said Satellite Dog received their name after his dog Seuss had surgery while the band was still searching for a band name.
“He came back with one of those cones on his head,” Pjetraj said. “It looks like a satellite dish. And so me and my dad were joking that we should name the band Satellite Dog. And it kind of stuck because he was a satellite dog, which is kind of funny.”
In addition to Suess’s post-surgery accessory, Pjetraj said the name also honors Laika, the dog who the Soviet Union launched into orbit with no reentry plan in 1957.
“We’re doing this in honor of the Soviet dog who was launched into space and never came back,” Pjetraj said. “We thought that was really messed up. So we wanted to name the band also in respect to that.”
In regard to future plans, the group hopes to gain a stronger foothold in Raleigh and get into some bigger venues, as well as expand into other cities.
“To keep playing, just to keep making music,” Horan said. “We’re trying to make our way into a smaller festival circuit with places like Shakori Hills. So we’d like to just keep getting cool shows, eventually make our way into festivals, and just keep writing music and keep playing music and always getting a little bit better.”
The group has not formally recorded any original music yet, but plans to release a couple singles or an EP later this year.
“We’re up in Boone right now because we were in the studio trying to do some demos,” Pjetraj said. “We’re kind of getting into recording as we speak. We’d like to do a small collection, probably five or six songs.”
Satellite Dog will be competing in the Maintain Your Brain Battle of the Bands at Stafford Commons Saturday, April 15, as well as at the Thaw Out spring festival in Boone Saturday, April 22.
More information about Satellite Dog’s upcoming shows can be found on their website. Their live performances and music can be found on their YouTube channel.