Type “Dog Eat Dog” into a search engine, and you’ll find out about AC/DC, post-grunge-era Warrant, and a rock-rap band from Jersey in the ’90s. Good luck unearthing the early-’80s all-girl trio who played a loose and sprightly brand of No Wave that was close in sound to their Lower East Side neighbors Liquid Liquid, Konk, and ESG. In fact, even with the last decade’s thorough trolling of the depths of the L.E.S. and its potent convergence of music, street art, fashion, photography, and whatever else you got for appraisal and reissue, there was no trace of the music made by saxophonist Linda Pitt, bassist Soody Sisco, and percussionist Martha Fishkin, who attended Rutgers together then crossed the river to live their art.
“I felt like we were off the map, and we wanted to get back on the map,” confessed Pitt one afternoon at a café around the corner from her place on 2nd Street. “We weren’t on the Internet, nothing. Friends would Google us and say, ‘You’re not there.’ ” Most pointed was that after three volumes of Soul Jazz’s exhaustive New York Noise overviews and countless other reissues focused on the downtown scene, one would have to go to Pitt’s studio apartment to hear Dog Eat Dog. “Anytime anyone would come over to my house, I would force him or her to listen to our CD,” she said with a laugh.
Finding out about New York’s Dog Eat Dog will get a little easier now that the British label Claremont 56 (with some assistance from No Wave legend and downtown luminary Sal Principato) has released an overview of the band’s music. The disc chronicles the band’s brief time together (1980–83), right down to a Keith Haring drawing that had originally been used for one of the band’s Club 57 gigs with Liquid Liquid. “That flier has been sitting in a frame in my apartment for years now,” Pitt said. The band even pops up briefly in Blank City, the documentary of that era screening now at IFC Center. “We began a series of street-art posters which commented on the trends of the day,” remembered Sisco, now residing in Pennsylvania. “One was: ‘Everyone here is in a band. All of their friends watch them play.’ That shows up in the movie. And that was pretty much true, as all of our friends were in bands. So we started one, too. It was a good way to get into clubs for free.”
The disc is mostly culled from live soundboard recordings at venues like Mudd Club, Tramps, and CBGB and seems as short as their career, but in its half-hour, Dog Eat Dog’s exuberant joy shines through. “It feels like their shows always did: quirky, groovy, atmospheric, and lighthearted,” said Principato of the resultant disc, never mind the intervening decades. “Time has a way of bestowing on a piece of music or art a certain relevance.” Opener “Rollover,” with its simple bassline and shouted vocals, could get mistaken for early ESG, while the Sonic Youth and Liquid Liquid stylings of “New Bongos/Third and Fourteenth” features someone shouting announcements like an MTA subway operator before boy-girl chattering breaks out. A No Wave noir, “Windingo” recasts a New York Times story they’d read about cannibalism.
Even among the squalor of the times, a playful naïveté becomes evident. Pitt admits the band was done more out of fun than a desire to have a career, but she’s grateful to have Dog Eat Dog’s music available now: “I think the timing is better now, actually. Now we’re a part of history.”