Lost Dog Street Band is playing Tower Theatre on Tuesday, August 13th. The Kentucky-based Americana band is made up of married couple Benjamin and Ashley Mae Todd with the recent addition of bassist Jeff Loops.
Benjamin’s voice has been described by Rolling Stone as “distant and immediate, old and pure of feeling.” Their music channels a certain criminal element of folk and country harkening back to Johnny Cash and Steve Earl which seems to have since been left by the tracks of the mainstream.
But it all but makes sense when looking at the years that Benjamin and Mae had spent hopping freight trains. Since meeting as teenagers at a punk rock show in Nashville, the two have traipsed across America playing music with their dog, Copper, in tow.
“We have a Ford 350 shuttle bus we tour in now,” wrote Benjamin Tod in an email. “It’s been a huge upgrade. Our crew now is five people and two dogs so having space for people to get off their butt and into a bed is real important. It’s changed things a lot. Still never had a working stereo in a vehicle though.”
The three have been on tour all summer with this marking a rare stop in Oklahoma City.
"I've ridden the BNSF mainlines from Barstow, California to Albuquerque and ridden the other side of the line from Memphis to Springfield. It just never ended up happening on the railroad. OKC has always escaped our grasp."
Despite their physical wanderlust, they have found a home on the internet. Videos of their performances on the Youtube channel GemsOnVHS have been watched millions of times.
Recorded playing in settings like empty fields and under bridges, the two have gotten known in a way Todd wrote he absolutely did not expect.
“This all happened so fast. I can’t say enough about Anthony from GemsOnVHS and the hard work he put in for years. He has been there through some of my darkest times. He is a great friend and a genius. I can tell you that about 3 years ago I was ready to quit music. It became too much. I was in a hopeless cycle of addiction and miserable decision and was about to join the military. Then we got a random email from Pete of The Devil Makes Three asking to open a tour for them. I owe a lot to that.”
And when watching those videos, one cannot help but notice their apparel, which like their music, calls back to a different era. Adorned in leather and flat-brimmed hats, the two would fit well in a western movie.
"I get recognized on a daily basis," Tod wrote. "I know that I am a pretty rememberable character but it still surprises me how often and how strange of places it happens. Sometimes I will be dealing with someone doing random business and they will tell me at the end of everything that they love my music. Makes me a little paranoid about people’s intentions sometimes. Overall, it’s made me more patient knowing that I am a public figure with a reputation. I am naturally a disgreeable, confrontation-prone person so now I have to watch myself a little closer."
With tattoos up and down his forearm and ‘11030’ or the “hobo zipcode” centered on his neck, Tod considers himself an outlaw.
“I have been a criminal all my life,” he wrote. “I’ve gotten money any way you can possibly imagine. We did things the hard way and paid for it when we had to. Not many people who claim to be outlaws have done it. It’s just a costume they wear for their management. I have lived as an American outlaw and wear it with pride.”
For Tod, everything stems back to the time he spent train-hopping.
"It made me who I am and gave me eyes to appreciate things other people can’t. I wouldn’t wish some parts of it on anyone but we all have trials that become important pieces of our character."
Their latest album, Weight Of A Trigger, was released earlier this year.
“There is an overlying narrative carried by three tracks on the album,” says Tod. “It tells the story of Thomas Clancy Russell who starts out a hard-working cattle driver who accidentally kills his only love and spirals out of control eventually being hanged for killing a sheriff for the favor of a whore..."
Alongside the three-act story, the album is compiled with stories of regret, redemption, and grief.
"The album ends with a song written by my deceased best friend, Nicholas Ridout, and a song I wrote in memory of him."