It takes a certain kind of musician to play the Christian spiritual "Down By the Riverside" and "Hot Stove Steffi" in one rehearsal. But the musicians who make up The Dog Waggers are it.
The Vienna-based band has its roots in a Lutheran church band, so rehearsals can become eclectic.
"We start out doing spiritual music for the church band," said Dave Bloom, the band's primary lyricist. "Then, we send the rest of the band home and work on secular stuff."
Out of the six members of The Dog Waggers (Bloom, Geoff Pemble, Rick Thiele, Hunter Jones, Kurt Sayce and Peder Maarbjerg), all but one, Maarbjerg, are in Revelation, a contemporary music band at Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Vienna
"Once you hear (The Dog Waggers) CD, you might not think we were churchgoers," joked Pemble after a recent service at Emmanuel, where Revelation performed.
The Dog Waggers' first album, "Chasin' Tales," features among its tracks songs such as "Kangaroo Falls," "Blanco Canvas," and "Graveyard Shift." According to Bloom, the band played to a full house of congregants, family and friends at their CD release party.
"The people from church see us in a totally different environment," said Bloom, who works in corporate public relations by day. "But I have to censor myself on the stage banter when I know that the pastor's in the audience."
Jammin' Java has become the band's "home away from church," said Bloom. It is an arrangement the band members are proud of since, as Bloom likes to say, Vienna is the "live music capital of Northern Virginia," with venues like Jammin' Java and Wolf Trap close at hand.
"They've played a number of times here, and they always bring out a good crowd," said Dan Brindley, who runs Jammin' Java along with brothers Jonathan and Luke. "They're serious."
THE HISTORY of The Dog Waggers goes back to 1996, said Pemble, when Emmanuel began hosting a contemporary music service, with a rotating group of 10 or 15 musicians who became known as Revelation. A year ago, Bloom and Pemble started collaborating and writing together, said Pemble.
"In the process, we found we had a lot of common songwriting approaches and we seemed to collaborate well together," said Pemble. "We thought we were writing some great tunes too, so we decided to make a go of it."
The band members came to The Dog Waggers from various musical backgrounds. Pemble, who works at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in Washington, D.C., also had played in The Frivolous Suits, an all-lawyer band that covered classic and contemporary rock songs.
"From the beginning, that band was always a cover band, and it was an excuse to stay out late and play other people's music and have a good time, but I always had an aspiration to do original music," said Pemble. "I jumped at the chance when Dave presented it to me."
Bloom said that his main musical influences come from the country scene in Austin, Texas.
"They are local, so that's one piece, they are a roots band," said Brindley. "They're not country really … they have all kinds of influences, that's where they fit stylistically."
Lead singer Pemble describes The Dog Waggers' sound as "Americana."
"We have elements of folk, rock, country, even a little bit of jazz on a song here and there," he said. "It's eclectic and diverse. It seems to appeal to a lot of people. People tend to have their favorite song. I can talk to 10 people about the CD, and usually hear about seven or eight different favorite songs."
IN TERMS of shows, The Dog Waggers are also starting to branch out. "God Save the Pork Queen," a single that will appear on the next album, was written up in a Des Moines, Iowa newspaper and played via radio at a festival there, said Bloom. The Appaloosa Horse Club, based in Moscow, Idaho, might use "She Rode an Appaloosa" as one of the songs played at their trade shows.
"I thought it was really cute, since it talked about Appaloosas, and that's what we are," said Jill Williams, marketing associate at the Appaloosa Horse Club. "I like it because it's different than the stuff we usually play. We haven't done bluegrass before. Usually, we play a country song."
"It is so cool to know that someone out in Idaho is playing this song for the Appaloosa Horse Club," said Bloom. Someone in Spain also bought their CD, he said.
"I joke to the guys in the band, Madrid is going to be one of the stops on the Wag the World Tour 2006," said Bloom. "Somewhere in Spain, there is a Dog Waggers fan."
Closer to home, the band hopes to continue playing local venues and recording a second CD. They will play along the route of the Fannie Mae Help the Homeless Walkathon on Saturday, Nov. 19.
"My dream is to play Wolf Trap someday," said Pemble. "We're Northern Virginia guys, so we aspire to that."
"As far as the band goes we're happy to play whenever we can," said Thiele. "We see each other musically at least twice a week, and it's a nice extension of our friendship."
But the most important part, all agree, is the music.
"We all have day jobs and fantasize about being rock stars and alt-country stars," said Bloom.
"My day job is as a lawyer and I enjoy my job very much," said Pemble. "But I think I've known for most of my life that in my heart, I'm a musician and music is what really drives me."
For more information about The Dog Waggers, visit their website at http://www.thedogwaggers.com.