Douglas “Dug” Gamble and Colin “Happy Tooth” Ward are back on Columbus’ Own after five years, this time with a different name and deeper subjects to discuss.
Hip-hop duo Dug & Happy Tooth is set to release its first project, a rap album called “The Signal Glittering Inside the Storm,” in collaboration with Madison, Wisconsin-based producer Zach “Evaridae” Salvat. The album, available on streaming platforms March 14, features detailed, deep-diving verses laid over classic hip-hop beats.
Suggested by Salvat, the album’s name is derived from a line from one of the songs, “OJFFT,” which was inspired by Ward’s habit of flipping orange juice bottles and landing them right side up.
“The idea of the song was like talking about how sometimes, when you’re having a really rough time, if anything goes right at all — even if it’s like tiny or kind of ridiculous — it can really give you what you need to keep going,” Gamble said.
Dug & Happy Tooth spun off from Ward and Gamble’s six-piece hip-hop group “Happy Tooth & Dug,” which formed in 2013 and still plays music together. Ward said he and Gamble did not want to put out their work as a duo under the same moniker as their band. Instead, they decided to flip their names.
“We thought Google would bring them both up if you searched for one, and that’s not how it works,” Gamble said.
The upcoming record marks a shift in Ward and Gamble’s writing, the aspect of rap that Gamble said draws them most to the genre.
“It used to be that the jokes were kind of dark, and now it’s like the songs are kind of dark and there’s jokes,” Gamble said.
The pair describes its sound as “art rap” or “underground rap.” The two said they dove headfirst into the emotionally heavy subject matter, such as struggles with anxiety and depression, as they wrote the record, staying creative with their puns and wordplay while pushing each other to be vulnerable even when it felt messy.
“Sometimes I’ll write something and I’m like, ‘I can’t even show this to anyone. This is too dark. This is too personal.’ But it’s just whatever comes up comes out,” Ward said.
The push for more depth in their music has its silver linings but also its emotional toll, Ward said.
“It’s cool to put it out there and then have somebody else say that they feel that way or they get what you’re doing or whatever, but then it’s also really sad, ’cause you’re like, ‘They’re going through the same things.’ It’s just rough,” Ward said. “And it’s rough to relive the negative emotion or that hard thing over and over again every time you perform it.”
The upside, however, comes in the feedback Dug & Happy Tooth receive from their listeners. Fans not only consistently praise their onstage energy, but also join in the empathetic conversation around depression and mental health battles, Gamble said.
“We get a lot of Instagram messages from people that we don’t know very well saying, ‘Yeah, I also have depression,’” Gamble said. “And that means a lot, because that’s what I would have said to the artists that I was listening to when I was depressed, if I wasn’t so depressed that I didn’t do it.”
The duo said that amid the excitement of finishing the album, there’s an anxiety about releasing it.
“I feel like it’s like showcasing the worst parts of ourselves, in the prettiest way possible,” Ward said.
Dug & Happy Tooth will hold their album release show 9 p.m. March 21 at Classics Victory’s Sports Bar. The show is free, and the first 60 guests will receive a free CD of “The Signal Glittering Inside the Storm.”