When it comes to Santa Barbara's musical institutions, Spencer the Gardener is at the top of the pack, both for his wholly original, perfectly quirky sound and his longevity as a constant fixture on the scene, whether it's at your buddy's raucous wedding, at the annual Wednesday night kick-off party for Fiesta, or in the middle of Alameda Park, playing tunes that delight kids and their parents alike.
That latter description has become more common in recent years, thanks to the 2009 release of Organic Gangster, an album of tunes aimed at teaching kids about sustainable living but equally enjoyed by adults who fancy songs about worm girls, avocados, mangos, and why you shouldn't be eating genetically modified food. And Organic Gangster also gave a home to “The Gobble Song,” which became a viral Internet sensation in 2006 when it was the number one featured video on YouTube, and remains perhaps the only modern Thanksgiving Day song that anyone can speak of.
A couple weeks ago, Spencer the Gardener released a second music video off of Organic Gangster for the song “Oreo the Dog,” which memorializes one of the many pets that the band's frontman Spencer Barnitz has come to love in his years of living in his hometown of Santa Barbara. The musical cartoon was directed and animated by Oliver Cornell, whose kid Miller is a big fan of the album—in fact, according to Barnitz, Miller's first word was “Oreo.”
The collaboration seemed meant to be. “After I wrote this song, I immediately started seeing it as a cartoon about a dog in heaven,” said Barnitz, who explained that Oreo is “everyone's dog” and that one friend even called the black-and-white canine the “patron saint” of dogs. “I grew up on the Mesa and lost a couple of pets and it was always a very sad experience. I like the way this song mixes sad and sweet.” Oreo was actually owned by the “Worm Girl,” who is another subject of an Organic Gangster song, and may also be featured in a music video down the road.
The video was released on Dia de Los Muertos, of the “Day of the Dead,” for a reason. “Death is a touchy subject,” explained Barnitz, “but there is a power in the idea that spirits and souls last forever.” Because it's a bit more touchy than a song about making funny noises, Barnitz isn't expecting that “Oreo the Dog” will explode onto the Internet like “The Gobble Song” did, but he hopes that it keeps the Organic Gangster album in focus. “It's definitely for the whole family,” he said.