Keanu Reeves, Robert Mailhouse, and Bret Domrose's rock band formed in 1991 after a chance encounter in Southern California's supermarket Gelson's, when Reeves saw Mailhouse wearing a Detroit Red Wings top and struck up a conversation with him. The two bonded over their shared love of hockey and became fast friends.
"It turned out that we lived in the same neighborhood," Reeves tells EW, "and then we started to jam together, and then we started to write songs, and then we played the first shows as Dogstar not that long after."
Brian Bowen Smith Dogstar members Robert Mailhouse, Bret Domrose, and Keanu Reeves
In their early days, bassist Reeves, drummer Mailhouse, and original singer and guitarist Gregg Miller (who left the group in 1995) would play in Reeves' garage. "It was fun," Reeves recalls. Until Miller's amplifier broke.
So he reached out to Domrose for help. "I was bartending with [Miller] when I first moved to Los Angeles, and I happened to have a similar amplifier to his," Domrose says. "So I went over to the house to help him fix it, and that's where I met these two guys. I just thought I was going to help some guy fix a piece of equipment. I didn't know I was about to change the rest of my life."
Reeves and Mailhouse were instantly impressed by Domrose's guitar skills — "Bret's a shredder, man," Reeves says — so a few days after watching him play, they invited him to join them at the iconic Los Angeles venue Troubadour. "I just wanted to go and drink beers and watch you guys," Domrose recalls. "I didn't realize I was going to be on stage."
"That set the tone for us from then on," Reeves says, rubbing his hands together. "Jump into the deep end. Man, that's us. We are not afraid."
Much like with that first serendipitous meeting in a Gelson's, food, at least in a roundabout way, helped lead them to a musical collaboration — this time, their return, which includes a tour and their upcoming third album, Somewhere Between the Power Lines and Palm Trees.
"There was a premiere for Matrix 4 in San Francisco, and the next morning we had breakfast," Reeves says. "That was the initial spark." While the band never officially went on hiatus, they hadn't recorded or released new music in more than two decades, playing together only every few years in basements or at smaller gigs nowhere near the size of their old concert venues. But what started as a post-Matrix Resurrections chat about equipment turned into a full-fledged plan for them to reunite in L.A. to start working on fresh material.
"We got excited, one thing leads to another, and then we all took it extremely seriously," Mailhouse says. "It wasn't going to be another one of those casual get-togethers. You could just tell. It was like we were on a mission."
Somewhere Between the Power Lines and Palm Trees is full of anthemic, sweeping, beautiful, and rousing songs that embody what the band is today. "The inspiration was three guys wanting to have fun and reconnect and be honest with our emotions, and so that's what you get," Domrose says.
If the music is different from their earlier, post-grunge records, it's all by design. "There's a maturity," Reeves says of their sound today. "The most challenging day [recording this album] was when I played 'Dillon Street'" — a track on the new album — "really basic when we were writing the song. When we get into the studio with the guys, I'm just playing it very simple and holding it down, and they were like, 'I think you need to do something more.' I tried to come up with the bass line in the moment, and it moves around a little more than I usually do, and so it was pushing me."
Reeves continues, "It was scary making stuff up in the moment with all ears and eyes on me, but everyone was cheering me on — just like, 'Dude, you got it. Let's go, Reeves.' So it was challenging, but also a fun moment."
The trio have never felt prouder of an album, and they can't wait to finally release it to the world. "We should have the record release party at a Gelson's, the one in Beachwood Canyon [where we met]," Mailhouse jokes to Reeves.
Adds Domrose with a laugh, "They do have a bar now!"
Somewhere Between the Power Lines and Palm Trees is out Oct. 6.
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