Tim Hughes asks Police Dog Hogan about realising the boyhood dream — in middle age

There has been many a kid who has dreamed of forming a band. For most the dream remains just that. For a few others, the vision becomes a reality until they decide they are too old and settle down to get proper jobs. And then there’s Police Dog Hogan.

While other middle-aged men are thinking about golf, dinner parties and pension plans, this group of late-40- and early 50-something professionals fulfilled their childhood dreams — and set up a band.

With a combined age of 323 and successful careers in law, advertising and the media, Police Dog Hogan are unlike any other act you are likely to see at a local rock venue. But this self-styled “middle-aged man band” have finally achieved their ambition — and have the following to match it.

“This is what I dreamed of doing as a youth,” says lead singer James Studholme, 53, who is a dad-of-three and runs his own advertising agency.

“Making records and getting on the road to play music... c’mon! There aren’t too many other bands who have started out as a writing, recording and touring band at our age and stage, so there isn’t really a road map.”

James, who lives in West London and cites his influences as Steve Earle, Richard Thompson, Warren Zevon, Townes Van Zandt and Randy Newman, is joined by guitarist Pete Robinson, a design consultant, journalist, published poet and alumnus of the Strategic Leadership Programme at Templeton College, Oxford; fiddle player Eddie Bishop, 53, a barrister who specialises in medical negligence; banjo player and dad-of-three Tim Dowling, 50, an American journalist with a weekly column in The Guardian; mandolin master Tim Jepson, 54, an Oxford university graduate and travel writer; bassist Adam Bennette, 58, a lighting designer, electronics engineer and former roadie for ’70s rockers Bad Company; and drummer Michael Giri, 55, who used to play in Steven ‘Tintin’ Duffy’s band The Lilac Time and has the longest hair in the band (though admits to thinking of cutting it before it falls out).

So, why did a bunch of successful middle-class guys form a band? “Making music and playing it live for an appreciative audience is more fun than any day job yet invented,” says James. “Unless your day job is making music. Then maybe it starts to feel like a day job. We know we’re lucky.”

He goes on: “We’re a middle-aged man band purveying our own unique kind of pop music filtered through the medium of bluegrass and country.

“We’re not a rock band. There are no leather trousers and Stratocasters. We’re ‘urban bluegrass’, or ‘Anglicana’ or ‘townbilly’. Our sound is fundamentally acoustic with banjo, mandolin and fiddle to the fore.”

While not a comedy band, a rich vein of humour lies beneath the twang and infectious melodies.

Their song La Moutarde de Dijon, is a Cajun two-step spelling out their preference for the French condiment, Crackington charts the result of a midlife crisis, Rivers Of London tells of the lost tributaries of the Thames. The majestic A Man Needs A Shed, meanwhile, speaks for itself.

“Fun is infectious,” he says. “The alternative is too ghastly to contemplate. It’s all we know how to do. We’d hate people to think we don’t realise how improbable and absurd this whole adventure is. And how lucky we are!

“What’s great is the camaraderie and the storytelling.”

And, being mostly married men — and fathers — how do they deal with the inevitable groupies? “We’ll tell you when — and if — it happens,” he says, though admits to a few weird incidents while on the road.

“Strangest was playing at Finsbury Park on the same bill as some Swedish death metal punks who stripped down to their pants. Then there was the time someone came up to me after a gig and asked: ‘Are you all police officers, or just some of you?’ Or making a video in a taxidermy museum with Mike and me in glass cases dressed as cavemen...”

Surely there are some advantages to being a ‘more mature’ musician? James agrees. “There’s the great well of hard-won life experience to be drawn on,” he says. “I think we’re a fair bit more comfortable with just being who we are and therefore the realisation that if you’re having fun it makes it so much easier for the audience to have fun too.”

And, he says, they can put younger upstarts to shame when it comes to enjoying themselves. “Notwithstanding the fact that two of the band are almost teetotal and with the assorted bad backs, eyesight problems, aches, pain and memory loss customary at our time of life, if we were collectively — as a seven-piece — to take on a young seven-piece folk combo in a partying competition, I think we’d hold our own through the heroic efforts of our drummer alone.”

Next month the band play Oxford’s Art Bar (formerly the Bullingdon). The show follows knock-out festival appearances at Cornbury, Wychwood, Larmer Tree, Cornbury, Maverick, Port Eliot, and Kendal Calling.

So what has been the highlight so far? “All of everything actually,” says James. “Soup to nuts... it’s a blast!”

And what are his ambitions for the group? “To sell more records than Beyonce,” he laughs. “It should be easy. She’s has been spectacularly useless at selling our records so far.”

So does he have any tips for other chaps who still haven’t quite given up the dream of making it big as a band?

“Find some likeminded and equally deluded friends, write some songs and get out there,” he smiles.

“One thing leads to another and one day, hey presto! You wake up and find you’ve made it small!”

Police Dog Hogan
The Art Bar, Oxford
February 8
Tickets £12 wegottickets.com