You might be familiar with the band Exile because of “Kiss You All Over,” its chart-topping pop-rock crossover hit back in the late-’70s. Or maybe you recognize the Kentucky-based troupe’s string of country anthems that took it through the ’90s. But beyond the group’s music, it turns out the members are a bunch of canine lovers who are involved in the Down South rescue scene.
I spoke to Marlon Hargis, Exile’s resident keyboard wizard, about his rescue pups, being married to a dog groomer, and the band’s work with the Southern Alliance for People and Animal Welfare (SAPAW).
Dogster: Would you describe yourself as a dog person?
Marlon Hargis: I would. Actually, most of us in Exile are animal lovers, particularly Sonny LeMaire, the bass player, and me — plus JP Pennington and his wife own cats, of all things. Well, we have cats as well. I’ve been a longtime dog lover, and my wife is a dog groomer and works with a lot of rescues, so we’re definitely animal lovers. Exile likes to care about animals whenever they can.
Is there any sort of dog versus cat divide in the band?
No, there is not! I actually have two Siberian Huskies, three Chihuahuas, and three cats, and they all get along like a big family. It’s very interesting — we’ve had both dogs and cats for years, and we’ve never had any issues.
So, who are your dogs at the moment?
Well, let’s see … if one of the dogs gets in trouble, I go through all of the names before I get the right one sometimes! We have two Huskies — one is named Banshee and the other is named Zachary Binks — then the Chihuahuas are named Nico, Sophia, and Rosalie. Now, don’t ask me any more animal names!
With your wife being a dog groomer, do you ever come home to find your dogs sporting crazy hairstyles?
You know, not really. She does have some clients that like to do that, but she’s good at using very safe hair colors on the dogs, so she might do some little color things, like the other day she did a blue mohawk on a Pug’s head. But it’s really whatever her client wants. For our dogs, they’re just well groomed.
Have any of your dogs ever appeared on an Exile record cover?
I don’t think we’ve actually used any of our pets in any of our photos. I know I’ve got a Facebook page that I use a lot, and my dogs will be from time to time on there. I think some of our fans know our dogs just from following us individually on Facebook, but we’ve not yet used one of our pets for publicity — and I’m not necessarily sure we’d want to, especially if the animal might [be] put it in a difficult situation.
How many of your dogs are rescues?
At the moment, I think two of them are. In the past, we’ve had probably six or eight rescue dogs in our life. My favorite dog, his name was Skylar, and he actually passed away earlier this year; he was 15 years old, so he lived a really long life. My next door neighbor it turns out is a musician — he works with Toby Keith — and he had a couple of Huskies when he moved in a couple of years ago. They stayed outside, and they had shelter, but he was traveling a lot more than I was, so over a couple of years, I was the one going over to the fence every day and talking to the dog. He became very attached to me.
Then he was in a situation where he had to give them up, so I said, “Look, just hand him over the fence and see how he likes it over this side of the fence.” He stayed.
Also, a lady gave a Chihuahua to my wife. I think we were going to foster some dogs and became attached to them and kept them. Two of them are actually sitting in my lap while I’m talking to you.
How did you and the band get involved with the Southern Alliance for People and Animal Welfare?
Sonny and I have friends who work for the Nashville Rescue Mission. About three years ago, we’d gone to a function they were having, and I was introduced to a lady who runs the organization, and we just started talking about animals. It was interesting for me to discover that a lot of homeless people won’t go to shelters because they can’t take their animals with them. So SAPAW is an organization that, every day, they go to cities and camps and meet people in the street and make sure their dogs are taken care of and have food and shelter. Also, some low-income people who can’t afford to take care of their dogs as well as they could, they will help them out.
I’ll give you an example: Last week, me and my wife, she showed me a before-and-after picture of a Poodle she had groomed, and her owner was 94 years old and lived on a fixed income. The dog was all she really had in her life, but she couldn’t really afford to spend money on food and grooming and vaccinations. So SAPAW took care of that for her. My wife groomed her for free: The dog was almost unrecognizable when she brought her in, but the dog looked great afterwards.
So SAPAW is something me and Sonny feel strongly about, and we’ve done a few benefit concerts for them.
Have you had many fans bringing dogs to the benefit shows?
You know, we’ve been asked bringing dogs, but I think the only reason not to encourage that is because of the noise — it’s loud. I suppose if you had a small dog you could keep in the backstage area, she would be okay, but I don’t encourage it because it would probably hurt the dog’s ears — although hopefully not because we sound bad!
Head over to Exile’s Facebook page for more info on the band’s upcoming musical moves.