The indie surf-garage four-piece Dentist know that Asbury Park is a fun place to be any time of the year, not just in the summer. That’s why they agreed to play the Halfway to Memorial Day Party on Dec. 2 with Little Dickman label mates Black Flamingos, New Brunswick indie darlings Sink Tapes, and Brooklyn’s brand new Ex-Girlfriends, featuring members of Sharkmuffin. With holiday surf tunes spun by Hi-Tide, the producers of the Asbury Park Surf Music Festival, the swell shindig will be at the fun, new Asbury hotel behind Asbury Lanes.
Formed and led by cool-rockin’ husband-and-wife team Justin and Emily Bornemann and evolved out of their previous outfit, No Wine for Kittens, Dentist also will play Jan. 7 at ION in Philly and Jan. 14 at Bar Matchless in Brooklyn. Then they will head out on tours in March to South By Southwest in Austin and in April at Canadian Music Week in Toronto. Other shows yet to be announced include the upcoming anniversary party of the beloved indie-rock site CoolDad Music.
Married three years, Justin grew up in Point Pleasant and Emily was raised in the Whiting section of Manchester Township. They now live in Ocean Grove. Rounding out the lineup of Dentist are fellow Point Pleasant rockers, bassist Nick Kaelbein and drummer Rudy Meier. I talked to them in their rehearsal room at Lakehouse Studios in Asbury about their self-released/titled 2014 debut LP and this year’s follow-up, Ceilings, on Asbury-based Little Dickman Records, plus some other fun stuff. Look for an EP and a couple of videos to drop in 2017. Also check them out at facebook.com/dentistband and dentistband.com.
In 2008, when you started playing together in No Wine for Kittens, what kind of shape was Asbury Park in? Was it nice yet or was it still scary around here?
Justin: It was the very beginning of getting nice.
Emily: It was still a little scary.
Justin: Cookman is the road with the stores. We got here before the stores did.
What made you want to come here? Was it luck or did you have a vibe that something was coming?
Justin: Well, for me, I had been going to The Saint since I was 18. That was where I would go to hang out to see bands, and when I first started playing music, that was the only place around because there wasn’t anything like that in Point Pleasant or anything. Even when that was one of the only games in town, I still wanted to be in this area because at least there was that. Even before Asbury was getting together, I was still attracted to this area pretty much just based on The Saint to tell you the truth.
Emily: I would catch shows at The (Stone) Pony. Me and my friends would go every Friday, no matter who was playing. That was just our tradition for a very long time. That was right around the time that Justin and I met around 2008.
How did you meet?
Emily: He put an ad on Craigslist for a female singer for No Wine for Kittens. I wanted to join a band, so I decided to go on Craigslist, and I saw the ad and responded. I was playing solo.
You were together for about five years in two different bands before you got married. What was like being in a band together after you had gotten married? Didn’t anything change or was it still pretty much the same?
Emily: It’s all the same. We’ve pretty much been together since we started making music together so we’re just used to it. We dated briefly in the beginning and then broke up for a few years.
And still played together?
Emily: Yup. And then we got back together and got married.
Goes to show the healing quality of music. Now why the name Dentist?
Emily: It’s sort of silly. We don’t have an answer. We just thought it was funny.
You both play such nice guitars. Do you collect guitars?
Justin: We definitely have more guitars than is necessary.
When and how did you guys meet Chris Yaniak and Amy Earixson from Little Dickman Records?
Justin: I don’t even know. I feel like we’ve known them for a while. When I first turned 21, I apparently met Chris at Bar A. (Anticipation in Belmar). I have no recollection of this, but apparently I crossed paths with him. How long have we known them?
Emily: Three years. The second record is on Little Dickman. The first one we put out ourselves. Jim Appio of CoolDad Music had something to do with hooking us up with Little Dickman.
The second record, Ceilings, is much harder and edgier than the first self-titled record, which is quirkier. What changed to give Dentist that grittier sound?
Emily: Our first record, we didn’t take it seriously. It was more for fun than anything else. It was just songs that Justin and I had been writing for a year or so. We just decided to record them and put an album together. So it’s a little goofier.
Justin: They were the songs we were playing live. We had just started the band. We would write a song, then we would play it live. We played live for a little while, then we realized we had 12 songs. We were just like, ‘Let’s record an album of these songs since we have them.’ We never thought about it that much until we went to record them. With (Ceilings), the difference is that it was more intentional that we’re writing songs to make an album as opposed to just the songs that we had.
Were you surprised that the first record did so well and what was it then like to have a label behind you?
Emily: Yes, it was a surprise. We put out the first record ourselves, so we really wanted to have a label do the second record. We were just over the moon that Little Dickman took an interest because they have a lot of cool bands.
Justin: They’re really down to earth and really cool, so we got along with them well. It felt like the right move for us.
Emily: They really believe in our band.
And they work hard and put on a lot of shows, which is great.
Justin: Plus, they were down with pressing the record on vinyl, which is something that we always wanted to do.
Nick and Rudy, how does it feel for you guys to step into a band that has a record deal?
Nick: It was cool. I had joined right before the record was written. Justin taught me how to play bass, so it was, like, sick. I started taking lessons when I was 10, so it was, like, 15 years ago. I took lessons until I was 16.
Rudy: I knew of Justin and had a lot of friends who took lessons from him, like Nick. It was interesting because this is the first time that I’ve played drums in a band. It’s interesting to see a band from a different perspective for sure. And I was a fan of Dentist long before I joined. But my primary instrument is guitar.
Wow, you’re a really good drummer, man. I would have no idea that drums weren’t your primary instrument. You especially have really good snare rolls. Were they written for the record and you emulated them or did you bring them in?
Rudy: I just picked it up. When I was younger, I bought a drum set and kind of mess around. I always liked to try to play how I would want a drummer to play if I was playing drums.
Justin: He’s put his own feel to it, but the parts are from the record.
How does it feel to see Asbury Park doing so well and how has that helped your band?
Emily: I love what Asbury Park has become. It’s bigger and there’s a ton more places to play. When we were doing No Wine for Kittens, we were playing The Saint continuously because there weren’t many other places to play. There was Asbury Lanes, but now there’s just so many places that we can play and are well attended. People go out to shows all the time, and it’s just really cool to be a part of the music community.
Bob Makin has been contributing since 1988 to The Aquarian Weekly, where he once served as managing editor. He now is an entertainment writer for MyCentralJersey.com, a part of USA Today Network.