Dentist has been described with many adjectives: fun, fuzzy, melancholy, smart, saccharine (my favorite), etc. The truth is its hard to define something that is unique. When you hear their upcoming album, Ceilings, it obliterates all definitions of surf rock, punk, and pop by making them unite. Their ability to make these genres into a musical “layered cake” is fascinating. You do not know where to place them, but you know you like them. Hence, I was excited to talk to Dentist’s co-founder and guitarist: Justin Bornemann.
Diandra: Your self-titled debut was critically acclaimed. Was having this instant applause motivating or stressing when approaching this sophomore album, Ceilings?
Justin: Both. You really want people to like your second album, and for it to reach more people. This time around, we have been getting good feedback on the album, which is definitely cool. We have been getting bigger press outlets like, Noisey and Stereogum. So more people are listening and liking us, which is exciting and super big. It’s a good feeling, for sure.
Diandra: These are some of the words that have been used by critics to describe your sound: fuzzy, syrupy, garage charm, deliriously infectious, unending sugar, and southern gothic.. If you were reviewers. what other voluminous words would you add to describe your music?
Justin: I think if people heard those words they would say “Okay, that makes sense”. A lot of people have the tendency to say “surfy”, and we do have those elements, but we are not just a surf band. There is so much other stuff happening in our songs, as far as musical influences go. But, we are definitely “poppy” and “catchy”, and I completely support their words. Although, I don’t know if we are southern gothic or what that means really (he laughs). That was an interesting one.
Diandra: For me, your sound is so unique, which is why, when I read fellow reviewers trying to describe your music, it becomes so vast and dramatic in wording. Your music is distinct. It’s hard to say what is it but, I think, the closest would be “fuzzy punk rock” like, a teddy bear stuffed with razor blades and candy.
Justin: I’d say that is pretty accurate. Most of our songs are pretty fast with a few slow ones. When people think about punk, I think, they have a few ideas in their head about what it should sound like. When you hear our music, you definitely hear punk influences, but there are people whom are punk purists and would probably not describe us as such. But, like I said before, we have so many other influences throughout our songs. We are not just a surf band or a punk band. We have both and pop, as well.
Dander: Yeah, definitely! When I heard your album, I felt the punk sound influences, but it did not have that ‘in your face” nature because you had this “pop” sensibility that made it a softer. It felt very blended.
Justin: I think it is a matter of that we wanted to make listenable music. We wanted to make music that we ourselves would enjoy and a lot of the stuff we listen to tended to have similar elements to punk or pop or whatever. We wanted the songs to have an edge, and not be “wimpy”, I guess for lack of a better word. There is an aggressiveness to our songs, but, at the same time, they are also very “poppy”.
Diandra: Lyrically, this album, Ceilings, and your last, self-titled one were very “angsty”, and kind of spoke to Millennial frustrations. Do you think that Millennials have a lot of stress on them, and were trying to speak to that?
Justin: It’s kind of something that just happened, and we noticed it afterwards. I remember reading someone mentioning that and noticing it after. It was never our intention, or something that we did on purpose while discussing what lyrics or themes to write in our songs. We just write. There is no planned intention. It just comes out, and I definitely agree that the angst is there.
Diandra: Well, I feel that being a Millennial, or an artist, or just a general human being can be very angsty because you always “want’ more? Thus, being this super-talented band readying and pushing forward in this industry, I could imagine there is a natural angst just in trying to get heard.
Justin: Yeah, I agree. One of the coolest things for us, as a band, is when you start seeing people you don’t know come to your shows. When you start a band, the audience is mostly family and friends. Yet, when you start seeing more people fill the room, and you don’t know them or recognize their faces, it cool because its not something you are not use to feeling. Like, people, we do not know, are looking to and for our music. That is really cool.
Diandra: One thing I love about Dentist’s origins is that it began in a TGIF’s. I’m wondering if you look back and say, “Hmmm, from TGIF’s to here”?
Justin: Yeah, definitely! I never envisioned that, at the time, we would get this far and be heading even farther. I did not even imagine the band. I met Emily (Bornemann), lead vocalist, and we just liked the same things and music, and it was just purely about making music. We made this first band, and things did not really click with the other members. We just had different ideas creatively. So, we (Emily and I) had to kind of start again, and make a second band, i.e. Dentist.
Diandra: I have met so many bands that have had like, two or three “re-bandings”, where they have to reconstruct and replace band members and motivations to creatively/ musically “click”. When did you know that you had found the right band?
Justin: The first band, we just did not mesh creatively. Writing songs was a slow, gregarious process and everything feltl the same. Yet, when we made Dentist it was so quick, and we had no overthought. Everything just happened and our sound was quick and fluid and not overly-analyzed. We just wrote songs and recorded them and they came out good. It was very spontaneous and a nice change because I did not have that with the last band, but that is the feeling I wanted. So I think it was having this easy, immediate creative process that made me know this is it. This can work.
Diandra: Do you think your creative process has changed from the first album to Ceilings?
Justin: Yeah. I think the first album was spontaneous. We just started writing songs, recorded them, and started playing these songs live. It was just something we did. We had enough songs for an album, so we made it. There was no intention. It all just happened. With Ceilings, we knew we were recording an album. The purpose was to make a record, and knowing that, made writing this one feel more focused or planned.
I have to admit it. I like this band. I like when I can distinguish an artist from others, and feel like their sound is specifically and strictly theirs. I am posting my review for Ceilings, and I am excited to delve and describe to you guys what “fuzzy punk rock” is. Ceilings, like Dentist, is an achievement of sound because it proves that being eccentric can be the reason you are good. Be different and be weird if it makes you the best you! Moreover, if it makes you the one you!