"Don't fuck with us," is how drummer Antoine Carmine responds when asked if there's anything City Paper readers should know about local garage-punk band Dumb Doctors. After the laughter subsides, frontman Scott Dence chimes in with, "Just have fun, and don't be an asshole."
Despite the rather brash introduction, Dumb Doctors are a fun bunch. We got to catch up with band members Mackie Boles, Jim Faust, Carmine, and Dence in a small, dimly lit storage unit while they set up for a practice session. The space is cramped with amplifiers, suitcases, and random instruments strewn about the room. We settle down somewhere in the middle, and an attempt at a straight-faced interview proves to be futile when Carmine tells us they got together via unlikely circumstances. "Smokey the Bear, man," Carmine says. "He put us together."
Someone else mentions that Papa Smurf introduced them to each other before Dence drops the most believable explanation: "Boring Portals, my old band, was out of town all summer, so I had no one to play with. Antoine had just moved here, and we started hanging out at parties, talking about The Cramps and Gun Club. Me and Jim were in a band together for years, so I naturally wanted to play with him."
"I heard about y'all starting up" guitarist Boles adds. "And I thought, 'I gotta be in this fucking band.'"
Since then, the Docs have garnered a loyal fanbase, proving their self-proclaimed "scuzz" music has mileage in a town filled with bands with Americana tendencies. Carmine defines the genre like this: "It's like that black shit at the bottom of your sneaker."
"It's late-night rock 'n' roll," Dence says. "I mean, it's fuzzy, but it's really more about just being scuzzy."
For a band that's fairly new, they've released a lot of quality material at an impressively consistent rate. Back in February, the band dropped the EP Acid Past, followed by a pair of singles in June, August, and September. Dumb Doctors' ability to roll out so much music is made possible partly due to their familiarity with one another, which began long before the band's formation. "We've been playing together long enough, so everyone knows what to do," says Faust.
Dence's songwriting process is another reason for the band's prolific nature — it's extremely straightforward. He creates in the same way the body reacts to pain — quickly and deliberately. "I've never finished a song," he admits. "I'll write a song and have to do a demo to finish it, but even then I only spend an hour, at the most. "
The band's latest release is "Garden," a track featuring She Returns From War's Hunter Park on backup vocals. Dumb Doctors recently collaborated with local musician Nick Jenkins to create a video for the single, which debuts on the band's YouTube channel this week. The song's seemingly lovesick lyrics had some of us at the City Paper wondering if the garden was a metaphor for something much more grand, maybe an ode to Dence's fiancé, Charleston Grit editor Jessie Parks. And while we were partly right, the meaning is also in harmony with Dence's direct writing style. "'Garden' is about, you know, the ground and things growing, and sometimes you eat that," Dence says. "And sometime it just dies."
All the work Dumb Doctors put in this year has led to completing a full-length LP, which is due out in the new year. Since the spring, the band's been busy recording the album at The Space with Wolfgang Ryan Zimmerman at the helm. Although the title is uncertain at the moment, Dence has considered calling the album Can't Die.
As for the future, the guys don't plan on overdoing it, by any means. "We're gonna tour Russia," barks Carmine. Although ambitious, his response does hold some truth to it. "There's a band in Russia that covers one of Scott's songs," Boles tells us. "They sent us an email with a video of them playing the song ["Teen Eagle Fever"], and all these people singing. So we were trying to go to Russia. But they kind of said it might not be a good idea."