Published on February 5th, 2014 | by Ballard Lesemann


The Dumb Doctors Shout ‘n’ Rave on Debut EP ‘Acid Past’

Charleston-based rock foursome Dumb Doctors started making noise last year when songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Scott Dence hunkered down for a few solo sessions in a cramped practice space and hammered out a small batch of punkish originals. A few four-track demos led to a few online releases.

This week, on Feb. 4, Dence and a solidified version of Dumb Doctors — with Mackie Boles (The Royal Tinfoil, Double Trash), Jim Faust (Sans Jose, M-Tank), and Antoine Dukes — officially issued their debut EP, a three-song punch-to-the-gut titled Acid Past.

Known best on the local scene for his garage-rock guitar work and singing in M-Tank and Boring Portals, his bass playing and hollering in Sans Jose, and his habitual one-man band shows, Dence already had a strong reputation for banging out reverb-heavy, fuzz-toned rock with trashy style and retro pop/rock leanings.

The Docs released their first recordings last summer in two double-song blasts: the ghoulish, Sabbath-meets-Sonics-esque “I Am You” backed with demento surf-rocker “Black Door” and the highly fuzzed-out “Leather Jacket” with the scratchy/groovy “Where to Go.”


Dumb Doctors, live at the Royal American, Jan. 2014 (photo by Ballard Lesemann)

On Acid Past, the band stumbles into sneery surf-beat territory, snotty-nosed ’60s garage band ‘tude, and wild-eyed primal punk. The tones are scuzzy and, at times, distorted. The band sounds tight and kinds pissed off. Lead track “Smiles” kicks off with a Cramps-esque riff and surf beat before erupting into frenzied choruses. The title track stomps with a punkabilly rhythm at a relentlessly quick tempo. The bashy, shouty closer “I’m So Dead” lumbers into the band’s voodoo-rock side with Dence yelling, “I’m a ghost now!” It’s scary, exciting, raving stuff.

Metronome Charleston caught up with frontman Scott Dence this week:

Metronome Charleston: When did the idea for the Dumb Doctors first take shape? Was it a solo or full-band project you’d had in mind for a while, or did it just naturally start happening?

Scott Dence: I started Dumb Doctors last summer when Boring Portals was having to take a break because of Southern Femisphere and Mechanical River touring. I just needed something to do. I would go to our practice space while they were all out of town and spent a few nights there recording stuff by myself.

Metronome Charleston: Did you handle all of the instruments, singing, and recording on the two recordings you issued last summer, or were there a few guest players?

Scott Dence: The first three singles were just me playing all the instruments. My plan was to record one single every week last summer, but it didn’t work out. Oh well. I like playing with the band more than recording solo because it’s more fun, and I think the songs end up sounding better. Hanging and drinking beer and stuff.

Metronome Charleston: What’s behind the band name Dumb Doctors? Do you simply like the alliteration of the two d’s? Is it a stab at actual medical professionals or flunky medical students you’ve encountered? Or is it something deeper?

Scott Dence: The band name was just kinda funny to me. I do like the alliteration of it. I was also just trying not to take this too seriously. It was the first name I thought of. It was partially influenced by my friend who got in a bizarre accident last year, and the doctors telling him that he was going to die and that he had very little chance of walking again.


Metronome Charleston: How and when did the current Dumb Doctors lineup come together? Did you specifically enlist some friends and bandmates, or did the group happen to assemble in a casual way?

Scott Dence: Antoine Dukes and I kinda started the band. He and I would hang out at parties and listen to music like the Cramps and Gun Club. We also shared some musical friends from Florida. So that’s how we bonded. We’d been talking about starting a dirty rock band that would be kinda punk, but wild like the Stooges. So, my first idea was that I needed Jim Faust to play bass. He and I have been in bands together for four years, and I knew that I could trust him. Plus, he’s nuts and fun to play with.

That version of the band played one show, and then I think Antoine suggested getting Mackie Boles to play. He was a perfect fit for the band because he’s a true rocker. Our first show as the four-piece band was in Columbia a month or so later. This band is about rockin’ and wearing black. The nighttime is the right time, ya know?

Metronome Charleston: Where do y’all practice and record downtown? And how does the space compare to that old rehearsal space y’all shared with a bunch of colleagues like rachel Kate, Southern Femisphere, Jordan Igoe, and Sans Jose up in the neck area along upper Meeting Street last year?

Scott Dence: We recorded across from Antoine’s place off of Line Street. That space on Cherry Hill Lane was amazing. I don’t think Charleston will ever let something like that happen again. I miss that place. I miss hanging outside, smoking cigs, and talking to all the bands that were there. It was a good time for Charleston music. I feel like we all got a lot of work done there. The new place is alright. More convenient, and it’s nice that Antoine lives across the street.


Dumb Doctors at the Recovery Room, Sept. 2013 (photo by Ballard Lesemann)

Metronome Charleston: How does the music of the Dumb Doctors compare with some of you other musical projects? What do the bands have most in common, and how do they differ?

Scott Dence: This band started as a solo project, so it has more of my personality in it than Boring Portals, M-Tank, or Sans Jose. The Docs is my opportunity to be a frontman and bandleader, but these guys all have their own ideas, and we always have to play together to get our songs where they need to be. They bring my songs to life. I’ve been writing a lot, but we’ve also been going back to some old songs that I play when I do the one man band shows. They really take the old songs to new places.

Metronome Charleston: What’s it like when a song idea really hits you — when you start working on rhythms, chord changes, lyrics, and arrangements? What’s the process of composing a rock song these days?

Scott Dence: I don’t really have much of a regular process. In the past, I would write as I recorded demos. Now, I’m recording demos on my phone and improvising lyrics to that, then rewriting what I think I hear.

Metronome Charleston: When and how did y’all record the three tracks on Acid Past? A handful of cleverly placed mics, a board, and a four-track machine? Or something more complex?

Scott Dence: We recorded on February 2 at our practice space. It was quick. We’re hoping to get at least another one of these done this month before Mackie focuses more on the Royal Tinfoil in March, and Antoine’s going out of town to see his folks for a week next month, too.

Metronome Charleston: Acid Past is a lo-fi thing in its way, but like many of your productions, there’s a unique richness and fullness to the overall sound.

Scott Dence: Yeah, we used real mics this time and had eight channels to work with, so it came out clearer and less muddy.

Metronome Charleston: How does the rhythm section of Antoine Dukes on drums and Jim Faust on bass push or anchor the Dumb Doctors on these new recordings and on stage?

Scott Dence: They are the anchor of the Docs. They’re both very primal players. Antoine likes riding the toms, and Jim just plays downstrokes, so they keep the band tough.

Metronome Charleston: How do Mackie Boles’ solos and rhythm guitar work enhance the songs? It’s a bona fide two-guitar assault sometimes, but there’s plenty of classic double-guitar interplay, too. We’re thinking Stones, Kinks, Television, Big Star…

Scott Dence: Yeah, Mackie’s playing is really exciting me. I’m hoping to get some guitar harmonies going soon. That guy is the best guitar player I’ve ever played with. He’s a total Hendrix-meets-Mick Taylor type player. He rocks.

Metronome Charleston: Any Dumb Doctors vinyl on the horizon?

Scott Dence: I listen to a lot of vinyl. I just listened to this Pebbles comp that I’ve had for a while but never paid much attention to because I was getting kind of burnt out on how same-y those comps can be. It was pretty good. I don’t have any plans on pressing anything. It’s kind of a dream of mine, but it’s expensive, and I’m kind of giving up on the physical product idea. That’s why I do a lot of DIY recording stuff.

Greg Elias from Academia Records is super cool, and he’s putting out our stuff. He’s starting to make tapes, too. I’m trying to get more involved with social networking with the band. I get kind of bummed out about my friends spending money on my music or good people like Greg doing work like making tapes for me. I really appreciate it and love all the support I get, though.

Metronome Charleston: What’s the band’s biggest goal for 2014?

Scott Dence: I don’t know. I just want to keep writing and recording, and I feel like the Acid Past EP is the first step.

“I’m So Dead” from the Acid Past EP:

      1. ‘I’m So Dead’ by Dumb Doctors

Top photo by Ballard Lesemann.

Dumb Doctors will perform a few local shows this winter and spring (as soon as they book them, last-minute). Check out their new stuff on Acid Past online at scottdence.bandcamp.com. Visit facebook.com/dumbdoctors for more.




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About the Author

Ballard Lesemann

is a musician and writer. Born and raised in Charleston, S.C., he spent years playing in bands and working for Flagpole Magazine in the bustling music town of Athens, Ga. He returned to his hometown and served more than seven years as the Charleston City Paper's music editor. He's better at drumming than he is at playing guitar.

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