In the late 1970’s, in the New York No-Wave scene, a style of abrasive music was forming, built from the ashes of the punk rock and experimental rock music of the decade. This style would be coined as Noise Rock in the 1980s and would often feature blaring guitars, high pitched noises and fuzzy distortion – somehow all coming from traditional rock instrumentation. Nowadays, in the 2010s, one of the biggest bands playing in a similar style is Dope Body. Releasing albums in 2011, 2012 and 2014, these guys are a powerhouse of our decade, known for the craziness of their tunes and of their live performances. I got hold of their drummer, David Jacober – we talked about their upcoming album as well as heroin, Prince, and the recent social unrest in Baltimore.
Kyle Lapointe (KL): So your new album Kunk is coming out this year. What’s the significance of the title?
David Jacober (DJ): For us, “kunk” is a word we reserve for unique, shady characters with no redeeming qualities. You know, the bad guys from most movies? We consider them kunks. The guy who’s creeping out in an alley’s a kunk too. He’s eyeing you up and he looks like he’s just woken up from some binge. Kunks can be all different kinds of people, but for us, it’s always been a way to describe a character; it’s a word I’ve been saying since I was a little kid. I’ve always used it this way, but ever since we named the album, we’ve found all kinds of different meanings for the word online that are totally wicked.
KL: Do you consider yourselves to be kunks?
DJ: I think I can be a kunk sometimes but generally, not really. I wouldn’t say so.
KL: It kind of goes with your band’s name too, creating a very shady image. Do you guys ever get offered heroin because of your band’s name?
DJ: We never get offered dope but we do get offered lots of weed. Nobody comes up to us and offers us heroin just because we’re Dope Body. Some people might think that we do dope but that’s not true.
KL: Well that’s probably for the best. You guys have been releasing albums very quickly. You released Lifer just last year and Natural History in 2012. Coming out with new material so quickly, is it safe to say that you guys don’t have many fresh ideas on this album?
DJ: The thing that makes this album so different from Lifer and from all the other ones we put out is that it’s more of a studio project. When we recorded Lifer with Travis Harrison in New York, we did not only record all of the songs that were on Lifer. We had also spent several hours in the studio improvising and Travis recorded that too. He sent that stuff to us and we didn’t even remember it. We took apart those improvised parts, found parts that we liked and made songs out of them.
KL: That’s pretty creative.
DJ: Yeah, it kind of just happened by accident, you know what I mean? And now we just did that again. We just went in and recorded six more hours of live improvised material just a few weeks ago. There’s still a lot more music to come.
KL: Although this process sounds very creative, could it also have a downside too? Using so much improvised material, one might think that the songs won’t end up sounding all that meticulously thought out in the end.
DJ: Yes, but I think that’s kind of what we want. We’ve been playing together for so long that when we improvise, we make these natural progressions that kind of come across as songs anyway even though they’re not. Now we have over fifty songs and I guess we’re trying to do something that’s fresh for us. We’re still playing the old stuff but now we’ve been trying out a lot of new things too. We’re going a little more electronic now.
KL: Really? Electronic?
DJ: Yeah. Not necessarily on Kunk, but since then we’ve been rehearsing with more electronic and industrial elements. It’s still pretty noisy though. Even on Lifer we had some tunes that kind of sounded computer-ish.
KL: Do you ever meet people who straight up tell you they don’t like your band’s music?
DJ: Yes, actually. One of the people we share our practice space with is open about not liking our band. He’s just like, “I HATE Dope Body.” It’s nice though. If people care enough to say they hate your band, at least they know who you are.
KL: Lots of people know who you are now. You’re about to embark on a European tour this September.
DJ: Yeah, we love playing Europe. We’ve been doing better over there.
KL: Really? Why do you think that is?
DJ: The treatment’s better and the reception’s been better for whatever reason. It’s easier to tour Europe – the drives are usually shorter. There’s always free dinner and a place to stay. In the states it’s more like, “You only brought twenty people out? Here’s a hundred and fifty bucks. Good luck, assholes.”
KL: What’s the most surprising place you guys have visited recently?
DJ: We went to Leone, France in February and we played this rad warehouse show. It was our first time there and there were like three hundred and fifty people. That was really good for us. It was put on by a collective called Ground Zero and they had been trying to get us for several years.
KL: If you could pick one musician or band to tour or play a show with, who would it be?
KL: Yeah, anyone. Unless they’re dead.
DJ: I think I would pick Prince.
DJ: I saw him in Baltimore at this concert for Freddie Gray earlier this summer and it was the best show I’d ever seen. He played all of his hits. I think it would be my fantasy to tour with him – not necessarily with Dope Body, but just in general. I think he’s amazing. But on a realistic level, it would be really cool to tour with Deerhoof. There are tons of bands we’d love to tour with though. We’re great friends with Future Islands, they would be a blast.
KL: They could play with Prince.
DJ: Totally. We love playing with bands from different styles, too. Between the four of us, we don’t really listen to much heavy music. We’re aware of bands that people liken us to but when we’re hanging out we’re listening to ambient music or instrumental hip-hop or wherever.
KL: How do your influences come together into your band’s sound then?
DJ: That’s a tough question. We can all get together and make something from nothing. We can jam and see what happens. It always winds up being real heavy but we’re influenced by lots of stuff. We’re all very influenced by every day Baltimore life, for example.
KL: Has the recent unrest in Baltimore had an influence on you guys?
DJ: Maybe on a subconscious level. I think the protests are a good thing. The police brutality had been going on for so long but now it’s finally starting to get noticed. That’s a really dark aspect of society, and being that, in a way, you could say it has influenced us.
Earlier this month, Dope Body released Old Grey, which will appear on Kunk. In this track, high-pitched squeaks and wobbly squeals can be heard with a dancey beat underneath, creating an interesting soundscape. The best way I can describe it to someone deaf would be as a soundtrack for a factory specialized in manufacturing those odd cymbal-banging monkey toys. Andrew comes in on vocals, and rides the groove, sing-speaking somewhat indecipherably. Knowing beforehand that much of the material from Kunk came from jamming, it kind of makes sense. Much of the album feels very spontaneous, and the songs flow into each other without much pause in between. Most of the songs on Kunk are just as noisy as Old Grey. If you’re not a fan of high-pitched sounds, this might not be the record for you. Although abrasive and spontaneous, the record does have a good flow to it, thanks to the distinct differences between tracks on this album. Dope Body change pace several times – for instance, they get pretty damn hectic on Ash Toke and slow down immediately after for Down. If you’re new to this kind of music but familiar with jam-rock like The Grateful Dead or Phish, think of this as their noisier cousin. No matter your affinity for the style here, it’s hard to argue that Dope Body didn’t make an interesting record. Grab some of your neighbourhood kunks, bring ‘em over and rock out to this badboy.
Kunk will officially be released on August 28th, 2015. Click here for more info.