ARTS: Dr. Pants

Written by Nathan Winfrey in the November 2011 Issue

It was a collision of technology, timing, and soda — or so Dr. Pants’ drummer Dustin Ragland explains one of the band’s many offbeat ambitions. The song was "Sarsaparilla Girl" and the video was hoped to be the first in the world shot entirely with the iPhone 4. Local filmmaker Kyle Roberts hatched the idea and corralled the band for an intensive evening of nerd power groove rock under a giant neon pop bottle.

Roberts stayed up all night editing the video then posting it on YouTube. "He’s good at working hard and not sleeping," Dr. Pants frontman David Broyles says. Despite a 48-hour concept-to-done turnaround, the video missed being first on the video-sharing website, but the attempt got the band mentioned in tech blogs and now the 3-minute, 20-second clip is edging toward 60,000 views.

Countless more ears have been exposed to Dr. Pants’ music on shows like "Jersey Shore" and "CBS Sunday Morning," which featured the Dr. Pants song "Donuts," much to the surprise of the band. Broyles got two text messages and an email from keen listeners who spotted the tune.

So how does their music keep popping up on national TV? In 2007, MTV licensed their album, Gardening in a Tornado, for use on any show of their choosing. Later, MTV was purchased by Viacom, which at the time owned CBS. That meant Dr. Pants songs could spring up anywhere on the network. "Of course, we always get our royalties on the back end," Broyles assures.

It’s that type of industry-dealing that’s prepared Broyles for the two music business classes he teaches at UCO’s Academy of Contemporary Music. He says he plans to make some copies of his MTV agreement so his students can thumb through it. Broyles is also the proprietor of Little Weasel Records, which exclusively handles Dr. Pants.

In addition to Broyles and Ragland, Dr. Pants includes Kenneth Murray (guitar) and Devin Donaldson (bass). "We’re really serious about not being serious," Broyles says. "We really have fun. Our shows are fun and our records are fun, and they’re not fun at the expense of real emotion or passion." Some of the more serious songs are about Broyles’ wife or disillusionment, but there’s also a lot of levity in the Dr. Pants catalogue. "Sometimes, I just want to write a stupid song about donuts."

"Dr. Pants offers music that blends fun and whimsy with seriousness and thoughtfulness really well — one can dance and think to our music," Ragland, an Edmondite, says. He joined the band after drumming on Gardening in a Tornado. "The lineage comes from a line of bands that always intersected at places of humor and philosophy, from They Might Be Giants, to Zappa, to Weezer, to Phish, to whoever. Dr. Pants fills a bit of dearth of that kind of music right now."

"There is plenty of room to improvise, and while I try to capture the vision of David’s demos, we are also all encouraged to take them to our own places, especially live," Ragland explains. "I do love very techie and crazy drumming, even when I don’t have the chops to accomplish what I often admire, but I also love and strive for the beauty of simplicity — of a laid back and pocketed groove. Hopefully, I occasionally accomplish this, but it’s tricky!"

Broyles started playing music, under his own name, in the early ’90s. The name "Dr. Pants" didn’t come about until 1999. "I waited until there was more than one person in the band," he says. The band released their debut album, a two-disc set called Feezle Day, in 2000. "I think that most of the seeds of the way we are now, you probably can hear on Feezle Day," he explains. "I think it was weirder then, but there’s still plenty of weird to go around now."

Since that eclectic, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink first album, Dr. Pants has evolved. "All of the different things that we do have just gotten way better. I think there has been a refinement and I feel like I, personally, have gotten better at writing for the band," he says. "Hearing those three guys play the stuff I write so well and do it with care and passion and all that, that’s definitely the best part for me. I’m lucky to have three people who are willing to put in that kind of effort."

Their latest release, The Trip, is being released over time as four, five-song EPs. "We had 20 songs that we thought were album-worthy, but did not want to put out another double-album," Broyles explains. He wanted to find a way for listeners to digest the album without having to approach it all at one time. Two discs of The Trip are already available. The third will be released in December and the fourth in March of 2012.

"Each record has felt like a huge progression for the band, from sonics, to arrangements, to lyrics, to playing," says Ragland. "The Trip continues this, and reflects on the goings on in the world at large, and the inner worlds we have, in such a unique and fun way."

For news and updates on the band, visit www.doctorpants.com.

 

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