If not for one performance in the muck-soaked basement of a Baltimore rowhome known as the Natural History Museum by those who own and regularly trash the place, Dope Body would’ve remained a nameless, one-off sludgepunk indulgence for band founders David Jacober, Andrew Laumann and Zachary Utz. Luckily, there was the mud.
“That basement was gross and moldy, and there’s no sunlight down there, ever—just these Christmas lights strung to the ceiling,” says Jacober, while fighting the flu from Baltimore. “And this great thing happens every time there’s a rock band there: People start sweating, and beer gets spilled, and the floor is so dirty and dusty that soon it becomes this wet, disgusting mud that covers everything and everybody. It’s great. The better the band is, the grosser the show is.”
Dope Body’s first and almost last set at Natural History Museum proved so savagely grody that yelper/frontman Laumann felt he had no choice but to move back to Baltimore from California and keep the project alive. Thus a band was born.
On Tuesday Dope Body will release its sophomore LP and Drag City debut, Natural History. Named for the scummy cellar that bore it, Dope Body’s ballsy, brutish clutch of headbangers is appropriately reverent of the physical and musical sludge that inspired the band to start rocking the sweat out of anyone brave enough to get near. CMJ called up Jacober for some details about the old days, giving the couch-ridden drummer and occasional Dan Deacon ensemble member a break from his Hemingway.
How are you, David?
Kind of crappy. I’m at home sick. It’s pretty crazy. I haven’t had the flu since 10th grade or something. It happens, I guess. I should’ve gotten a flu shot. I don’t usually, but this is making me wish I did.
Sorry to hear that. How are you passing the time?
Pretty much just taking a shitload of NyQuil and sleeping all day. And reading a bit—Snows Of Kilimanjaro And Other Stories by Hemingway. I sort of just started, but it’s already awesome.
You’re about to release Natural History, which is named after the cellar space where Dope Body started. Do you ever get to play basement shows anymore?
Yeah, totally. I can’t remember the last really gross basement show we played, but I think it was last summer where we were on tour with Hume. I can barely remember what city it was, but it was the same kind of thing as Natural History. It was actually the biggest sweat puddle I’d ever seen at this show. It was somewhere in the South, and it was…disgusting. We played kind of late, and there had been so many bands that played there at that point that the floor was just completely covered in sweat—like, literally, puddles.
Very much gross. It’s kind of funny, too, ’cause I keep waking up from NyQuil covered in sweat. Having a few flashbacks [laughs].
Do you prefer grosser, more intimate shows like that?
For sure, I mean the more intimate the setting the more we and the audience can give to each other. When we play in the basement we play a little more aggressively. We want to go harder because it brings us back to our roots, and it’s always a proving ground kind of thing. It’s just like, “Fuck it. We know we’re not gonna get any money. We might as well just shred it for these people, and hopefully they’ll have a great time and get sweaty.”
Was it hard recapturing that intimate basement vibe on the album?
No, I don’t think it was hard because we played those songs in so many different places we kind of just had ‘em down. We recorded it live, also. We did some overdubs, but all the initial takes were all done at the same time together in the studio. I think it was the best way to go. We also had a bassist this time. When we did [our first album] Nupping we didn’t have a fourth person so Zach had to do all the guitar and bass, so there’s less synergy there. This time Zach was more freed up, and he brought all kinds of weird sounds and loops to the table.
How’d you meet John [Jones], your bassist?
We met him through mutual friends living in Baltimore. He’s been one of our best friends for three or four years, and he offered to play bass for us before we needed him. When our last bassist told us he couldn’t go on tour it was only like 10 days before our first gig. So we taught John all the bass lines in like a week, and he came out with us. He got ‘em down right away, at least to the point where it was better than touring without a bassist.
Baltimore seems pretty influential to your music. Is there a big punk/noise scene there?
Kind of, yeah. Baltimore is kind of infamous for having an instrumental scene, especially with the West Side. The noise just sort of seeps into your consciousness unknowingly. For us, seeing DJ Dog Dick’s performances and seeing so many show at this venue on the West Side called the Bank has just been really influential. The noise thing really blew our minds. I think it’s just inevitable. The scene in Baltimore is small. There’s a lot of different scenes but not that many people, so you make one kind of music and you might be friends with someone who makes a totally different kind of music or noise, so you get these really diverse bills.
Do you know the members of Beach House?
Yeah, we see all those people at the bar. We’ll see Beach House out at shows, and everyone’s pretty respectful of other people’s stuff. We’ve seen ‘em at shows we’ve played at. They’re just people like everyone else. I mean, they’re famous, but they’re around. It’s actually really cool.