Night Swimming

Dentist is a three-piece indie pop / surf rock band from Asbury Park, New Jersey featuring the married couple of singer / bass player Emily Bornemann and guitarist Justin Bornemann, along with drummer Matt Hockenjos.  The trio released their third album Night Swimming last year on Cleopatra Records.  I recently got to know them a bit and you can too in the interview below and hear them perform acoustic versions of songs from their album for our latest SubModern Session in the player below.

FMQB:  Tell us how Dentist got together? 
Emily Bornemann:  Justin and I formed this band when we were in another band that was fading out.  So we started Dentist as a side project, mostly just for fun.  We put out a few songs and people liked them, so we were like, "alright, let’s do it full time."  We were a five-piece, and then a four-piece, and now we’re a three-piece with Matt on drums for the past couple years. 

FMQB:  So it’s been addition by subtraction?

Justin Bornemann:  Yeah, we started with as many as possible.  We’ll be down to two soon.  [laughs]

FMQB:  I know that Emily and Justin, you’re married.  Did that precede the band?

JB:  Yes.  Well, we got married while the band was happening, but we were together before that.

EB:  We were engaged when the band started.

FMQB: I imagine it would be a great thing to be working with your significant other all the time, but then also there are probably times when it can be difficult.  What’s the dynamic like and how do you separate what’s the band, and what’s personal life? 
EB:  Since the day we met, we were playing music together, and we weren’t even dating then.  So we don’t really know any other way of life as a couple.  Basically, we really just don’t take anything home.  Everything stays in Matt’s room where we practice.  [laughs]

Matt Hockenjos:  There’s a lot in there!  [laughs]

JB:  That’s in theory what we try to do, but…

FMQB:  And Matt is also a marriage counselor?

MH:  I have to say they really don’t take a lot home.  They get along great.  I think being a three-piece band makes it pretty easy as well to communicate.  Musically, just from my perspective, I think they’re on a pretty similar page.  They like a lot of the same music and they hear things similarly.  I notice that when Justin’s maybe having trouble thinking of where a song should go, Emily can kind of pick up there and say, "what about this."  And vice versa.  If Emily has an idea for a song and we don’t know how to get to the next part, Justin’s great at taking it to that next level as well.  As far as music couples go, they’re awesome and they’re great to work with.   
EB:  Awww, thanks Matt!

FMQB:  It sounds like there’s less of delineation than like, Emily writes the words and Justin writes the music.  It’s more of an overall collaborative effort.
EB: Yeah, pretty much.  I mostly write the words.  Mostly.  But everything else is like 50/50.

FMQB:  A third album can be a defining moment for a band, cause you’ve had a couple under your belt.  What was the significance of album three for you?
EB: The third record was the most thought out.  The first one we kinda just threw together everything we had.   

FMQB:  That’s usually how a first record is.
EB: Yeah.  Then the second record was a little more coherent.  But I feel like with the third one, we grew up a little. 

JB:  It was more thought out, but also done in a very short amount of time too.
FMQB: Being from Asbury Park, the home of Bruce Springsteen, there’s definitely a musical heritage from your town.  So, do you get asked about having a connection with him all the time?

JB: Very frequently.  If we do an interview out of the area it comes up a lot.

FMQB: And it just did again, so… [laughs]  Do you have a fondness [for Bruce] or do you just happen to be from the same town?

EB: I have a lot of respect for him.  Without him, Asbury would’ve died.  Now there’s a resurgence and they’re building everything up.  But during that period where Asbury wasn’t doing so well, there was still music.  That’s what started drawing people back in.   

JB:  He definitely put the name on the map.  Everybody knows Bruce Springsteen and Asbury Park.  We all respect him a lot, but none of us actually listen to his music, aside from songs here and there.  I was really curious about him though and I did actually read his book that came out last year.  He’s a really interesting guy, very interesting story.

FMQB: The other thing that I really wanted to know is why your band is called Dentist, which has a negative connotation to most people.  No one likes to go to the dentist.  Why did you name your band Dentist?

EB: It was funny.   

JB:  When we weren’t taking the band that seriously and it was just a side project, we really didn’t put any thought into it and we just thought it was funny.  I don’t know why.  It’s not that funny.  We weren’t thinking about how it would be when people search for our name on Google and stuff like that.  So, that’s how we got stuck with this name. 

EB: Yeah, stuck with is the way to put it.

Find out more about Dentist at  Listen to their acoustic SubModern Session performances of songs from Night Swimming here.

By Josh T. Landow