Dr. Pants is not a novelty act. Yes, a ballad dedicated to the genius of John Cusack and a funky mantra titled "Kenny Loggins" form the backbone of band's "The Cusack-Loggins" EP, but the album is bookended with the bellowing rocker "It All Depends" and a guitar-slinging instrumental named "Sweet Natasha," neither of which possess even a whiff of novelty.
So what is Dr. Pants?
According to front man David Broyles, the Oklahoma City act falls much closer to Camper Van Beethoven than "Weird Al" Yankovic. Just because songs are fun doesn't mean the band should be casually dismissed.
"Are They Might Be Giants a novelty band?" Broyles said. "They have songs that are humorous and entertaining, but the songcraft is solid. You can't deny they are great songwriters. I want to make music that is fun, and I don't think that makes it novelty music. There are humorous elements to all kinds of music, even The Beatles " they had songs that were funny, odd and off-kilter."
Writing music that often veers into absurdity gives the band more creative license, Broyles said, allowing the group a chance to explore ideas that would be otherwise ridiculous or even unnerving.
"It would be creepy if (Broyles) just made a song about John Cusack that was really serious," drummer Dustin Ragland said.
By being patently absurd, Broyles is able to sneak in some sincerity.
"I think John Cusack is fantastic," he said. "He was an actor who played characters that, while I was in my early teens, I could relate to on a really personal level."
SINGLE HUMOROUS SONG
Broyles admits that he has put some thought into the possibility that a single humorous song might actually take off, further labeling the band as a purely humor-based group. He's not particularly worried about it, as long as it allows the band to continue making music.
"I don't want to put any limits on what I write," he said. "If it helps the band to continue to exist and do things, then I am really OK with that. I'd rather that happen then I try to hide those songs from the world and this all falls apart so there is no longer any Dr. Pants."
The band has been a shifting concept since Broyles founded the group in 1999. In the past two years, it began solidifying into a collaborative unit. Ragland said he was initially hesitant because of Broyles' bizarre songwriting subject matter.
"But then we worked on songs like 'Sweet Natasha,' where he was making power-pop ballads and thinking out really complex arrangements," Ragland said. "That's what changed it around for me. He knew what he was doing, and we weren't just making songs for Dr. Demento."
However, Broyles is quick to defend Dr. Demento, who introduced him to the music of Frank Zappa and Cake " bands that weren't just novelty acts, but whose musical delivery fit in with the show even when the subject matter was more substantial.
"Humor is the only emotion that has the stigma of being called a 'novelty,'" Broyles said. "But humor and laughter are just as much as valid emotions as being sad, angry, heartbroken, whatever." "Charles Martin