Dentist’s Emily Bornemann on breaking the surf rock, and Jersey, mold

You wouldn’t ask Emily Bornemann, vocalist and bassist in the Shore-based surf punk band Dentist, about Bruce Springsteen. You’re from Jersey. You understand that when you leave the Garden State and mention you’re from here, you’re liable to get a bunch of questions about whatever people’s first perception of Jersey is, like you’re playing a word association game in a funhouse mirror maze. Whether that’s The Sopranos or a certain MTV show, or the Newark Airport, or nothing particularly notable except it’s said in a cringe Jersey accent that doesn’t even exist.

Or, Springsteen. Particularly if you’re in a band.

“When we are out on tour, and we say we are from New  Jersey, most of the time people say, ‘Oh, do you like Bruce Springsteen?’ or ‘You must be so inspired by Bruce Springsteen,” says Bornemann. “I mean Bruce Springsteen is great, but tomatoes and apples are two different things. It’s funny how no matter where you go in the country, people are like, ‘You’re from New Jersey; Bruce Springsteen.’ Just because you’re from New Jersey doesn’t mean you are automatically musically inspired by him.”

One listen to Dentist, and you’ll hear that the band was musically inspired by bands far away from the Garden State. With Dentist, you will  hear more LA and Long Beach vibes than Asbury or New Brunswick. (And we’re perfectly fine with that.) 

Her bandmate and now husband, Justinn Bornemann (guitar), introduced Emily to bands like Wavves, Mrs. Magician, Best Coast and the rest was history. 

“I fell in love with the sound that Wavves and Mrs. Magician had. The music spoke to me and I know I wanted to do that sound,” says Bornemann. “It was love at first listen. I was like, this music exists and how have I not heard it before? I wanted to bring it to the East Coast.”

Even though Bornemann grew up in Ocean County, her environs couldn’t have felt farther from the beach. Bornemann grew up in Manchester Township, in an area of Jersey surrounded by woods and military bases. 

“I spent a lot of time out in the woods,” says Bornemann. “There was no music scene that I was aware of out there, so I had to start traveling north for that. I was a church kid growing up, and the first shows I would go to were Christian ska shows. When I got older, I would go to the Stone Pony every weekend and see whatever band was playing and it didn’t matter who it was. That is how I discovered bands like Pinback.”

Fast forward a decade or two, and Dentist has played numerous shows at Asbury Park including one on March 5 at the Asbury Yacht Club. For Bornemann, this is a chance to show off singles that the band released in 2021. One of those songs is “Spilled Coffee,” which was inspired by Interpol. 

“Musically, I was very inspired by Interpol,” says Bornemann. “I was glad that I could find a song that I can bring that element in and still have it sound like Dentist. The song itself is about someone publicly humiliating you and it makes you feel not sort of great. It’s sort of like if you spill your morning coffee, it sucks.”

Dentist returned to their surf rock sound with “Let Me Let Go,” a song that was inspired by bands like Day Wave, The Drums and Beach Fossils. 

“Their music has a driving force, and I liked how the bass and guitar play together and have these singular notes that sound really cool,” says Bornemann.

Another single that Dentist released in 2021 was “Don’t Let Me Catch You,” for which Bornemann says she had a killer time making the music video.

“I got to murder some people,” says Bornemann. “I was also three months pregnant when we did that music video. The song title isn’t about murder, but we decided to do a serial killer type of music video. We got these animal masks, and my dad dug a hole in his backyard. The video kind of just came together like that.”

Dentist has also been busy recording their fourth LP.  Their last LP Night Swimming was released in 2018. 

“When I was writing Night Swimming, I was dealing with a lot of anxiety,” says Bornemann. “So there’s a lot of that in the record. Every album we try to do an acoustic song as well, and we included that as well. “

With the next LP, which is set to be released later this year, Dentist will move in a heavier direction with their music. 

“In the new record, there will be more heavier songs as well,” said Bornemann. “It’s super fun to play those types of songs live and rock out. It’s definitely our most polished record, and we recorded it at Lakehouse Studios in Asbury Park. It has that Dentist vibe, but it sounds cleaner. I usually like to use a lot of reverb on my vocals and for this upcoming album there will be less of that. This album pushed me out of my comfort zone, and I’m very excited about this album.”

Playing live shows is something that Bornemann has missed doing over the past couple of years, and she views playing live as therapeutic. 

“I was losing my mind not playing shows,” said Bornemann. “It was absolutely horrible, and I need that release of going on stage and spilling my guts and dancing around. I would do that in my living room, but it’s not the same.”

Dentist will be playing Asbury Yacht Club on March 5 with Lightheaded. More information can be found here.