David Broyles’ Nerd Rock Project Undergoes a Pantsformation

Dr. Pants (Full Electric Band)
ACM Faculty Concert Series
8 PM Wednesday, April 30 2016
ACM@UCO Performance Lab

“I’m probably not going to do it quite like this for a while,” David Broyles said regarding his upcoming Dr. Pants faculty concert. “I feel like the students should get a picture of the full-on thing that I did.”

With four albums and well over a decade of hard work, Broyles transformed his once lo-fi singer-songwriter project into a full-fledged rock band. Dr. Pants became a unique staple of the Oklahoma music scene while reaching fans far and wide over the Internet thanks to the rise of social media in the 2000s. The four-piece even nabbed a few TV soundtrack features at its height. It has been a while, however, since the band hit a major venue to preach the gospel of Kenny Loggins or throw donuts into a clamoring crowd.

“[Being a parent] has generally diminished the overall amount of music that happens, both in terms of what is performed and what is composed,” Broyles said.

The David Broyles of 2016 is a dedicated husband and father of two, and he pursues a graduate degree in music composition when he isn’t teaching his own music theory and songwriting courses at ACM@UCO. Changes have happened within the band, too. Since 2012’s The Trip, Dr. Pants’ last major album, gigs have become harder to coordinate because of members’ individual obligations and life situations. This made poorly attended shows especially disheartening.

In short, the Pants no longer fit, but Broyles found a solution—add elasticity. After much consideration, he recently decided to revamp Dr. Pants as an acoustic rock band.

“I think it really opens up options in terms of what can be accomplished rather than limiting them,” Broyles said. “I also am drawn to it because acoustic acts seem to be able to play more all ages shows/venues and start their sets at more reasonable times.”

The first Dr. Pants acoustic show at Full Circle Bookstore validated these points. It started at 7:30 PM on a Saturday and took place in the store’s cafe area, circumstances that would be unthinkable for a fully electric rock band. This also enabled many of the group’s fans to attend, many of whom have parental responsibilities of their own. “It was a full room. They had to bring in more chairs,” Broyles said.

The new lineup incorporates acoustic guitars and hand drums, but it retains Dr. Pants’ signature groove. Familiar episodes about a mad scientist’s dating life or voicemail messages from Chewbacca still excite audience members. Some riff-focused guitar jams in the repertoire do lose some of their power, but on the flipside, many of Broyles’ more heartfelt (and overlooked) songs are at home in the new style.

The latter will be a nice change for a band often written off as a novelty act. In a dive bar setting, attendees are more likely to perk up at goofy pop culture references than abstracted life observations. It’s not too surprising, then, that Dr. Pants is often known as the band that raps about donuts. Acoustic shows will likely bring out more open-minded, attentive listeners. Broyles doesn’t want to downplay the fun reputation of his band, but perhaps with the new lineup, his work will be seen as less one-dimensional.

This is all potentially good news for out-of-state fans, too. While discussing his large presence on social media, Broyles said, “It sometimes frustrates me as a musician because most of those people outside of Oklahoma who do care have been waiting seven or eight years for me to come play for them.” With the new iteration of Dr. Pants, traveling is a more plausible prospect than before. There are no plans for a tour yet, but it’s on Broyles’ mind. “It’s easier to fit the gear in a minivan and still have room for the people,” he said.

Broyles isn’t necessarily closing the chapter on being an electric act, as his upcoming faculty concert indicates. “I just will not be pursuing those gigs,” Broyles said. “If a gig should arise that the full electric version of Dr. Pants needs to play, the full electric version of Dr. Pants will emerge to play it.”

For now, though, Broyles is tasked with fine-tuning his newly devised acoustic lineup and seeking out new places to play. There may be a difficulty curve with landing venues, as Dr. Pants is now harder to categorize than ever, but that’s a status to which Broyles is no stranger.

“The Oklahoma music scene has always felt like a strange place to be,” he said. “We’ve never fit in, but then it’s not a project that tries to fit in.”

This article was derived in part from an experimental interview using a choose-your-own-destiny structure, which you can read here. In this interview, David Broyles also discusses his music recently being featured in a Dr. Who documentary, debates how his compositional studies may affect Dr. Pants in the future, and ponders the prospect of losing all of his memories.

This article was originally written for Cellar Door Music Group (cellardoormusicgroup.com). It is archived here with the publisher’s permission.

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aka Jarvix, the Chief Executive Weirdo of Make Oklahoma Weirder. His out-of-the-box music coverage has been published by the Oklahoma Gazette, KOSU, and The Oklahoman among others. He also makes DIY music as a solo multi-instrumentalist live looper in his spare time.

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