Ride the Wild Surf

Though serious musicians, Cincinnati new-comers make decidedly not serious music

Feb 21, 2012 at 3:34 pm


ive surf-rockers, two go-go dancers and a guy in a gorilla suit walk into a bar … 

That’s either the weirdest setup for a joke ever or it means that Cincinnati’s only Surf Rock band, Doctor Bombay and the Atomic Bachelor Pad, has arrived. 

The members of the quintet (El Rey on lead vocals and guitar, Jens on guitar, Beej on bass, Holden Fury on keyboard and Donny Dirtball on drums) have one singular goal for the project — to have fun while writing music. 

“We wanted to bring something new to the area and have fun with it,” El Rey says. 

The fun and fresh sound of Doctor Bombay started as vintage-style Surf Rock, but quickly began to mutate due to the infusion of other genres. 

“It started off a little more traditional, but that was very short-lived because the Punk roots just come out,” El Rey says.

The band adds a little bit of everything into the mix. When was the last time you heard a Surf Rock band go into a Metalcore breakdown? Attend a Doctor Bombay show and you can be a part of that confusingly awesome occurrence. 

“All I know is that we’ve managed to have the first three Surf pits ever in the history of music,” Dirtball says. (If you’re a little scared or confused, don’t worry — El Rey announces the breakdown so you can be prepared for the ensuing mosh pit.)

Spawned from the minds of El Rey and Dirtball after leaving their former band, the group is a collection of serious musicians writing and performing decidedly not-serious music. Instead of ballads to lost loves, the Doctors write songs about TSA agents getting off on X-ray scans; not a typical lyrical inspiration, to be sure. 

“Too many bands are serious; it’s a break from the norm to sing fun stuff,” Beej says.

While the lyrics may not be dealing with life’s most important issues, the musicians aren’t flippant about crafting the music. For Doctor Bombay and the Atomic Bachelor Pad, the music comes first and the lyrics are just an (often hilarious) add-on. 

Jens wrote many of the early songs, but most of the members are songwriters in their own right. With so many creative juices flowing, one little spark of inspiration can take a song in an unanticipated and exciting direction. 

“It starts with a minute amount of riffage and it just starts mutating and screwing off,” Dirtball says of the writing process.

Besides the capricious musical wildness, the other big part of Doctor Bombay’s appeal is its live show. A brand new Surf band flanked by two go-go dancers (dubbed the Cocktail Kittens) could very well have been received like a patient receives unsettling STD results. But after several high-profile shows, it seems that Doctor Bombay is a pill that music fans are more than willing to swallow.

In a short amount of time, Doctor Bombay’s memorable live presence has made the band a true force in Greater Cincinnati’s music scene, even with such an unconventional sound. 

“If there was a question of us being well-received or not, that show at Southgate House (opening for Koffin Kats) was just tits. The first break we took, it just felt electric — it felt the way it should. That was a defining moment,” El Rey says. 

Even members of the band were surprised at the reception to Doctor Bombay and the Atomic Bachelor Pad’s early shows. Before joining, Beej went to see a performance. He had his doubts. 

“I was kind of a skeptic at first, but at the end, I thought ‘This is rad,’ ” 

Beej confesses.

Doctor Bombay has won over many fans in the same devious yet ingenious way. The fun and energy of the songs and stage show are infectious. The only cure? More Doctor Bombay shows.

The members of the band don’t believe they’ll ever be able to make a career out of Doctor Bombay, and they seem just fine with that. It just means they can enjoy the ride for all it’s worth. Knowing it’s unlikely the band will reach the point where they’re all able to quit their “day jobs,” the members are certain it will always be a blast to play with each other because, as Dirtball says, “it’ll never be work.”

While they’re on the ride, they intend to have one hell of a journey with each other. Interviewing the members of Doctor Bombay is punctuated by frequent interruptions — long, sprawling bouts of in-jokes; conversations about living in Clermont County; concocting a scheme to craft back-stories for band members not in attendance. Apparently photo shoots take several hours for much the same reason. (El Rey’s family dog may never be the same after the ones taken for this piece.)

When they debuted, few knew how to react to Doctor Bombay and the Atomic Bachelor Pad. A luchador-masked frontman flanked by four other musicians, two go-go dancers and a guy in a gorilla suit, playing Surf songs about women’s dirty feet? That’s bound to raise the eyebrows of even the most knowledgeable music fan.

But perhaps that is why it works — the band is so thoroughly different that it’s difficult for people to not pay attention. And once Doctor Bombay has you hooked, unless you want to go cold turkey, you’ll be back for regular visits. 

Doctor Bombay clicks with people because they’re a reminder of the weird, quirky, ridiculous and fun parts of life and an escape from the less enjoyable parts. 

Or, as Dirtball so eloquently says, “Fuck your whiny life, surf ’til death.”

Hey, it’s doctor’s orders.

Doctor Bombay and the Atomic Bachelor Pad performs Saturday at The Avenue in Covington with guests Team Void and the Worthmores.