"At the last show we brought in goat skulls from [a party supply store] and painted pentagrams on them. We ran gauntlets and wore black metal shirts. I'm guessing that's why we've never been asked back to the Funky Buddha Lounge," Simone Puleo, singer and rhythm guitarist for Dr. Martino, explains.
Puleo walks through the door of my apartment with Paul Mc Bride, the bassist for the band and heads immediately for the back porch. The band mates both have long hair and fidget with their respective packs of cigarettes. A sense of solidarity between the two is apparent, which could very well be from years of playing together, Dr. Martino is just one of the mutations on their musical journey.
Puleo continues, "But for this show," he stops to question the legitimacy of the interview, "is this on the record?"
Puleo seems to hold his cards close to his chest, choosing his words carefully. A post graduate student studying literature, he also plays in indie folk duo Amy and Sim. He seems to consistently pause throughout his dictations to find the most effective word, and he typically does, as if professing on theory.
After showing him that the device sitting on the ground between us is actively recording, he nods his head and submits to finishing his thought, "We have inflatables for this show. A big banana," Puleo admits without hinting whether he's changed the direction of his story based on it being recorded.
McBride speaks up, "There's a bear that we are going to fill with party favors, only it's going to be like, lozenges and store brand candy," a broad smile occupies his face, "the shit nobody wants. Sugar free Werther's."
The two of them both seem to be pretty tickled by this idea, but it is exactly the aesthetic Dr. Martino represents: an oddball collection of sounds and influences played by musicians who know their instruments well, all in one weird and sometimes peculiarly dressed up package. Puleo and McBride describe the tomfoolery involved in their shows as if discussing the measurements for some deranged anatomical monster they've been piecing together in a lab.
After describing the last details they've come up with so far for their album release party for Right to Work this Saturday, June 1, at Propaganda in Lake Worth, a short lived sense of disappointment comes over Puleo's face.
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"We were working on getting a clown. We had our hearts set on this 'adult party' clown, but our schedules conflicted," though conflicting schedules haven't stopped the band from searching. "We've got a Lake Worth clown lined up. We'd like to get some face painting going."
"Terrible face painting, though," McBride follows up. "Just smeared nonsense, like everyone walking around looking like a Juggalo."
McBride, who also plays with Suns of the Morning Star, seems less hesitant to think before he speaks, but his word choices come out naturally, as though he wears his vision on the tip of his tongue and can readily describe it to you, without misstep, at a moment's notice.
While Dr. Martino, as a band, strives to keep humor and fun at the forefront of their values, the hullabaloo and strange attire are far from a distraction from the music they make. McBride and Puleo have both been playing their respective instruments for over ten years and started their first metal band in high school. In fact, most of the members of Dr. Martino have been playing together for years, just under different aliases.
For instance, the last incarnation of the band was Bladesong and before that was the Phalanx, two outfits that played often in the South Florida metal scene. After so many years of metal, which often carries a propensity for technicality, the guys seem satisfied to take a break from what's become the norm for them.
"With metal, technicality is in abundance. Our sound wave was literally (he shapes his hands to form what looks like Pac Man's open mouth) and we still carry that punch. It's just that the technicality can become kind of a headache when you're just trying to jam out." Puleo explains. "But I have no grudges with metal, this is just something different."
The band's dedication to the technical aspects are alive and well, though evolving in ways many true musicians are moving these days.
"Jason Hestor, who's become a friend of ours, recorded the album we are celebrating on Saturday, but more than that, he just built Paul this custom pedal," Puleo rants as that smile returns to McBride's face, "and he does that under the name Rancho Molino."
The bassist interjects, "It makes this bassy distortion fuzz sound -- that 1960s Portoflex sound," but he goes on to explain why pedals can be so crucial to a player's perspective as well. "If you think about it, a painter doesn't just use the same brush or color pallet to express their vision, so why wouldn't a musician want to test out pedals to adjust their sound?"
Puleo backs McBride diving a bit deeper into the band as an example of effects on sound.
"It really just depends on what you're trying to do. Our other guitarist, Mike, has a more technical sound. He uses an Axe-FX, which seems like one of the most versatile options if you're going to go with store bought over custom made. The processor lends to a more digital sound," Puleo verses, "as opposed to my sound which is a bit warmer because I am doing rhythm."
Puleo just sold his Marshall half stack back to one of the big music gear retailers in exchange for a smaller combination tube amplifier.
"When I got to the store to make the switch, the guys working there were going on about how they have a lineup of about twenty half stacks just recently returned. I think musicians are getting smart to the idea that it isn't so much how big you can get your sound, but how unique can you make it."
And Puleo, who now uses a Vox AC30 tube, seems to have a point where McBride is concerned. "I mean, if you have the right pedals, you can drive your sound in the direction you want no matter how big your amp is or what it's capable of. Plus, it's a lot more portable."
"At this point in music, innovation is really the name of the game." Puleo adds, but McBride seems to feel the need to make a more exact point.
"It's not like playing a clean sound is boring. It can be really satisfying and I could never get tired of it, but I think the difference is more of an exploratory mindset. The human condition is equipped with a never-ending quest for knowledge. How can you know if you don't explore your options?"
And with that, the metal turned freak-folk dudes with a band name that pays homage to William Faulkner seem to retreat into an introspective mode.
"Nothing really means anything. Our band's name has nothing to do with the music we make, and I think it is the satirical randomness of it all, if nothing else, that really represents us," McBride muses. "Who cares what it all means. Experience the sound and have a good time."
Dr. Martino album release party with Kocosante, Pretty Girls, Manifest Test Subject, Mylo Ranger. Saturday, June 1, at Propaganda, 6 S. J St., Lake Worth. Entrance is $5. Visit propagandalw.com.
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