Every rock ‘n’ roll band, if they last long enough, faces the question of maturity: Have they matured and, if so, what form has that taken?
Michelle Paulhus, singer-songwriter-bassist for the long-haul Boston-based Dents has an answer for that. “I’m proud of our work from 20 years ago,” she says, “but also glad we have matured and have a little less angst. We were so damn angry back then! I also think we were out to prove that we’re a tough rock band.”
Paulhus says she has a running joke with Jen D’Angora, rhythm guitarist and co-lead singer-songwriter. “When we revisit the songs, we say ‘What the hell were we so angry about and why did we play everything so damn fast?’”
On another, perhaps not-unrelated note, Paulhus adds, “Back then, I really disliked being labeled a ‘girl’ band, I hated when people came up to us and told us we rocked hard for ‘girls.’ If I had a dime for every time I heard ‘Wow, you’re really good for a girl bass player’ I would be a millionaire.”
Technically, the Dents were not then — and are not now — a proper “girl” band. They’re fleshed out by lead guitarist Craig Adams and drummer Kevin Pickering. “The dynamic of male/female doesn’t really come into play at all in this band for me personally,” says Paulhus. “Until it’s time for us to hit the restroom.”
But what the Dents are is back in play. Not to conquer the rock world, mind you. “We’ve all got other lives, day to day,” says D’Angora. “It’s not like we’re gonna drop them. We’re interested in releasing new music in chunks and playing locally.”
Outside music, both women are working professionals. Paulhus is in education publishing and D’Angora is a facilities manager at Tufts University.
“Everybody, when they’re younger, have that dream,” says Paulhus. “We definitely had bigger dreams; now it’s about doing what we love.”
And they’ll be doing it live Friday, July 23, at ONCE Somerville’s new outdoor space at Boynton Yards, a record release showcase for the local label Rum Bar, joined by The Dogmatics, Watts and Stop Calling Me Frank.
D’Angora and Paulhus are both Boston rock scene vets, each having played in a wide range of pre-and-post Dents bands. For Paulhus, that includes The Real Kids, the Street Dogs and the Andrea Gillis Band. For D’Angora, it includes The Downbeat 5 and Jenny Dee and the Deelinquents. They both are in the all-female Band of Their Own group that plays the Red Sox Foundation annual charity gig, Hot Stove Cool Music.
The Dents formed in 2002. Boston singer-guitarist Kenne Highland kept telling D’Angora about this woman who would be like her long-lost rock ‘n’ roll twin sister. “He was saying there was another girl in our scene who had a similar attitude and musical style,” says D’Angora. “I finally saw Michelle play, and I immediately wanted to do anything with her. I was tired of the female stereotypes and stigmas. I wanted to make music to get people revved up, but I wanted them to pay attention to the lyrics.”
Paulus adds, “I think we both wanted to bring a dual female lead vocal band to the table that had some balls. I still feel that way after almost 20 years of playing with her.”
The Dents released a ferocious, hook-laden album, “Time for Biting,” in 2004, and broke up in 2007. Four years later, they re-formed and they’ve been semi-active, but only now have they released an eponymous four-song EP on Rum Bar, which dropped June 16. (The digital download gives you three more bonus tracks.)
“I would classify us at this time as a retro style rock ‘n’ roll band,” says Paulhus. “We’re less concerned about what other people think of us. And we don’t feel the need to play every song at breakneck ‘punk rock’ speed.”
“I think our fundamental goals have stayed the same,” adds D’Angora. “We will always aim to write songs we believe in, perform honestly, with as much perspiration as possible, and work with great people who know how to record our band.” (That would include D’Angora’s husband and veteran record producer Ed Valauskas.)
All of Dents originals are co-writes, but as to the differences between them as songwriters, D’Angora says she leans toward darker, more twisted subjects — “Songwriting is a good release. You disguise it and be clever about it.” She sings lead and wrote lyrics for “Mistreatment” and “Last One Standing.” (That latter song is a remake of a song they originally did with the Street Dogs’ Mike McColgan singing lead.)
Paulhus, who wrote lyrics and sings lead on ”Want It Back,” doesn’t want to call her songs “happy” but “emotional and more simpler themed.”
They also cover Holly Beth Vincent’s 1993 song “Homeless” and swap lead vocals. “‘Homeless’ has always been one of my favorite songs,” says D’Angora. “I’ve always wanted to cover it, but this band — with Craig’s interpretation on guitar, Kevin’s dynamics, Michelle’s deep, breathy tone and heavy bass — this band is the only band I could imagine playing the song with. Thankfully, they all loved it as much as I did. Before we recorded it, we reached out to Holly to get her blessing, and we are so grateful that she likes our version.”
The Dents, like every Boston band, are starting to think about what playing live in a club will be like. “While I'm absolutely thrilled to play with the band in front of actual real people,” D’Angora says, “I have concerns about letting my guard down too soon. My daughter is just about 10 years old, so she's not vaccinated yet. Although it's been reported that the vaccine helps prevent people from getting the virus, it's not a proven fact. I don't want to bring the virus home. But I am really, really excited. So many emotions!”
“I agree with Jen,” says Paulhus. “I hope we can play music safely and there are no further outbreaks. Watching and participating in Zoom shows during the pandemic was a fun distraction but it's simply no substitute for a live experience. I think that goes for the audience as well as the players. I feel pretty safe about it, especially since ours is at the new, outdoor ONCE venue in Boynton Yards. That's going to be exciting for the entire band!”