Some years ago, Zach James, the lead vocalist for the Brooklyn post-punk band Dead Tooth, was in a bicycle accident that damaged the tissues surrounding his front incisor. When this happens, the blood supply to the tooth is often lost, ultimately rendering the pearly-white lifeless (rest in peace).
Some people choose to remedy such a first-world misfortune by capping the cuspid or bleaching it to appear alive and well (a dental-centric spin-off of Weekend at Bernie’s, if you will), but James chooses to embrace the look.
Now, when he smiles or snarls, there’s a mysterious shadow cast over a single tooth like a total solar eclipse. It actually pairs quite well with James’ lanky, anxious persona. Plus, he recently recalled for Variance magazine, “It’s been really fun on tour because someone in every city has a dead tooth and it’s cool to hear the stories.”
After turning his dental inconvenience into a peculiar and endearing distinction, James ultimately revamped the band’s name from The Adventures of the Silver Spaceman to Dead Tooth – a moniker he found more “simple and honest.”
Before Dead Tooth, however, James made an important, precursory connection. He and DIIV guitarist Andrew Bailey became quick friends at the Brooklyn vegan diner where they both worked: often getting stoned on break, exchanging conspiracy theories, and eventually uniting over music. From there, it was a mere matter of time until that natural bond made the two bandmates…and helped cook down Dead Tooth’s sound to the essentials.
This recurring theme of authenticity also aptly sums up the message behind the band’s most recent single “Sporty Boy” – a jive-psych speed-song that sonically sees New Wave breathlessly making love to punk and sometimes hip-hop at the same time.
The single’s quick internal rhymes pile on its assonance like the pig-on-sheep pyre displayed on the cover of Dead Tooth’s 2022 EP Pig Pile. What’s more, “Sporty Boy” plays out like the soundtrack to a nearly successful high-speed chase, made all the more real by its accompanying art – an old-school digital car-stereo display. In the imaginary backseat sits the rest of the rambunctious crew – Taylor Mitchell, James Duncan, John Stanesco, Ginno Tacsiat and Max Idas – with James and Bailey positioned shotgun and behind the wheel, respectively.
When describing the aim for “Sporty Boy,” James recounts, “The song is about running past the haters, fakes, and liars and giving this life meaning and purpose even when it all feels so dim. You gotta strap those boots on and make something out of nothing like a sporty good boy. And most importantly have fun with it! We’re here for a good time, not a long one.”