When a handful of musicians get together to write new songs, it helps if they have a history. For the members of Lump Dog, history is abundant.
The members were all classmates at T.C. Williams High School in the 1970s — except the bass player. He was their physics teacher.
“He’s got a Ph.D. in Acoustics,” said keyboard player Tom Kemler, from the class of 1975. “That’s why we call him the doctor of sound.”
The old friends and their teacher are now part of a unique musical outfit in Alexandria, a band that writes its own songs and performs to a throng of admiring fans. Since forming in 2003, the five-member band of Alexandrians has written more than 20 songs. And they have an unusually devoted fan base in Del Ray — especially among those younger than 10.
“Our kid fan-base is extensive and loyal,” said Nandan Kenkeremath, the band’s principal songwriter and singer. “And the kids will dance.”
In Del Ray, Lump Dog has quite a following. Parents and children will show up to a gig. But it’s the children who are uninhibited, dancing to the classic-rock-inspired original songs and, when it’s over, screaming for more.
“LUMP DOG” was the high school nickname of Jim Garner, class of 1979, who achieved professional success as a musician in the 1980s. For many years, he was the lead vocalist, bass player and principal songwriter for The Strand, a D.C.-based band who recorded the 1984 album “Seconds Waiting.”
As Lump Dog’s lead guitar player, Garner is excited about the future.
“I coach cross-country track at T.C.,” Garner said. “So the kids are forced to listen to us.”
The middle-aged rockers all have day jobs, but look forward to their weekly practice sessions. They describe their participation in Lump Dog as a form of “music therapy,” allowing them a salutary dose of personal expression.
“We have a brooding, middle-aged angst,” said drummer Bill Kalish. “In some ways, it’s a way for me to show my kids what my life used to be like.”
Kalish also had success as a professional musician in the 1980s, recording with the Dispensers, the Young Caucasians and Revellaires. In 1991, he left the music scene for married life and law school at the University of Hawaii.
ALL OF THE BAND MEMBERS hold jobs as well as devoting time to their music. Hollis Williams, who taught physics at T.C. Williams High School from 1975 to 1987, is now a professor at Trinity College. Kemler, who plays keyboards, runs a software consulting company. Kenkeremath is health counsel to the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Kalish is a lawyer for the Merit Systems Protection Board. Garner is a coach at the high school.
“Our goal is to be the most important band in Alexandria,” Kemler said.
“Or at least the biggest band on the west side,” said Garner, adding that the Del Ray community has already given the band a loyal following. “Del Ray has been great. The community there has given us a start.”
For the rest of the story, follow the dancing children. They appear at most Lump Dog performances — dancing to the infectious grooves and feel-good rhythms of the band’s original songs.
“These guys are like brothers,” Williams said. “And playing music with them is like a dream come true.”