Timisarocker defies the rock genre and creates space for others to follow suit

Photos by Emily Winters

As a young punk growing up in Atlanta, Tim Dooley knew in his bones that he would one day be a star. “I never knew where it came from, but it’s just always been there,” he says. “I told my family and friends back home: ‘I’m gonna be somebody someday, you’ll just wait and see!’”

As I’m chatting with Tim and guitarist Matt Lentz—two of the four members of the band Timisarocker—on a sunny afternoon at Caydence Records & Coffee, it’s immediately clear that Tim has natural star power flowing in his veins. Casually dressed head-to-toe in black and gold, complete with gold glitter dusted onto his cheekbones, he wears his stiletto-heeled boots more naturally than I ever could. 

Which makes sense—in addition to being the lead singer of Timisarocker, Tim also regularly performs drag. And officiates weddings as an ordained minister. And has his own podcast called “Bring Back My Girls!” about RuPaul’s Drag Race. On top of that, he and his band have spearheaded a movement to bring visibility to his fellow black rockers with a concert series called Black Rock Matters. 

“I’m always tired; I need to sit down and slow down,” he says. “Being a kid, I was always told, ‘You’re doing way too much right now. I need you to take a chill pill and relax. You don’t have to scream all the time.’ My affectation was always going ‘rock on!’ with the rock symbol.”

The name Timisarocker came from Tim’s mother. Around the age of 12, when he first discovered rock music—crediting early 2000s bands like Disturbed, All-American Rejects, and System of a Down as his gateway—his sister came home from college. With a rightful claim to the front seat for the first time since she’d left for school, he had full run of the car radio. “I was listening to rock music, and she asked: ‘What’s going on? Why is he listening to this?’” he says. “And my mom said, ‘Didn’t you know that Tim is a rocker?’”

Ever since that fateful day, Tim’s been performing both solo and in bands as Timisarocker, carrying the name with him from Georgia to Minnesota when he moved to attend McNally Smith College of Music. The current, most successful iteration of the band came together about two-and-a-half years ago at McNally: Tim as the lead singer, Matt Lentz as lead guitarist, Dylan Dykstra on bass, and Zach Eyl on the drums.

Tim Dooley at Caydence Records // Photo by Emily Winters

 Timisarocker has a sound that’s near impossible to define, but that’s sort of the point. Tim’s go-to description of their music is “pop that’s punk, but not pop-punk.” Though their original inspirations largely drew from subversive punk rock, Tim says they’ve been veering more into the sounds of ’80s rock as of late, although they have no intention of sticking with any one style.

“It’s never anything that’s specifically a type of rock—it’s just kind of whatever feels good to play,” says Tim. “It’s very melodic, nothing to the standard of anything. I wouldn’t say it’s ‘genre-less,’ but it’s just some kind of rock. It’s always different.”

What is consistent is the band’s high-octane live performances, sometimes so off-the-wall that they border on delightfully absurd. “A lot of the other forms of art, there are a lot of unspoken rules on how you’re supposed to do things,” says Tim. “But for Timisarocker, we do whatever we want, and that’s where the magic comes in. We get a little scary sometimes.”

Matt and Tim describe one memorable show at the Triple Rock where Matt requested that Tim “baby bird” him an apple while Matt shredded his guitar solo. “I just wanted him to baby bird it onto my face while I’m soloing, so the audience is just disgusted, but they’re also getting their face melted,” says Matt. 

Tim says that most of their antics are spur-of-the-moment decisions, but every so often things will reappear—including one signature move that he refuses to reveal. “You have to come see it,” he insists, enticingly adding: “It looks like it hurts, but it doesn’t.”

“That’s our band’s catchphrase,” Matt jokes.

“I like that—‘it looks like it hurts but it doesn’t.’ But sometimes it does,” Tim says. “There are some things that I’ve repeated, but for the most part it’s very off the cuff. Then we look back like, ‘That was a good thing we did. Let’s do it again.’”

“Most of the time,” adds Matt, “it’s ‘let’s never do that again.’”

Part rock ’n’ roll, part performance art, Timisarocker has gained notoriety around town with their oddly themed shows, such as a performance in 2017 at the Nomad themed around Dr. Seuss’ “Green Eggs & Ham.” Meaning, attendees could literally get green eggs and ham at the show. 

“I think it comes a lot from thinking that I’m in a sitcom all the time,” Tim says of his eccentric ideas. “It’s always inspired by randomness. I’ll see something on television, or I’ll see a joke written, a meme, and it’s like, ‘I could put that into a show!’ People will come—if you build it, they will come. It’s that kind of mentality that I’m inspired from.”

“So you’re saying you’re inspired by Noah’s Ark?” I ask.

“Exactly,” he laughs. “Come out to the next show at sea.”

Tim Dooley // Photo by Emily Winters

The band’s most poignant live concept to date, Black Rock Matters, was pitched by Tim after his “green eggs and ham” concept was turned down by Turf Club. Although it was an idea that he’d been kicking around for a themed show, he says he never would’ve predicted the response that’s since come from it. Existing as a black, queer musician in a rock band, Tim simply wanted to provide a stage for others like himself to rock out and feel represented.

“It’s something that is really accepted, and it’s one of those things where people realize without realizing, ‘I didn’t know I needed this in my life right now,’” he says. “Honestly I never knew it would be something that would be this important. I’m aware of the importance, but I never went into this thinking, ‘We’re gonna make change!’ I still don’t think that way, because we’re still itty bitty.”

The first Black Rock Matters show back in February was greeted with a massive snowstorm, but that didn’t stop the fans from getting to the Turf. “Each group had their own individual fanbase that came to support them,” says Tim. “But seeing other groups and recognizing that, even though these are all different forms of rock, it’s all coming from these amazing artists who just also happen to be black.”

The next show will be Black Rock Matters: Queer Edition, taking place June 19 at the Turf Club and featuring Kasano & the Vybes, Seaburg & the Black Velvet Punks, Hard Looks, and of course, Timisarocker. 

Though he says he wasn’t aware of its magnitude at the time, Tim has effectively opened up a space for musicians like himself who defy a prescribed status quo. “As a black person, and as a queer person, when it comes to doing music, I can only speak for myself,” he says. “I’ve never wanted to make a big identity thing when it comes to music. I’ve always just wanted to play; I’ve always just wanted to sing. I’ve never thought that specifically pointing out these identities that I have or the genre of music that I want to play should be dictated based on how I look.”

Simply by refusing to conform to preconceived notions of his myriad identities, Tim has inadvertently become the driving force of a local movement. Though he never expected to find himself in such a position, he says he’s happy to shine a light on others like him for the good of the music and the community.

“There are so many people out there who not only identify as queer, but live every day as a black person who just also happen to enjoy rock music, or perform rock music, or like hip-hop and rock,” he says. “Whatever skin color, whatever orientation you live by, it doesn’t matter. Because it’s about music, it’s about rock.”

In the final minutes of our interview, I wonder if, as a little punk growing up in the South, Tim could’ve ever predicted that this is where he’d end up—the lead singer of a “pop that’s punk but not pop-punk” band, a drag performer, a minister, a podcaster, and the de facto leader of a cultural movement. 

“If I look back and tell Little Tim that you’re gonna be all these different things, I would look forward to it, or start sooner,” he says. “Because I’m having the time of my life with all this. So no, I wouldn’t expect to be doing all this, but I’m pretty happy doing it.” 

Catch Timisarocker performing at the 2019 Twin Cities Pride Festival at 4pm, Sunday, June 23, on the P2P Stage in Loring Park.