Jess and Suzi
Kelly, Luis and James
22 October 2012
James, Kelly and Luis with Jess (top) and Suzi (bottom)
The Dollyrots were recently in town on the ‘One Big Happy Tour’ with their good friends Patent Pending and Bowling for Soup, and Rock Pulse caught up with them just before their Manchester Academy gig. Vocalist and bassist Kelly Ogden, vocalist and guitarist Luis Cabezas, and drummer James spoke to us about Joan Jett, home baked cookies, and being lifelong losers.
Jess Rock Pulse: First thing’s first - how are you and how’s the tour been going so far?
Kelly: It’s been great. I might be a little snoozie, but only because I took a nap before and I’ve just woken up, so now I just feel a bit weird.
Luis: That happens a lot when you’re touring - you go to sleep and it’s light out, and you wake up and it’s dark. But it’s amazing, we’re having a great time.
Suzi Rock Pulse: How are you finding the UK? How many times have you been here now?
Kelly: We came here in 2010 with Bowling for Soup, and I love it here, it’s really fun, and the crowds are great. So it all seems strangely familiar but still really foreign at the same time. We’ve been here before, in Manchester, I think it might have been the first night of the last tour, actually.
Luis: Yeah, I think I remember this building…
Kelly: I remembered where the dressing room was, once I got inside, but that was it.
Luis: The whole thing just kind of turns into a blur. Jaret called us, however many months ago, and was like, “hey, do you guys want to come back with us?” and we just said, “of course.” We loved it last time, and we felt like we owed it to the people that we played to last time to come back. It was an immediate thing; we didn’t even have to think about it. Any tour we can go on with Bowling for Soup is great - they’re our buddies.
Jess RP: For some of our readers who might be hearing about you for the first time, please could you give us a bit of background info on the band and how you met?
Luis: We’ve known each other since we were twelve.
Kelly: Luis taught me how to play guitar in high school, and I heard he was starting a band and I begged him to be in it. Now, this is four albums later! We moved to L.A., and we’ve been touring pretty much solidly for the last six years.
Luis: Six years? Maybe seven years? I don’t even know anymore.
Kelly: I don’t know… what year is it?!
Luis: I think we started touring in 2004, so that’s eight years.
Kelly: Oh, man. Really?
Luis: Then we met up with BFS in 2009 and since then we’ve done several tours with them.
Jess RP: So was the move to L.A. purely because of the music?
Kelly: Yeah. We graduated from school and we decided to move from Florida to California. The big plan was we were going to establish residency then Luis was going to go to med school, I was going to go to grad school, and we were just going to do the band for a year for fun. Then that just snowballed into doing the band forever.
Luis: And being a lifelong loser.
Kelly: Pretty much!
Suzi RP: Can you tell us about the Kickstarter Crowd Sourcing project? What made you decide to do that?
Kelly: Well, our last two records came out on Joan Jett’s label, Blackheart Records, which was a really, really great experience. They’re awesome people and it was so cool to get to know her as a mentor, it was amazing. But we felt like if we wanted to move forward, then we really needed to own our music in order to kind of make a living out of doing this, so we thought that we’d try doing it ourselves.
Luis: It was really scary, because we left the label before Kickstarter – we couldn’t have done Kickstarter at the same time as releasing on Blackheart Records because, normally, a label pays for your album. So, we left the label, and we had a little bit of money saved up, but we needed more if we were going to cover everything; it’s expensive to record an album.
Kelly: We went to Kickstarter because we couldn’t afford to do it all ourselves and we didn’t have that much credit so we asked for what we thought was too much already, and then within the first day or two we passed our goal, and we actually ended up making four times as much as we’d hoped. It was crazy; it was such an emotional rollercoaster because we knew we had fans everywhere, but when it’s all together, when they all do something at once, it meant so much to us, and it made us want to make the record so much better because all these people believed in us and we didn’t want to fail them. So I think that’s part of why this album (the self-titled ‘The Dollyrots’ LP) turned out as well as it did because we weren’t doing it for ourselves, we weren’t doing it for a company, we were doing it for the fans. It was incredible, but it was an insane amount of work. We did really crazy things like give away our hair and I made home baked cookies…
Luis: She had to make, like, forty dozen cookies.
Kelly: Yeah, that doesn’t really sound like that much but when you actually go through it, it’s awful.
Luis: It’s hundreds of cookies.
Kelly: We’ll have an acoustic album to release pretty soon, too.
Luis: People could pledge for an acoustic song, written specifically for them, which we’ll finish when we get home, so it’s still ongoing, the Kickstarter thing isn’t done yet.
Kelly: All that’s left is to write those songs, so no more baking cookies. We’re about halfway done.
Luis: It was an insane amount of work, so I don’t know if we’d do it again, necessarily, we’d probably do something like it…
Kelly: Not on the same level, though. Not with so many crazy options.
Luis: It was just really ambitious of us!
Kelly: I’d recommend it, though, for any band that’s been around for a while. We’ve been around for about ten years, and once you’ve amassed enough people that know of your band I think it could work.
Luis: You don’t really need all that many people. We had about five hundred people, but that’s like five hundred hardcore fans, people who will pay for a record before the record’s even been thought of.
Jess RP: On your website you mention that you’ve had a ‘Spinal Tap number of drummers’ over the years. I wanted to ask you about why this is; I’m guessing none of them have died bizarre deaths…
Kelly: Well, actually…!
Luis: I think we’ve had a couple of situations where we’ve either left the area, or people couldn’t commit to doing the band for months in a row. It’s hard for a lot of people and you have to be really careful.
Kelly: You have to be really careful with your money, and you have to be really strappy when you’re not on tour. You usually have to work a bunch of random jobs and it’s not the most stable life.
Luis: Yeah, because we’re a punk rock band, you know? We’re not big shots or anything. And then a couple have been kind of Yoko Ono situations.
Kelly: We can blame the Church of Scientology for one.
Luis: Yeah, look out - they could come after you! We’ve been around for long enough that we’ve had a couple of situations when people have wanted to move on with their life and grow up, and I don’t think we’re ever going to grow up.
Kelly: For this tour we’re borrowing James, who’s in an amazing band back home who we met touring together, and we needed someone to come to the UK so we just asked him to come with us.
Luis: His band is called Images, and he sings and plays drums. So BFS offered us this tour and we were thinking who we could call who would want to do this and who would be excited and who we could trust… and James was the only person, actually!
Kelly: Yeah, he was the first and only choice.
Suzi RP: Who are your favourite bands or artists at the moment? Who do you listen to the most?
Kelly: I love Against Me! so very much. Flogging Molly, too. Then, I guess, a lot of the stuff I listened to when I was a kid: Hole and Nirvana and The Pixies. Anything Kathleen Hanna ever does, any girl group records.
Luis: I love listening to my friends’ bands or people who we’ve played shows with or toured with. Like, I love Teenage Bottlerocket, I love The Soviettes, Kepi Ghoulie. We both love the Buzzcocks, we all love the Buzzcocks, actually, that’s how we know James.
Kelly: The Sex Pistols, too. I’m in a Sex Pistols tribute band, I’m Nancy, of course.
Jess RP: So how did the album and the tour come about with Bowling for Soup for ‘One Big Happy’?
Kelly: We had done a split 7” with Bowling for Soup a couple of years ago.
Luis: In 2010, they covered ‘Because I’m Awesome’ and we covered ‘High School Never Ends’.
Kelly: It just went really, really well. It was awesome. Then when this UK tour was coming up, Jaret was like, “I’ve got an idea! We’ll all just do each other’s songs and put out a record together!”
Luis: That was a good Jaret impression! It was kind of Jaret’s master plan.
Kelly: That’s another thing that’s good about not being on a record label: we can do these sorts of things all the time.
Jess RP: Did you get to choose the songs you covered on the ‘One Big Happy’ album?
Kelly: Yes, we just picked our favourites. ‘Little Miss Impossible’ is on Patent Pending’s new record and I thought it would be funny for a girl to sing it, and then ‘The Bitch Song’ is just the best. Everyone just did what they wanted.
Luis: We were sort of scared of doing it because we didn’t want to screw it up, but it was a case of if you love it, it’ll turn out good. And I think the whole album is just solid front to back.
A big thank you to Kelly, Luis and James for their time. You can find out more about the band at their official site – www.dollyrots.com and you can read Rock Pulse’s review of the Manchester gig here.