Looking back, there weren’t many positives to come out of George W. Bush’s eight years as president. But on December 12, 2000, the night Bush was declared the winner after more than a month of recounts and legal wrangling, two Florida kids decided, fuck it, if the world’s going to end anyway, why not be in a band full time.
Those two kids were singer/guitarists Kelly Ogden and Luis Cabezas, the twosome have been together since the eighth grade and were currently students at the New College of Florida. It was at that school when they formed the band No Chef with bassist John Harrold and drummer Mike Benbow. Harrold decided he did not want to be in a full-time band, so Ogden picked up the bass and took over lead singing duties. When Benbow left, Kelly and Luis formed The Dollyrots.
“Luis and his friends were starting a band and I joked I wanted to be in the band, because I knew what girlfriends of band members were like on the sidelines,” The Dollyrots front woman Kelly Ogden said from her and Cabezas’s home in Florida. “It was a joke that has kept on going really. We were both ready to graduate college, I was about to take my Graduate Record Examination, I majored in biology and Luis was applying to medical schools. But, we both knew that wasn’t what we wanted.”
The once-future biologist and doctor were strongly committed to the band, but they had to tell their parents of their life altering decision.
“The parents were pissed. I think beyond pissed,” Luis Cabezas said. But they aren’t too mad anymore, since we gave them two grandkids.”
“It all worked out, we just don’t talk about the band in front of them,” Ogden joked.
With Ogden and Cabezas captaining the ship, The Dollyrots set out for a new home, Florida wasn’t cutting it. In January 2002, the band laid anchor in Los Angeles and began working on music. They responded to a blind audition and The Dollyrots were selected to appear in a Hewlett-Packard commercial. The Dollyrots went on to self-record and release their debut EP ‘Feed Me, Pet Me’ as their calling card, Panic Button/Lookout Records (then home of indie punk band Green Day) took notice, signing The Dollyrots and releasing their debut full length ‘Eat Your Heart Out’ in September of 2004. In a span of 18 months, the band packed up, moved west, was in a TV commercial, self-released their EP, signed to Panic Button, and released a full-length album.
“Moving to Los Angeles allowed us to grow. It was about survival,” Cabezas said.
“Plus, it put distance between us and our parents, which actually helped our relationship. I think they saw that we could handle ourselves better than they expected.”
“But when we got to L.A., we were so naive and stupid,” Cabezas joked. “Two weeks after we got there we meet the band The Breeders. They were so nice and accommodating. They helped us find a rehearsal space and put us on the guest list for their show at the House of Blues. We thought we had made it. This was the best thing in our lives. We were guest of The Breeders at the House of Blues. So, we get to the show and we were sitting next to this guy with horn rimmed glasses. His name was Chuck Klosterman.”
“Was his name Chuck? Oh yeah, I guess it was, we didn’t know who Chuck was at the time,” Ogden says.
“We are sitting there talking with Chuck and we are young and stupid telling him we are a band, and we just got here and we have all these great songs,” Cabezas said.
“We were pretty much idiots,” Ogden jokes. “But we were prepared for everything we came across. I am a girl scout. I am always prepared and I will put everything back in its place. We did the commercial and recorded ‘Feed Me, Pet Me’ with John Fields, and we’ve worked with him ever since.”
Since they landed in Los Angeles, it has been non-stop for Ogden and Cabezas. They’ve released five studio albums, two of which were on Joan Jett’s Blackheart Records; put out countless singles, and EPs, and contributed to a long list of compilation albums. They even released a punk rock Christmas album as well as Halloween and Thanksgiving singles.
Moving to the City of Angels was the best thing to ever happen to The Dollyrots. They have been blessed to have their songs appear in films, television ads, including a Kohl’s back to school campaign. They’ve had songs in hit television shows such as “Ugly Betty,” “Greek,” and “CSI: NY,” where Kelly also had a guest acting role.
“We have a great publicist who was telling me about this open audition for “CSI” who was looking for a female bass player to be in one of their shows,” Ogden remembers. “So, I said what the heck, I will try anything once. I went down there and there was this long line of girls who were all dressed up in high heel boots – you know, stuff you could never wear while actually playing. I was in my Chucks, dirty ripped jeans and a T-shirt. And I noticed I was the only one who brought a bass. After seeing these girls, I thought there was no way I would get the part. The people asked me in and I played them a song on my bass. I didn’t have an amp, but I played anyway and gave them a copy of our CD.
“Then, on the way home, I get a call that I got the job but they wanted us to play covers and I thought no, and asked them to listen to the CD I left with them. So, they said they would call me back, and they did and liked the songs and wanted the band to be in the episode to play a couple of our songs. The only catch was, the acting role that the story was revolving around had to be our drummer because she was the one who gets murdered. I said we’d do it if we could give a guitar to our drummer so she’d be in the show, because I didn’t feel right leaving her out.”
The early success with Hollywood enabled The Dollyrots to do more with their music than most bands, with extensive tours, promotion, and eventually starting their own record label, Arrested Youth Records. Having their own label allowed Ogden and Cabezas to retain creative control and over their music, something which was very important to them. Last year the DIY punks upped the game by releasing their successful live CD/DVD ‘Family Vacation: Live in Los Angeles.’
“We will never do that again,” Cabezas, said with a laugh. “We can put out records, do promotions, get the records out there, we know how to do all that, but video, that is a whole different thing.”
“And expensive,” Ogden added. “We had no idea what we were getting into, we just liked the idea. We brought in our friends who have made videos with us in the past and they gave us a deal, but then there are the cameras, they are so expensive, and the club. You have to pay a fee for location, it was insane.”
“We have a new-found respect for filmmakers now,” Cabezas, chimed in. “We know now why movies cost so much, it’s ridiculous.”
“Yeah, no kidding,” Ogden added. “But I think the DVD served its purpose and I am happy we did it.”
Now, The Dollyrots are back in their comfort zone with brand new punk rock 13-track studio album ‘Whiplash Splash.’ Their sixth studio album shows a growth in the band through new sounds while staying true to their punk roots.
Just like with their whirlwind beginnings, things happened pretty fast for Ogden and Cabezas when it came to making ‘Whiplash Splash.’ The long-time couple were expecting their second child, a daughter named Daisy Moon, raising their 3-year-old son River, and preparing for the extended family. They launched another successful PledgeMusic campaign and had three months to write, record, and finish the album in between morning sickness and play dates. This left little time to overthink the record when it came to writing new songs.
“Having a baby while making the record made it better in a way because of the time limit. We had no times to second guess ourselves. We went up to Minneapolis to record with Fields and intended for that to be demos, but we ended up liking the majority of the songs, we kept them for the album. I really think that makes this new record “super visceral,” Cabezas, said.
“Luis would go in and lay down guitar parts or melodies while I would entertain River, then I would go in and add parts to that while Luis watched River. Eventually we had rough mixes for songs. Some nights I’d go to bed and Luis would still be up in the morning and come to me all excited saying he’s got two new songs.”
“Usually there was a pile of empty Miller Lite cans in the corner too,” Cabezas, added. We would monitor Kelly’s input though. She was only allowed to sing for 20-30 minutes then we’d take a break and I’d add my parts and so on.”
“Being pregnant while recording was pretty hard, I was in tears during some points or I would be just exhausted after singing one song,” Ogden said. “I heard singing while pregnant can give you a deeper sound to your voice, like a velvety, sound. I am not sure about that. I just wanted to throw up most of the time.”
‘Whiplash Splash’ is as strong as anything The Dollyrots have put out with clever, playful lyrics, high energy guitar and plenty of harmonies and Ogden really laying into her bass lines. Dig deeper into the album and you will find interesting, but subtle additions to The Dollyrots sound. “City of Angels” is a heavy head banging force, “Jump Start This Heart” is a dreamy 80s synth ballad, and “The Addiction” is a bubblegum pop gem.
“We feel good about the new sounds we put on the record. We tried anything we wanted because we had no one to tell us not too,” Cabezas, said. “City of Angels” is a song we love and can’t wait to play it on tour. It’s about living in L.A. for 12 years. It’s about the shitty apartments, taking the subway, being an artist, living in the ghetto. It’s a love letter to our past life.”
“Our producer came up with the flashy synth part on “Jump Start This Heart,” Ogden said. “He played it for us and my first thought was, like holy crap, I’ve heard this song before.”
“There’s no design. We have affinity to those sounds of the ’80s,” Cabezas added.
And of course, what would The Dollyrots album be without a campy cover. In the past, The Dollyrots have covered “Be My Baby” (The Ronettes); “There’s A Barbarian in the Back Of My Car” (Voice of the Beehive); “Bad Reputation” (Joan Jett); “Punk Rock Girls” (the Queers); “Let’s Turkey Trot” (Little Eva); “Dream Lover” (Bobby Darin); “Happy Together” (the Turtles); and “Brand New Key” (Melanie). For ‘Whiplash Splash,’ Ogden and Cabezas pay homage to Katrina and the Waves covering their 1985 hit “Walking on Sunshine.”
“We sent out a text to our friends and asked them what song we should cover this time around and two friends, who we greatly respect – Jaret Reddick of Bowling for Soup and Drew Carey (I swear I am not name dropping) – both suggested “Walking on Sunshine” and that’s all we needed. We finished the record in Minneapolis and flew back home and Kelly was like two weeks away from her due date, we recorded the cover song at home, sent it to Fields and that was it.”
The Dollyrots are one of the most upbeat, fun loving bands around and that is a true testament to Ogden and Cabezas relationship. The long-time friends, now husband and wife have seen it and done it all, and on their terms. This positive attitude is infectious and has served the band well when it comes to their fans. When The Dollyrots are embarking on a new album or tour, they offer up interesting and unusual packages for the fans who pledge. From selling their own instruments, personal phone calls, drinks with the band, guest managing jobs, even locks of hair. You name it, they are never short on gratitude. But there is a limit to what they will do.
“We get some weird comments and offers on Twitter, like people who can’t control their fetishes,” Cabezas said. “I think the oddest thing was this one guy wanted us to send him pictures of us on blow-up furniture while it’s being popped.”
“We’ve also had some people ask for our sweaty socks after a show, which will never happen.”
“We did consider selling vials of our own blood,” Cabezas joked (or was he?)
With ‘Whiplash Splash,’ The Dollyrots are once again headed out on the road with the Ogden and Cabezas clan – Kelly, Luis, River, Daisy, and tour dog Quito. Be sure to check them out in a city near you. Just don’t ask them for sweaty socks or blood.
3/16 in Chicago, IL at Reggie’s Rock Club
3/17 in Indianapolis, IN at The Melody Inn
3/18 in Lansing, MI at The Avenue
3/19 in Dayton, OH at Rockstar Pro Arena
3/20 in Columbus, OH at Rumba Cafe
3/21 in Newport, KY at Southgate
3/22 in St. Louis, MO at Fubar
3/23 in Dallas, TX at Three Links
3/24 in Houston, TX at Satellite
3/25 in San Antonio, TX at Bang Bar
3/26 in Austin, TX at Sidewinder
3/28 in Phoenix, AZ at Rebel Lounge
3/29 in San Diego, CA at The Hideout
3/31 in Los Angeles, CA at The Hi Hat
4/1 in Fullerton, CA at Slidebar