Fueled by their signature pop-punk melodies and love for music, The Dollyrots have spent the year touring across the US and released their latest album Daydream Explosion on July 12.
But while their music is anthemic for the teenage rebel in all of us, there are distinct messages of self-acceptance and togetherness that speak as loudly as their speaker busting melodies.
Recently, we caught up with Kelly Ogden to chat about life on the road with kids, her favorite bass, and the band’s new album.
First, I wanted to ask you about your life on the road. I understand you bring your kids. How do you balance that?
A lot of help. We always bring our nanny, but our tour crew, our drummer, and everybody is kind of extended family to our kids. We’re always the parents, but you know it’s kind of like they have a lot of aunts and uncles. But all the people that we tour with have been in their lives since they were born.
It’s challenging. I mean I used to be really tired, and I’d think touring was hard before because I’d stay up drinking beer all night. But now I’m exhausted for entirely different reasons, like having to get up for breakfast at 7:00 a.m. every day.
But, yes, it’s actually been really amazing. I mean our kids know people all the way around the world.
So you guys just finished a West Coast tour. How did that go?
That was incredible. I’m trying to think because we’ve been back a tiny bit. We kind of have stuck to the same touring schedule every year since we had kids. So around spring break and on St. Patrick’s Day, we started a tour up in Chicago. Then we toured the Midwest a bit on down into Texas and then crossed through Arizona. Then we do California and fly home. Usually, in the late summer we’ll do the East Coast and sprinkle in other dates in there too. That’s kind of our traditional tour schedule now. And honestly, I feel like it’s been really good for our fans because they kind of always know when we’re coming.
We’re based on a routine a lot of the time now, especially with the kids. With our touring schedule, it just seems like the right thing to do for our band.
On your tour through the East Coast, what cities will you be visiting?
We actually start in Tampa, because that’s where we spend most of our time now. We’re actually based out of there. Then maybe head to Jacksonville. We will head up and play The Milestones, it’s this awesome club in North Carolina, then Baltimore, Manhattan, Philly, and Virginia Beach I think. It’s about a week and a half and then we end at home in Tampa.
And your sound has kind of been influenced by the late ’90s early 2000s, but it reminds me a lot of The Runaways. How would you guys describe your sound?
I think that’s pretty close. I mean we grew up listening to a lot of the Top 40 radio in the car with my parents. I also listened to a lot of girl groups, and so I grew up with a lot of melodies – early rock and roll, ’50s rock and roll. And then again the Top 40 radio in the ’80s, ’90s, and early 2000s. So I think that shapes a lot of what I do melodically in my writing.
But the time that I learned to play an instrument, it was around Nirvana and Babes in Toyland. I was learning about bands like the Sex Pistols and Generation X. So then I kind of learned to play to those bands. So there’s definitely a punk influence there, and grunge, of course, was the thing during my teenage years.
I think we’re kind of a blend of our influences, but hopefully, we do our own thing as well. It’s hard to know what you sound like. It’s kind of a weird thing. It’s like I notice things that I like, and I hope I sound like them, but I’m not quite sure.
So you play the bass, what bass do you have?
My favorite bass was a Fender bass, but then when we signed to Blackheart Records for our second album. Joan Jett had just released her signature guitar with Gibson and they were giving all of us Gibsons. I got a Thunderbird, and I was terrified of it at first. I was like, “It’s too loud. I don’t think I like this.” I had to play it at South By Southwest, like my first gig with the guitar was like a huge show with myself and Joan Jett on stage.
I had to go on stage with her at one point and I was terrified of the thing. But after that, I was like I will never play another type again. So I’ve been playing Thunderbirds and I have about a handful of them. Some of them I got from Gibson, and some of them I got on Craigslist for a few hundred bucks. They’re just solid. I like the tone and they just fit my body in a way that I don’t have to look down anymore – it’s just part of me and I’m part of them. It’s just like a relationship. So yeah, I think I will forever play Thunderbirds.
What are your live shows like?
Live shows are different from the recording. We have a lot of people say, “I love your recordings, but I love you live even more.” We sound more loud and strong. I think because we play live as a three-piece band, but in the studio, we’ve never been a band to limit ourselves. If we hear a melody that needs to be played on a keyboard or a second guitar or a third guitar, then we just record it. If it’s better for the song, and it’s what we hear in our minds, then that’s what I want on the record.
But the live show is different. Whatever we recorded, when a three-piece plays it, it’s really loud on stage, and the vocal delivery can also vary a bit.
Do you find the audience energy kind of feeds into it a bit, too?
Oh always for sure, but it doesn’t have to because we are probably the best opening band who ever lived. Like we’ve honed our craft touring with our friends’ bands. Being an opening band can be kind of strange, because a lot of times, especially your first couple of songs, the audience just stares with their arms crossed waiting to decide if they’re going to like you or not. So even seeing that they’re not giving me that happy excited energy pushes me to convince them to try harder. And so it doesn’t matter what the audience energy is in a way, but it doesn’t always have to be positive. You know if that makes sense, I feel like whatever the energy is I’m going to take it and throw it back even better.
With that in mind, what advice would you give to young musicians?
Oh man! Just practice and play as many shows as you possibly can. If you can’t find people to play shows with, go to shows because the people that are at shows want to do the same thing that you want to do. And it matters if somebody is good, but what matters most is that you like being around them, that they’re a healthy relationship to have, and that they’re willing to practice. The music doesn’t have to be that complicated to be good. I mean the Ramones, The Beatles, like some of our favorite bands, are not technically complicated musicians. They are just good at melody and songwriting. If you take the time to learn and you have fun doing it with your friends, something good can come out of that. So you just gotta get out there and start, which is the hardest part of everything.
So your new album came out on July 12, I guess it was kind of in between the two big tours.
Yeah, every two years we put out a record and this is our seventh studio album. We also have a live album and an acoustic record, and you know we’ll put out music with our friends. But we put out Whiplash Splash and toured on that for a while. Then you know we get this stir-crazy feeling and a little bit of panic sets in. It’s like, “Oh my God, what are we doing with our lives. It’s like we better make another record.” So that’s what we do.
We just kind of start setting it in motion and get writing, and you know we kind of write at a pretty slow pace. We try to write all the time, but you know it’s not until we book studio time or make plans with our producer that it has officially begun. And then we always need a deadline.
So for our last record before this one, Barefoot and Pregnant, our deadline, of course, was the due date of our first child River. And then with Whiplash Splash, we did the same thing – the record had to be done before the baby was born. And then this time we weren’t pregnant so we just had to put in the studio time and fly up to Minnesota where our producer John Field lives. And that was kind of our due date this time which it worked out pretty good at the beginning of December.
We were maybe a half to a third of the way through of our goals for songs. We always try to have at least 20 to choose from when we do a full length, and so we had written and we put out an EP for our patrons. So we definitely had three solid songs in the bag, but then we were kind of procrastinators. I like to say that we just work best under pressure. We’ve known each other since high school, and it’s always been that way. But we hadn’t really done enough.
Then my dad passed away the week of Christmas, and we had been planning on using that time to write like crazy, leave the kids with the grandparents. Instead, life kind of flipped upside down for a couple of weeks there and there were a lot of moments when I was like “I don’t want to do it. I don’t think I can.”
But in the end, my family was hugely supportive. Luis, who is my partner in the band and is also my husband and my friend for my entire life, he carried a lot of the weight helping me out. He wrote a lot of the music when I was just kind of curled up on the couch in the studio not into it. Then you know we would just put the kids to bed at night, and we’d go out to the studio, we have a studio in our backyard, and we just begged God to put ideas in our heads because I didn’t know where it was going to come from.
In the end, I think where the two albums before this, when I was pregnant, I was feeling different emotions for those reasons. I think this time it was a similar thing where I felt reflective about my life. I had an incredible childhood. I have an awesome family. So we were going through all the family pictures for the memorial services and stuff like that, and I was really looking back at things in a way that I guess one does when you lose a parent. And I was filled with a lot of sadness, but also so much gratitude, funny memories, and just hopes for the future. And I feel like it gave me a mental clarity that I may not have reached had something crazy not happened. So, in the end, I think it’s not just another record. Honestly, I think it to be our absolute best record we’ve ever done.