Childhood friends (now spouses) guitarists and vocalists Kelly Ogden and Luis Cabezas formed the Floridian-born band, The Dollyrots (originally named No Chef,) over a decade ago as a response to disillusionment with the Bush election in 2000. Having relocated to music capital Los Angeles and signing with punk legends Lookout Records, the band morphed through multiple percussion lineups and label switches (they wisely abandoned the financially troubled Lookout for Joan Jett’s label, Blackheart Records in 2006, finally foraging out on their own in 2010 via a widely successful Kickstarter campaign).
Their latest effort, “Barefoot and Pregnant,” recorded on their own label, Arrested Youth, while Kelly was expecting their first child, River, has received respectable ratings and has really resonated with their fiercely loyal fanbase.
Upon the wrap-up of their successful U.S. run and prior to heading over to Europe to tour with the likes of Buzzcocks, Kelly was good enough to spare Dying Scene a copious amount of her time to chat about old age, fan relations and vintage punk behavior. Her interview is below.
Dying Scene (Deb Draisin): Hi Kelly, it’s Deb from Dying Scene, how are you?
Kelly Ogden: I’m great, how about you?
I am great, thank you, nice to meet you.
Congratulations on the newest additions to the family, the album and baby.
Thank you. We had two new additions!
You did, you timed that very well. I’m by the way super bummed that I didn’t get to meet River. I was supposed to, but I got stuck at work, so I’m sad.
Aw, yeah, he’s amazing.
I know, I remember. Mine’s grown now, but I remember when he was little, it was great.
It’s so cool.
It is, and it’s really cool that you got to take him on tour with you.
I mean, it’s a little tricky, making sure that everything is just right, but we feel like at the same time, it’ll be such a cool experience for him – even though he doesn’t remember going on tour. We just hope that it’ll make him a little more outgoing. He loves seeing new things.
Well, it’s a little bit easier to get around with the kids when they’re little. Of course, there are the Osbournes, who did this until the kids were teenagers, but it is trickier when they get older.
Yeah, I bet (laughs.)
Have you guys thought about how you’re going to deal with that yet, or are you just enjoying the now?
Hm…we go every couple of years at a time, that’s usually how we plan things out – and that’s kind of overlooking it for now, but we figure if there are school issues, we can just do summer tours. Luis and I are both educated, we could homeschool for parts of tours if we had to.
Sure, plenty of people homeschool, or they bring a teacher on tour with them if they have to, or they work around it, as you’re talking about doing. You find a way when it’s important to you.
That’s the thing: we figured “Well, we really, really want to have a kid, so we’re just going do it and then see what happens” (laughs.)
He’s going be a cool kid – he’ll have lots of stories! So, the album is obviously named after your most recent condition, but the lyrics are still quintessentially Dollyrots. Have you felt any pressure to deepen your lyrics since becoming a parent?
Not necessarily. There were a couple of songs on the album that were written with our unborn baby in mind: “Nightlight” and “Under The Same Sky.” Those two songs are pretty special, but we’re still the people that we are and the band that we are, so I don’t think being parents is going to change things that drastically. We’re still going to be the same band and we’re still going to bring the same energy that people have come to count on.
That’s cool. I think a lot of people feel pressure to make things more mature, especially when they start families, and it’s kind of a shame. Why change your aesthetic if it works for you?
Yeah, I mean we have to be more mature in our real lives, so I certainly don’t want to in my music (both laugh.)
You don’t want to make it bleed it any more directions than it has to.
So how’s the tour going so far?
It’s been amazing. We actually flew home the day before yesterday. It was awesome – it was probably our best tour in a really long time. We didn’t get to tour last year for obvious reasons, so I think it was as exciting for us as it was for the fans who have been waiting to see us. We have to be in the UK in about a week, so that’s going to be crazy.
Ugh, I’m so sad that I didn’t get to catch you guys when you were in town – that really sucked. What is your favorite thing to do in the UK? You have a spot you like to visit?
You know, we’ve taken a couple of little vacations post-UK tours. We drove around Ireland, which was a little bit crazy because of that whole wrong side of the road thing. Really, I think just being in such a different place – because it is a different country, although people are speaking English (sort of) – but there’s something very foreign about it at the same time, and yet comfortable. It’s just a really neat place to wander around. I like to wake up near wherever the venue is and just go grab coffee and see where we are. Everything’s so old there; it’s really cool. Growing up in Florida, forget it: there’s nothing old there.
I lived in Florida for a couple of years: I’m obviously back here now, so you can tell how that went. I actually would love to go to London: that’s one of my favorite places ever, but I hear that the food is not great.
Well, we love Indian food, so that’s awesome, because there’s a whole lot of Indian food.
True, they are big on that: there’s a huge Indian community there.
And that’s pretty great, and then fast food is fast food and tour food is tour food. We eat a lot of sandwiches.
Truck stop stuff.
It’s not that exciting, but the french fries are always good.
Yeah, but they eat them with mayonnaise.
You know what? I do that too (laughs.)
Do you? Well, yeah, because you were Floridian, so you picked that up from them maybe. They do that there too.
No, I had never tried it before we went to Paris, and we got fries, and they came out with Dijon mustard and mayonnaise. I was like “I don’t know about this…” and then I tried it and I was hooked. They have that really good Dijon mustard.
The Dijons are nice. We have a German restaurant here that serves them like that, with different versions of Dijon mustard with their chips, and that is kind of good. So, I know that you and Luis have known each other literally forever, but with both working and living together, how do you balance out the inevitable need to retreat to separate corners at times?
It just kind of happens – it’s not necessarily intentionally, but there are life things that we have to do separately. We have to go to the grocery store and exciting things like that, but, oddly enough, we really just like being around each other.
You’d have to.
(laughs) Yeah…any downtime that we have, we pretty much just hang out together, which is kind of weird to a lot of people, but I guess we just really like each other.
And, you know, you need to, because you never get away from each other. I think a lot of people are coming at that from two perspectives, right? One, from the perspective of being in a band, and needing time away from their bandmates, and also maybe needing time away from their spouse. I think a lot of people would find that odd.
Well, most people, when they get married, they’ve already been adults on their own, and so they have certain habits and different hobbies and so they have things that they do which are separate. Luis and I grew up together, so most of our interests and friends overlap, so it’s a different situation for us, I think.
It’s a better situation, probably.
Yeah, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
That’s great, at least you won’t wind up like The White Stripes.
A lot of artists experience a writing blitz during the Bush Administration. Do you think we’re headed in a better direction now under Obama’s tutelage?
Ooh…sadly, it doesn’t seem that way. Growing up through the Senior and Clinton years before that, it does seem like no matter what someone’s intentions are – good or bad – it kind of gets evened out by machines, you know? What will be will be, somehow. I’m not like, a crazy conspiracy theorist, but it’s all of Congress.
Yeah, I think even at that top level, you’re up against a lot of red tape. You have a lot of people that you have to answer to and keep happy. One you get there, it’s probably not as easy as you think it would be to make a change – not to let anybody off the hook.
No, definitely not!
I think that it’s more difficult than it seems from the outside perspective. I think you’re up against a lot of different forces who are powerful, and it’s not so easy to just go in there and bust everything up.
Yeah…when I was a kid, I went to the model United Nations every year. When Luis and I were in college, we weren’t counselors, but we helped run the model United Nations for Florida, and I was always in student government. I thought “Man, I’m gonna go be a lawyer, I’m gonna work from the inside out, and I’ll be able to change things.” The more that I learned, the more that I was afraid that I would get lost in it, because I really do think that people have good intentions. You know, they start out the state level, and they’re still okay, they’re still kind of good, but then they want to go up the ladder, and the further up you go, the more you have to give up to get there, it seems. So, rock n’ roll seemed like a better way to go about it.
It’s really a better way to make a change, you’re reaching more people. More people are going to listen to you than to any politician, so…
Hopefully, yes. You’ve seen your work featured on a number of prominent t.v. shows and films – is that a surreal experience?
It is really, really bizarre when it happens.
It would be the same as if you wrote a song and it happened to you. I mean, we’re just doing this and so it’s still kind of a surprise when that happens. It’s like “Oh, wow. What we do, people do like! This is really happening, it’s not a dream.” It’s actually really, really cool.
Mm-hm, it’s validating, I get it. Is it something that you love to brag to the family about – because you know how your parents never think that you’re going to amount to amount to anything when you’re artist?
It’s actually kind of adorable: my mom got a new car, and she has satellite radio in there. I said “Oh yeah, ‘Underground Garage’ plays us, you should listen.” So now, my parents listen to nothing but “Underground Garage.”
Their musical tastes are way better than mine right now, because I don’t have satellite radio. I just listen to the same stuff that I listened to at seventeen, pretty much. My parents know all this new music, and I get a picture from my mom or dad’s phone every time we play on the radio. They’ll say “It’s so cool, Little Steven likes you!” You know, my parents are from New Jersey, so that really counts.
It’s a big deal. That is really cool, actually.
Yeah. I think, with every success that we have like that, now that I’m a parent, I think I understand this better: I think they worry a little bit less that we’re doing something crazy. I think they’re like “Well, it’s crazy, but I guess people like it.”
“I guess it’s working.” My parents validate everything by money. They say to me “It’s a shame that you never did anything with that writing” and I say “I do something with my writing.” To which they respond “Yeah, but you don’t get paid” and I’m like “…oh, I guess…”
Yeah (laughs.) It’s kind of a similar thing.
So, does recording vocals in a closet feel better or weirder than working in a control booth, or are they similar experiences?
Hm…it’s always kind of been the same for me. I still get a little twinge of nervousness, no matter where I am, and I think that helps.
You think it helps to be nervous?
It’s nothing something that’s just blasè, you know? It makes me feel something that’s not what I normally feel.
That’s a good point.
I think that it drives me. I’m nervous before every show still, like sick to the stomach, and the few times that I haven’t been? They suck.
I hear that a lot. That never goes away, that feeling?
No, it hasn’t yet, at least. If it does, then it’s probably a bad thing.
That’s a bad sign, wow, you know, I never really thought about it like that before. That’s an interesting perspective. Makes sense.
Yeah…but I think that recording this one the way that we did, in some ways I felt more free to try things that I might have been unsure of or insecure about trying in front of a recording engineer and a producer. It was just me and Luis a lot of the time, so I thought “Oh, maybe I’ll try that crazy note over there, and if I totally fail, no one is going to know but me and Luis.” So I was more adventurous, I think.
Do you feel that you’ve accomplished what you set out to with that? Do you feel that you reached a higher level than the one that you were expecting of yourself?
I definitely do. I don’t know if it was, like, pregnancy hormones…
Maybe (both laugh.)
Or the fact that it was just the two of us most of the time, I don’t know. I do feel like this album is special though.
It is. It’s always going to be that little nod at your boy, even in the years to come, which is cool. Joan Jett actually lives in my neck of the woods, Long Beach. Many reputable punk artists who I shall not name have reported being starstruck having come into contact with her, but I hear that she’s actually really chill. What was it like working with her?
It’s still hard to not be starstruck around her, even though we’ve met and hung around her many, many times. She’s kind of the embodiment of strong rock n’ roll women. I think – for men and women – but especially me as a woman, it means so much to know that she acknowledges what we do and thinks that it’s good.
It makes it even crazier when we think “Oh my gosh, I think she likes it!” It really, really means a lot. Working with Blackheart was a really great experience, and we still talk to them; we’re on great terms with them. We went and saw them play recently. Just for personal reasons, like financially, it really makes more sense for a band of our size to do things completely independently. So that’s why we started doing crowdfunding.
People are swearing by the crowdfunding; they’ve really liked it. A lot of people have had success with it, and they’re find an artistic freedom with it that didn’t used to exist when dealing with labels – even a good punk label that tries to give you a ton of leeway.
Yeah, I mean Blackheart was nothing but positive, but at the same time, you’re still kind of working for someone and you’re still looking for their approval. Right now, when we make a record, we’re looking for our fans’ approval – we’re trying to impress them. I think that that’s a better way for us to work at least, because that’s who we’re making music for. We’re not making it for a publishing company or a record company, we’re making it for our fans who we’ve had for over ten years, some of them. It’s really important that we don’t lose sight of that, and that we continue to be ourselves and not follow any trends or take ill advice, even from someone who meant well, you know? I feel like our fans will let us know if we’re on the right track.
And have they? Do you feel that you’ve gotten a positive response this tour to the new material?
Definitely, and most of the people already know the songs. Almost half the set list was off the new record, and there was not one complaint about not playing more older songs – and people were singing along. So, I think that is definitely an indication that we’re on the right track.
It’s cool that you look at it that way, because some a lot of artists will vehemently make statements like “I don’t record for the fans, I record for myself, and if they like it, great.” You have a different perspective, and I think that’s interesting, that dichotomy.
If we were recording just for ourselves, I don’t think we’d still be doing it; it’s a crazy life. If it was just for the two of us, I’m sure that we would still play and write music, but we wouldn’t be putting all of this effort into it. It would just be a private thing, and that would be that. The fact that it’s become a community for us is also really important, so I guess that’s why it’s different for us.
About the sense of community – especially when you’ve had fans for a while and you can be like “Oh, there’s that guy that’s been coming to our shows for the past however many years,” – that’s probably pretty cool, and that’s something that didn’t used to exist in music – it’s a newer phenomenon.
Yeah, even when we started out, it wasn’t necessarily cool to hang out inside the venue and meet fans unless it was some kind of a VIP Meet And Greet or something special. The way that things are now, it just feels so much cooler to actually meet these people who like our music and who we talk to all day on social media. People who support what we do, and now, support the records that we make before they’re even made. It’s a lot more fun for us now, going out on tour – the fun isn’t just onstage and people watching us play.
I know that some people are hung up on the idea of the mystique, but I would think that it would be more fun for you guys, meeting fans, because otherwise you’re basically just seeing a venue, a van, a venue, a van. That doesn’t sound like fun to me.
It’s pretty boring, when you put it that way, and I feel like, when you’ve got nothing to hide, when you are who you are, then there’s no reason to be afraid to meet your fans.
Good point, but there is a flipside, right (and everybody probably has to deal with this on some level,) you know, some people don’t maybe understand boundaries. Like, they don’t realize that they’re meeting an artist and they’re having an interaction, but they’re not now best friends.
Yeah, but even that’s okay, because we’re going to be in another city the next day.
Well, that’s true – unless they’re locals, then maybe you have a problem.
(laughing) I mean, if they’re really creepy, then you can just give someone a look like “Hey, I need an escape.”
Yeah, you have people for that. So, anyone you’d love to tour with if given the opportunity?
Oh, man. We say Green Day a lot – it would be really, really cool to tour with Green Day.
That would be a fun tour.
They’re one of the earlier bands that we looked up to and one of the reasons that we really wanted to be on Lookout Records for our first album. I think the fact that they’re still putting out, if a little bit older, still good punk rock music that errs on the side of pop is a lot of fun.
Well, punk is an old genre. I realize that sometimes, when I think “God, some of the people that I love are like dinosaurs,” it’s crazy (both laugh.)
On our first date in England, we’re going out with The Buzzcocks.
They’re on of the first and…yeah, they’re old dudes.
They are, but they’re so amazing.
They are. Luis and I were just asking each other “Are we in tour shape, are we going to be able to play for an hour?” and we were like “Okay, think about this: do you think Steve Diggle and Pete Shelly will exercise before tours, or do you think they just drink their champagne?
And then get onstage, and the magic of rock n’ roll makes it happen?
Luis said “Yeah, that’s probably true, I’ll bet that’s what happens” (both laugh.)
I think it’s going to be “b.” That whole aesthetic, where it’s like “Let’s go run around the block,” that’s newer.
It kind of goes along with the whole “jumping in unison” and having choreography thing.
Oh yeah, now you’re talking my language. That’s where I come from, metal, where that used to be all the rage: “Let’s coordinate our hair!” (both laugh.) That got really stupid really fast, though, I realize that. That’s why I walked away. So, what’s next for you guys once you return from Europe?
We’re thinking about putting something together for the tenth anniversary of “Eat My Heart Out.” (the band’s debut album.) Maybe a smaller project through pledge or whatever – some kind of really cool vinyl release with a nice package, with some B-sides and unreleased stuff.
That’ll be awesome. Vinyl is all the rage right now. It’s so strange that it became a thing again. I really didn’t see that coming.
It’s so cool!
Everybody loves it.
Well, I think part of it is that you want to have the artwork. You don’t really want a cd, because the cd’s just kind of garbage. There’s something really cool about the wax and the grooves and the whole feeling of putting a record on.
It feels like you’re holding something special.
Yeah, I think even people who don’t have record players like to hold them, and to have twelve inches of artwork to put up on a wall is really nice, compared to just the cd cover.
I do think I miss that: opening up the album cover and studying it while the album is playing. I don’t miss having to get up and flip it over or not being able to jump in place and not have it skip, but otherwise, yeah (both laugh.) Those were the pitfalls.
Also, with vinyl, you’re going to have to listen to an entire album – or at least a whole side – which people don’t do all the time anymore.
No, you’re right about that. That’s another one of the things that I think vinyl was good for: you would actually get to know the other songs on the album, whereas, with digital, you kind of didn’t.
Yeah, it’s like “Oh, what’s my favorite song? I like that one – I’m never going to listen to any of the other ones again.”
Yes, and the other thing that people with do with digital – which I personally dislike, maybe because I just have an older aesthetic also – is use the “shuffle” feature. Albums are tracked a certain way for a reason, and when you’re shuffling, you’re not going to pick up on that.
And we put a lot of thought into the track order and try to make it feel like a journey, and when it gets all shuffled up, it kind of loss that.
That is true.
Alright, Kelly, thank you so much for your time.
You got it! It was really nice talking to you.
It was really nice talking to you too. Have a wonderful time in the UK.
I won’t have as much fun as I used to, but you won’t be there, I’m sorry!
Grr, can you put me in your suitcase?
You know, I’m thinking it’ll rain anyway.
I won’t fit, huh? You have too many clothes (both laugh.) Alright, Dear, looking forward to the anniversary release – whatever you guys come up with.
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