Earlier this year, California’s first family of pop punk The Dollyrots were on tour in the UK with their good friends Bowling For Soup. Rock Sins caught up with Kelly, Luis and Rikki backstage before the show in Norwich to talk about the band’s early days and just what is coming next:
Hi guys. Can you give me a little history about the band:
Kelly: Luis was going to start a band with some friends as a joke in our last at college. I was like, hey I know how this works. I wanna be your coat hanger, can I be in the band too?’ They were like, yeah! Cool!
Luis: Coat hanger being a girlfriend who holds the coats. I mean, we’ve know each other since we were kids. We didn’t even consider being in a band together until later. I just kinda play guitar.
Kelly: It was really your friends who were starting the band. It wasn’t really either of our idea.
Luis: We actually ended up in this band.
Kelly: I played rhythm guitar; I didn’t sing. And then I quickly had to learn bass when our bass guitarist quit. I had the learn to sing all the songs in a week and a half.
Luis: She actually became the bass player is what she’s trying to say. And then we went through a number of different drummers over the years just a product of us being around for as long as we have. Then Rikki started playing with us this year. She did all the US tour stuff and then she came over with us here. We’re on drummer number fourteen.
Rikki: I wanted to be thirteen!
How has the last year been for you guys, have you felt like a solid team?
Luis: Well me and Kelly presented as me and her at this point anyway. But yeah we have a solid team with us on tour. Rikki is in her own band.
Rikki: We call it an open relationship.
Kelly: Yeah, we like to have an open relationship with our drummers! People have other projects and we’ve been a band for fifteen years. We’re older at this point and a lot of our peers have other careers or families. It’s harder to just go tour.
Luis: We’ve done the whole live in a van and sleep on floors for ten years. We don’t do that anymore anyway.
Kelly: We really just want to play with whoever makes sense each tour and honestly, it’s more fun and keeps it fresh for everybody involved. You don’t have any issues and you’re just there to have fun.
When you first started did you have financial support or were you DIY?
Kelly: We’ve always been a self starting band.
Luis: In the beginning, when we first moved to LA we both had day jobs. Four or five years we worked full time and did the band thing. Course, at the time the goals for every band was to get signed because they was a label structure to the music industry; which isn’t the case anymore.
Kelly: Even that said, we recorded our own albums. Our first album, we self released it and then Look Out Records licensed it. At that point, it wasn’t a money thing.
Luis: We paid for all our own stuff and put out our own thing. Then we started getting airplay, like radio play all by ourselves, without a label, and then the labels came to us. That’s what we tell all the younger bands, just do it. They’ll come to you. When somebody wants to help you whether it’s family or friends, or publisher, they’ll come to you when they see you’re making it happen. You can’t just sit around and wait for someone to hand it to you. It’s too tough an industry.
Of all your albums, which has been the toughest to get out there?
Kelly: A Little Messed Up was really hard.
Luis: A Little Messed Up was the follow up to Because I’m Awesome, and if there was any song you could say was our hit it’s ‘Because I’m Awesome.’ We were on Blackheart Records at the time which is Joan Jets’ label. We were feeling a lot of pressure to deliver a follow up to this song. We ended up seconding guessing ourselves, going through a lot of producers and a bunch of songwriters. All those things were okay at the time, but looking back on it, it would have been a better record if we had just gone with our gut and not questioned ourselves.
Your latest project has surpassed your (PledgeMusic) funding goal, how does it feel to have that kind of support?
Kelly: It’s amazing. We really do have a lot of supportive fans; a lot of them here in the UK. Probably solidly a third.
Luis: Which is amazing ‘cause we’ve been here like four times. This is our fourth time.
Kelly: I think it’s more fun to do it this way. We don’t have to be in a bubble, creating a product hoping our fans are going to like it. We can create it alongside them and they get to see what’s it like to make a record. It’s just a really cool relationship with them now and know we can keep making music and they’ll keep getting things that they like because you can’t let them down, that’s for sure.
What’s in The Dollyrots schedule for 2016 after this tour?
Luis: Putting out the live album; it’s a DVD and full length of the live set that we did with our fans, and we’ve released an EP. Our pledgers got the EP early; that’s one of the benefits of doing this sort of thing, we get to give it to them early. We’re going to take some time off the road, a few months, to work on the release through our own record label. We want to come back here, sooner rather than later.
With a third of your fan base over here, would you like to do a headline tour?
Luis: Yeah, we’ve been really lucky to be able to come over here with our friends.
Kelly: Every time we’re like, okay let’s book the headline gig, we get a tour offer. So we’re say, yeah that’d be easier, let’s do that instead.
Luis: I think it’s time to finally bite the bullet. Enough people have asked us up until this point.
Kelly: It’d be cool to play a full set. As a support act, we play thirty/fourty minutes a night. It’s hard to pick songs.
Luis: We’ve got six records. What nine or ten songs are we going to play? It’s hard. You don’t want to let people down. Like the one dude who flew from Ireland really wanted to see Kick Me To The Curb.
Kelly: We always play it…
Luis and Kelly – in unison: Not this tour…
Do you often get fans saying that they love your set but wished you played a particular song?
Luis: Yeah, it’s hard because you don’t want to let anyone but at the same time we’re trying to make everybody happy.
Kelly: It’s impossible.
Luis: Usually we end up playing the stuff that makes us happy.
Do you ever wing your sets?
Kelly: We used to not write a setlist, but I couldn’t handle it. It’s too scattered.
Luis: It’s easier to deliver a solid set if you know what’s coming. We don’t plan anything that we’re doing during the set. It’s different every night.
Kelly: We know that right after this song we have a break, to tune and have some water. Maybe tell a bad joke:
Luis: It makes it easier to just play and not worry about the transition. It allows you to really focus on performing versus ‘I don’t know about this song or this song, is this going to work?’ And then end up fumbling around and it’s awkward. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a band do that. They just kind of stand there and stare at each other, wondering what they’re going to do next.
Not only are you in a band, but you are full time parents. What’s it like with your little Dollytot?
Kelly: It wouldn’t be possible without our friends who come on the road with us. It’s actually easier than I was prepared for. The whole parenthood thing is easier than I had prepared for. We didn’t even know if we were going to still be a band but we were okay with that.
Luis: We came to terms with that fact that we might have to change our lives for this, more than we wanted to or were prepared for.
Kelly: We’ve been a thing since before the band so we always wanted to have a family, so we’re going to have to change everything, let’s do it. Now, here we are, somehow, in England again; with a baby.
Luis: He’s a product of us. He’s not going to be not okay with what we do which is naturally fine. He hangs out on the bus.
Kelly: Happy as can be.
Luis: He drinks his juice and watches My Little Pony or whatever.
Rikki: Last night there was this inflatable couch.
Kelly: Oh gosh, it was in the dressing room! It was so cool. Rikki and I sat on either side and we each took a cushion. It was like the best bouncy castle ever.
Luis: He’s fallen into a routine. Each night we ask him if he wants to come on stage. We give him a chance to say hi.
Kelly: Last night, Whit (our friend who’s helping look after him) told me that they were watching from the balcony and he does this thing when he’s talking to you where he’ll take your head. He was talking to her and she couldn’t hear him so she went out the doors, she took off his ear protectors and asked him what he was saying and he said, ‘River, go on stage!’ She said two more songs, after Satelite, and he was like, oh okay.
Luis: He knows the song. He’s settling right in. He has a routine, certain time of the day he wants to go see Uncle Jaret or he wants to see guitars.
Kelly: Some morning he goes, ‘Daddy, soup?’
Both erupt in laughter over River’s activities.
Kelly: He’s not really a toy kid. He’ll play with whatever is around. He’s more interested in what’s going on around him.
Luis: He wants to play with drum sticks. We’re lucky in the sense that he’s a relatively easy kid.
Kelly: He’s really outgoing, but that’s the product of being on tour for his first two years.
Luis: Right, he’s met so many people and been in so many weird situations. That at this point he just goes with the flow. We’re really grateful that we can do both, be in a band and have a family. Kelly tweeted today..
Kelly: Oh yeah, feeling like the luckiest girl kind of days.
Luis: We’re really thankful for everything. We figured we’d just keep working really hard, putting out good music, and it’ll all be okay.
Kelly: It all comes together.
Since we spoke to them The Dollyrots have announced that there’s a second Dollytot on the way (due in November), and also a brand new album in the works. Their live CD/DVD Family Vacation: Live In Los Angeles is out now. Our photo gallery of The Dollyrots playing with Bowling For Soup on the How About Another Round Tour in London is available for viewing here. Further updates from The Dollyrots camp will follow when we have them.