Pop-punk has always been relatively huge as a genre, and now seems to be on the rise once more as the world undergoes massive change and people look for escapism in music. One band dedicated to cranking out relentlessly cheerful tunes are The Dollyrots, who are on the cusp of unleashing their latest studio album Whiplash Splash – a 13 track explosion of bubblegum pop-punk that simply oozes cheeriness from every pore. We were able to catch up with frontwoman/bassist Kelly Ogden to chat more about the record, recording another album while pregnant, and what the last 12 months have been like in the band’s crazy world.
Looking back at your resume for 2016; a live album, an EP, a U.K. tour with BFS, to name just a few things – you guys have been busy!
Kelly: And how! I think kind-of the way Luis and I live life is we just repeatedly bite away more than we can chew and somehow we accomplish it, and so we just keep going crazier and saying yes to more and more things and yeah, so far seems to be working out – I still have a smile on my face, so I think it’s all good
I mean, over the last year you’ve been so busy…
Kelly: Yeah, and then: more touring, pregnant, made a studio record. And now that just came out, and so did the baby.
Would it be fair to call The Dollyrots the busiest band in pop punk over that last 12 months?
Kelly: Absolutely – if there’s anyone else who’d like to fight for that title, then I’m in! We could have like a burping contest or something, and I’d definitely win.
Most importantly though, and as you touched on a second ago, you also welcomed your daughter Daisy Moon last year.
Kelly: Yes, she is the coolest little baby ever. She’s super chill and easy and I think, come tour, it’s going to be crazy because we’re bringing both her and River starting in about ten days. And it will be crazy but I think had she been a different baby it would be super extra wild crazy. This way it’ll just be a little extra-hard.
No sweat then really.
Kelly: Nah, we got it! I say that, but I figure if I always say stuff like that then it’ll come true.
Your sixth studio album ‘Whiplash Splash’ is due for public release in three weeks time at this point – how excited are you guys to finally be putting this record out there?
Kelly: Actually it feels like we just finished it – so usually we’ll finish a record and then we’ll get all the promo ready and we’re usually late at getting things mass-produced like all the CDs and the vinyl and everything, but I think knowing we were about to have two children, including a newborn, we were just trying to keep one step ahead of the game with every move. And so I’m kinda surprised it’s already here and I’m really surprised I’m getting on an aeroplane next week to fly to Chicago to start a tour. I feel like I’m not really living in this moment, I’m like a week behind, but yeah. So far, we gave it to our PledgeMusic supporters last week, and the response has been incredible. People are like “Ah, I listened to it five times in a row” and so we feel really really confident about this one and we love the subject matter, and it feels really spontaneous. It’s deep without being not-us and not-pop-punk, and I honestly think it’s our best work yet.
You mention the fact it’s already available to the pledgers, but what everyone else who hasn’t heard the record yet expect to hear from ‘Whiplash Splash’?
Kelly: Erm, it’s a lot like Barefoot and Pregnant and our first record Eat Your Heart Out, I think in terms of the rock-ness of it. But in the studio we were pretty much finished with the basic tracks by the time we went to Minneapolis to meet our producer and finish the record. So that’s kind of just the way we’ve been making albums for a while now because the last two times I’ve been pregnant and y’know, we can never tell how much energy I’m gonna have at any given moment so we recorded guitar, bass and most of the vocals at our home studio and then took them into the studio proper. And so once we got there we had some time and we didn’t have to waste time on like me tracking bass or something boring like that, haha. Sorry to all you bass players. But instead we had some fun, and our producer, he’s an amazing keyboard player and he’d just gotten some of these really weird keyboard patches from some 80’s famous keyboard guy or something, I don’t remember. But we kinda had fun and put it all over the record, so in the sense that there’s some more production-y kind of stuff and keyboard parts on some of the songs, that’s a little bit like our self-titled album.
While you were writing for the album, was there any particular vibe or style you were looking to capture this time around, or did you just go in with the basic intention of making a great Dollyrots record?
Kelly: It was kind of like “Oh shit, hurry up, write the record, we don’t have any time to think about this – just write songs and we’ll take the best ones”. And it was actually kind-of a race you know, some nights I’d put our toddler to bed then I’d go to sleep because I was pregnant and tired, and I’d wake up and Luis would be like “I wrote two songs last night!”, and he’d have two instrumental tracks ready and he’d be like “Go in there and write all the words!”. And so he’d kinda tag me in and I’d go into the studio and I’d spend some time writing lyrics and writing melodies and then we’d go and record and be like “Okay, I’m gonna go do two more”. And that’s kinda the way it went – it was only a few weeks. And then we had to be done, so it was kinda nuts, and I feel like that energy definitely comes through. And in the subject matter, nothing was predetermined, a lot of the lyrics and things were just dictated by what music Luis had come up with in the middle of the night in a Miller Lite haze, haha. So I’d hear a song and be like “Ah, these words kinda come to mind” and then it’d grow from there really. So it was a very natural and spontaneous album really, not overthought. We didn’t rewrite stuff – if something sucked, we would just trash it and move on.
The record ends on a Dollyrots-styled cover of Walking On Sunshine for its closing track as well. What made you choose to cover that song in particular?
Kelly: We always do, as you guys would say, a kind-of cheeky cover and we asked a handful of friends, “Hey, we have a little extra time – what cover should we do?”. And two people, Jaret from Bowling For Soup and our friend Drew Carey who’s a comedian – which is really funny and weird that he’s our friend; both of them said we should do Walking On Sunshine. And we were both like “Alright, I’m not sure but we’ll give it a go” and it kinda put a smile on our faces and it made me like the song in a new way – I’d kinda listened to it passively like at a grocery store or walking to the mall or on Mom’s radio, but I was like “Wow, this is kinda cool”.
Were there any other potential covers you’d thought about to recording for the album in place of that song, or was it always the one?
Kelly: You know, I don’t really remember – I could go look at my texts…but I feel, at that point I was 8 months pregnant and I couldn’t believe I was in the studio recording, and I probably don’t remember much of the last 6 months to be perfectly honest.
This is the second time you’ve recorded an album while pregnant now Kelly – does something like that add many extra challenges and considerations to the typical studio processes for you and the band?
Kelly: I mean, it’s physically difficult because by the end of the pregnancy my whole body’s kind of out of shape, and singing takes weird muscles to make the sounds come out right. And that’s why people practice so much, because the practice is actually exercising the right muscles, and you know I definitely didn’t have the room in my body for my lungs to expand and like my diaphragm to move in the right way so I would have to sing in really short bursts. I mean like, I would sing a verse, then lay down for like half an hour, then do another and then lay down again or go eat. And so, we did the main tracks at our home studio because we knew there was no way I was gonna get to Minneapolis and be able to sing for hours on end every day, so thank god Luis had the foresight to be like “I’m sorry you’re gonna hate me this week, but you have to do all the vocals for the record”. And so I did – I think I cried when it was all done, I was so relieved.
Just to backtrack slightly, in terms of production, am I right in saying this is yet another album from The Dollyrots to be helmed by John Fields?
Kelly: Absolutely, yeah. We always worked with him in Los Angeles but he moved out to Minneapolis, so we went to his new studio there and spent like a week and a half or two weeks just buttoning up the tracks we’d recorded at home. He just put his awesome Fields sauce on them and they were ready to go.
And you guys have been working together for a long time now.
Kelly: Yeah, I mean, I don’t know when Eat My Heart Out came out but it’s been over ten years cause Because I’m Awesome turns ten this month. It’s probably like twelve or thirteen years we’ve worked with him.
Given how long you’ve worked together now, just how integral to the band’s signature sound would you say he’s become over the years?
Kelly: Y’know, I don’t know if it’s so much the sound, because we’ve been fortunate enough to work with other people and there are recordings on our records that’re done with other producers – we worked with Linus of Hollywood and we love working with him, and it’s always fast and fun and sounds like us. But I think when it comes to making records, there’s just something that happens when John and Luis and I are in the room together and I don’t know what it is but he’s kind-of our band member that doesn’t tour with us in a way. And we don’t even have to talk to each other, it’s almost like an old married couple thing – like, it’s all a matter of looks and sound and laughter. And that communication is very very easy, and so I think; to be honest we have that with Linus too, but we always just when it’s time to do the record it seems like we call Fields like “You ready?”, and then we do another one.
Whiplash Splash is the latest Dollyrots output to be funded via fan contributions. What was it that made you decide to use PledgeMusic crowdfunding once again to make the album?
Kelly: Well, we have found that being an independent band and doing the crowdfunding thing, not only is just a better business choice, but it makes us that much closer to our fans because you know instead of us just disappearing for three months or four months and recording a record and announcing a release date and being like “Hey, we made this record, buy it!”, people get to see how we made the record all the way from the announcement to the first demos to the whole thing. And I feel like, as a fan, I love doing that – I love Pledging for other things and seeing how other artists make their stuff and I think it’s just a better experience for everybody.
Is this release method something you expect to continue doing for as long as possible now then?
Kelly: Yeah, I think so – I mean, we have distribution in the States through this company called MVD and so they put physical CDs and records into most of the cool Mom and Pop brick & mortar stores, and we do all our own mail order. And so it just makes sense for us to do it ourselves at this point. We’ve been a band long enough that we’re lucky enough to be able to do it.
The Dollyrots have always seemed to try out as many ways of interacting with fans as possible, be it via Pledge or by your StageIt online performances – just how important is that ability to connect with your fanbase to what you do?
Kelly: It’s the most important thing next to just actually creating music because it’s no fun to make music and it just stay on a computer or in our house, or in our relationship, because Luis and I have been together since we were kids and we’ve been musical partners our whole lives practically. And so there isn’t really that gratification that comes with knowing that other people can enjoy this thing we’re making. And so when we actually know the people that like it, it’s that much more satisfying for us, it’s I guess a selfish thing to do in some ways because we’re just looking for people to say “Hey that was cool, you could do it again, go make another record”. And then we’re like “Oh yeah, we get to go and do it all again!”. And our fans are just so completely supportive, we just wanna make sure that even if they don’t get to see us on an actual tour, that they can still be connected to us in other ways.
As of us talking right now, the album’s been available to PledgeMusic contributors for a few days. What seems to have been peoples’ overall reactions to the record so far?
Kelly: I think that everybody loves it – the top song by majority, because we did a poll on PledgeMusic, is Dance Like A Maniac, which is hilarious because it’s just kind-of a dumb fast song. I mean, I love that song, it’s great. Luis’ “Lord have mercy” lyric or whatever is just hilarious, and some of the references in that song – it’s just a fun one. A lot of people were surprised by and liked Jump Start This Heart, and I mean, overall people just really love it. My favourite song probably is Mermaid, but that didn’t make the top 5 in the poll so I don’t know if we’re playing it on tour, but it’s been a really great reaction and I can’t wait until more people get it. And we actually made lyric videos for every single song, so we’ll be releasing those this week. Dance Like A Maniac will be the first one and then it’ll go in album order every week after that.
The Dollyrots at this point have now been a band for 17 years – what do you think has been the secret to such longevity within the music industry for you?
Kelly: Holy crap, yeah! I think definitely having each other has made us kinda keep going. Because there’s definitely been times when either one of us has been like “Oh my god I can’t do this anymore”, but we’ve kinda kept going for the other person I think in those moments. And the same in our personal lives, it’s a marriage in every single way – there are great times and then there are times that aren’t so great but at this point we know we’ll get through them and you know, come out on the other side even better. You know, album cycles are weird – it’s like, right now we’re in this really exciting time and there’s all these interviews every day and all these people love the new music and we’re gonna start releasing the videos and going on tour and it’s all fun, and then we get home and it’s kinda like “Okay, well now what? Does anybody still like us?”. And it kinda starts over again and we’re like “Oh let’s do another record”. So I mean, it really is a rollercoaster of a life and we’re just really lucky to have each other. I think a lot of bands, and it’s not necessarily a couples relationship, it might just be best friends, it’s just two guys in the band that keep each other going, and you know, I think that’s kinda been our secret really.
You’re off on tour around the US again in about a fortnight for the first leg of a nationwide tour – it’s a two-part run this time?
Kelly: Yeah, we start in Chicago and then go down through the Midwest to Texas, then over to California and that’ll be our March dates. And then we start again in May in New York and we’ll do some East Coast stuff into Montreal in Canada. Because just logistically with the kids now, we try to keep tours to two or three weeks max, otherwise it’s just a little too much for them.
How excited are you to be getting back on the road?
Kelly: Ugh, I am just chomping at the bit and terrified. But I know that the second we get to plug in and be onstage and feel like ourselves in front of people is gonna feel so good. Especially y’know, after having a baby, I feel like it’s something that women experience but when you have a baby it’s like your body explodes and you get super fat and your hormones are crazy so you don’t feel like yourself, and all of a sudden you’re mom to this screaming little monkey and y’know, it’s easy to forget who you are. And when I go onstage I think that’s the only time in my life right now where I can really remember who I am, and I can’t wait to feel that way.
Do you have any idea when we might next be able to see you back in the UK and Europe for this touring cycle?
Kelly: We are absolutely positively trying to figure out something in the autumn. So cross your fingers, and that’s the plan for sure. River, our toddler, took his first steps in Liverpool so it only seems fair to let Daisy have that experience as well.
Have you guys got anything else at all on the cards for the immediate future, or is it purely just focusing on this album cycle now?
Kelly: I mean it’s this album for now; we’ve been joking we’re gonna make a kids’ record too. Outside of the band, I’m working on a duets album with Jaret from Bowling For Soup and that’s gonna be awesome. The plan is to have that done pretty soon and we’re probably gonna launch a PledgeMusic campaign around that. It’ll be cool and definitely a departure – we don’t want it to just be a pop-punk record, we wanna do different things. Maybe totally different genres for different songs or something, I’m not 100% sure yet exactly – we’re just in the writing process right now.
Just to cap things off – is there any message you’d like to give to the readers of Rock Sins who might be fans of the band?
Kelly: Just let us be your happy place – there’s a lot of crazy stuff going on, especially in America politically and in personal life, and just all that considered, as a band we just want to be people’s happy place. And whether that’s just listening through headphones on your computer, or at a show, or on Facebook, we want to be a part of your lives and we want to make you happy. And we feel like that’s our purpose so, you know – come at us!
Thanks so much for your time today Kelly
Kelly: You got it, it was great fun talking to you Jack – those were great questions.
The Dollyrots new album, Whiplash Splash, is out now on Arrested Youth Records. All the details about where to buy a copy (digital or CD) can be found at their website.