Recently The Cover Zone had the opportunity to toss some questions toward the talented front-woman of The Dollyrots, Kelly Ogden. Check out what Kelly had to say about their new album "Because I'm Awesome" just released by Blackheart Records, new drummer Chris Black and much more.
TCZ: Give us a sense of your musical background - when did you discover rock & roll, when did you decide you wanted to be in a band?
Kelly: I first discovered rock n' roll watching "Dirty Dancing," at a friend's house behind my mom's back. The soundtrack was so sexual, the story is so sweetly rebellious, and I was at the age where I almost understood what was going on.
I later discovered punk rock through Luis, we were in high school and he gave me Hole, "Live Through This" and taught me how to play "I Wanna Be Sedated" on guitar. It was like I found a portal to Nirvana, Bikini Kill, The Pixies, The Breeders, The Sex Pistols, Generation X, Blondie, The Runaways and it just went on from there.
TCZ: Do you have any musical heroes, people who inspired you to seek out a career in music?
Kelly: My musical heroes are Joan Jett, Kim Deal, Madonna, Joey Ramone, Neil Young, Ronnie Spector, Carol King, Louie Jordan, Kim Shattuck, Kathleen Hannah, Sonic Youth, and for better or worse… Kurt Cobain, Darby Crash and Janis Joplin.
TCZ: You seem to relish playing bass in addition to singing. Tell us a little bit about your approach to the bass, and whether you play any other instruments.
Kelly: HA! Well my approach to the bass is pretty easy, keep it simple so you can sing and use your whole arm to "strum." My favorite bass lines off this record are from "Out of LA," and "Because I’m Awesome." I LOVE playing one bass line throughout the whole song like in "Out of LA."
I'm a very physical performer, so I play and sing hard. My basses all have blood on them! I started bass when we lost our first bassist way back when, before that I played rhythm guitar. I still love to pick up my acoustic (the one I bought with babysitting money when I was 16) but I feel like I have GIANT hands when I try to play an electric.
TCZ: Tell us a little about The Dollyrots' guitar player, Luis Cabezas. How did you two get together?
Kelly: Well Luis and I have known each other since he moved to our small town hometown of Land O’Lakes, Florida in 8th grade. He was one of those artsy, smart, cool kids that wasn't it in the popular group but carried around an electric guitar like a weirdo. I got a guitar when I was 16 and he started teaching me stuff. We ended up going to college together and started the band together.
TCZ: You recently went through a very amicable personnel change, with drummer Amy Wood leaving to work on other projects. Tell us a little about your new drummer Chris Black - what qualities do you think he brings to the band?
Kelly: Chris is really fun, passionate, mischievous, and hard working. We toured together with his old band a few years ago and it was always the three of us breaking off from the group to go do fun stuff like look at, "The Thing" in AZ or sneak into movies. The three of us are meant to be together, we're having an awesome time.
TCZ: To follow up on the previous questions, what are the essential ingredients for a Dollyrot?
Kelly: Passion, silliness, smarts, kindness, awareness, and you must take wishes very seriously. Oh and you must like burritos. And animals. And believe in equality for everyone.
TCZ: The Cover Zone caught our first Dollyrots show at the Dallas stop of last year's Warped tour and were blown away by the energy and enthusiasm infused throughout your performance. Describe your Warped experience for us.
Kelly: It was fun, sweaty, whirl windy, loud, thirsty, exciting, and wild. We got to meet so many new people and bands… I gave Joan Jett our CD and we got a new record deal! It was AWESOME!
TCZ: With important achievments including an appearance in a nationally shown advertisement for Hewlett-Packard, a stint on the Warped Tour and your just-announced signing with Joan Jett's Blackheart Records, The Dollyrots seem poised for major commercial success. Does the appearance of big changes on the horizon bring you any trepidation, or do you embrace it with open arms?
Kelly: I think we’re all ready for whatever happens. We're pretty grounded and want to do as much as we can with our music. We're not just embracing it we're squeezing its guts out. After touring in a van diy-style the past few years and meeting so many cool people we really feel like we understand what it means to be in a band and how to not take anything we do for granted.
TCZ: You've played numerous shows with well-respected, veteran indie bands including The Muffs, The Groovie Ghoulies, Visqueen and The Soviettes, just to name a few. Have those experiences been helpful in avoiding the various potential pitfalls faced by virtually every new indie band?
Kelly: For sure. It's inspiring to meet and play with bands you look up to. It's also neat when you meet them and they're as cool as you always hoped they be! All of those bands seem to approach things with a nice, respectful, secure mindset that is quite different from that of a lot of younger bands and even bands in other genres. They’ve all been successful in their own right, they're not trying too hard or clawing their way up.
I think that is the best thing to take away from those experiences, just to be cool to people and have equal respect for everyone you encounter, from the door guys to the crazy fans to the other bands.
TCZ: The Dollyrots seem to send everything out with a wink and a smile, graciously inviting the audience to join in on the fun. Is that something you make a conscious effort to do, or does it just come naturally?
Kelly: I think that's just the way we are. It's easy to act natural when you don't fake it! Not trying to be something you're not and being comfortable with yourself is one of the main things we believe in.
TCZ: Dollyrots songs are consistently, blatantly, gloriously infectious rock & roll fun. Can you give us a little insight into the band's songwriting process?
Kelly: It usually starts with Luis and I sitting down with the acoustic. Luis will play a riff over and over and we'll come up with a vocal melody. Usually I'll write some words and then we'll bring it to practice and make it a song. Sometimes we write at practice, sometimes Luis will write the whole thing and sometimes we write at the last minute in the studio. We like to do what comes naturally and not overthink it. We don't worry about genres, I guess our music's just a reflection of music we like to listen to and we’re just channeling it.
TCZ: Your new release "Because I'm Awesome" released in March in the U.S. on Blackheart Records, and there's also a planned Japanese release on FabTone. Can you give us a thumbnail sketch of how you got connected to each label?
Kelly: Well the Blackheart thing was particularly cool, after weeks of trying to muster up the courage, I walked up to Joan Jett and gave her the CD. She was super cool and actually knew who we were. We talked for a few and she had me send a CD to the label. A few weeks later we were working out the record deal.
The deal with FabTone in Japan was cool because they approached us. Our first record was out in Japan via Lookout and they wanted to know our plans for the next one so one thing led to another & we decided to work with them too.
TCZ: Tell us about the making of "Because I'm Awesome." Give us a brief view of the process through your eyes.
Kelly: Well we recorded the record in two main sessions. The first was with Jacques Wait. Luis hunted him down because we love the sound of the Soviettes’ records. We recorded everything to tape and then dumped it into Pro Tools for editing. Those tracks have a more raw, vintage sound.
A few months later we went back into the studio with John Fields who had recorded the first album. We recorded some songs we didn't get to in the first session and a few new ones too. Those songs came out a little slicker and poppier. I think both have their values. I'm glad we got the best of both worlds!
TCZ: Which track did you consider the most difficult to record and why?
Kelly: Actually "Brand New Key" was the toughest. I think covers are tricky because you want to make it your own but keep the original flavor. It's a song I had sung 100's of times and I thought it would be really easy to record but MAN! That vocal line is pretty wild! It was tough but worth it!
TCZ: Which track is your favroite to perform live and why?
Kelly: Right now it's "Watch Me Go/Kissed Me Killed Me." The swing feel is really fun and the crowd always loves it.
TCZ: What can we expect from The Dollyrots in 2007? Any new videos? Tours?
Kelly: Yes yes! New video coming this week. It’s an American Idol spoof. We’ll probably get sued. You don’t need them, cause you’re awesome! And there are a couple U.S. tours in the works, one starting in late April and another including dates on the ’07 Warped Tour. Check Dollyrots.com and Myspace.com/thedollyrots for updates.
TCZ: Anything we haven't covered that you would like to share?
Kelly: Come to the shows and meet Sniffy, the rat ambassador! She’s the sweetest.
Interview by Mike R & GWGS © The Cover Zone April 2007