Throughout over fifeen years of being in a band, Kelly and Luis of the Dollyrots seem to have developed quite the interesting and unique way of doing things. It’s Wednesday evening and we sit in their dressing room before the third show on the Bowling For Soup tour- we sit with their drummer Rikki, their friend Whit and their two year old boy River. They’re on the brink of releasing their first live DVD and album, filmed at the Roxy in LA, and are simultaneously celebrating the release of their new EP, Mama’s Gonna Knock You Out which came out last Friday. Talking about sleeping in musician’s closets, learning to play songs after they’re recorded, and what it’s like being in a band whilst having a two year old, here is a small insight into the unconventional, quirky world of the Dollyrots.
BM: How’s you tour going with Bowling For Soup then? I know you’ve only done two days so far.
Kelly: It’s awesome!
Luis: Yeah, we’ve been saying this is going to be the best tour ever, and so far it’s alright!
Kelly: It’s been a lot of fun, the crowds have been fun!
Luis: We’re excited because we didn’t know we’d ever get to do this again.
BM: Not hating how cold it is in England then?
Luis: No, it’s alright.
Kelly: Earlier today, here was the worst. Inside the venue was the worst.
Luis: Inside the venue was colder than the outside! We were sound checking and she’s got like gloves on!
Kelly: I know! My hands though when they’re really cold they hurt so bad when I play so… We need to find those heat things, those little hot pockets. I should tweet it, see if someone could bring me a couple!
Luis: If we need something we usually just tweet like ‘er we need this!’ and then two hundred people show up with like chocolate bars or whatever.
Kelly: Dairy Milk bars, hand warmers and some gloves please!
BM: It’s not the first time you’ve worked with Bowling For Soup though is it, didn’t you release a 7” with them in 2011?
Luis: Yeah! We’ve been touring with them since 2009, on and off. I don’t even know how many tours it’s been at this point. This is our third time with them in the UK, and then we’ve done a tonne of US stuff with them. We just kind of like… we ended up doing a short run with them in 2009, and we all just fell in love. Then ever since then…
Kelly: With the fans, the overlap is really good, we just like being around each other.
Luis: We’re best friends, they’re awesome. Like we hang out outside of the band too, it’s like we go visit each other out of state you know, we hang out and if any of us are in each other’s towns we just crash with them, it’s cool.
Kelly: Yeah, I’ve slept in Burney’s closet…
Luis: You have passed out in Chris Burney’s (BFS guitarist) closet!
Kelly: He has this like awesome walk-in closet and I slept in there once on a pile of his clothes.
Luis: There is a chance that River was conceived in Jaret’s house…
Kelly: And Jaret was the first person in the world to know that we were pregnant, because he was waiting to make the tour announcement for the farewell tour until we knew!
Luis: Yeah their 2013 tour we didn’t come on because Kelly was pregnant.
Kelly: Like really pregnant, it just was not gonna happen! The tour was in October and he was born in November so…
Luis: Jaret knew before our parents knew which was really weird.
BM: You did the StageIt show last week to celebrate your new EP, did you have fun?
Kelly: Yeah it was fun, we were spazzing out! Like we hadn’t slept and we were trying to practice.
Luis: We were sorting out… The pledge thing, the live album we had just gotten it back from the factory, so we wanted to send it all out before we left town. Of course we didn’t… We tried. But we did our best and we got most of it out. That plus the release stuff, plus the tour coming up, packing…
Kelly: We have a two year old!
Luis: Getting a two year old ready to go on a long tour! We were just losing our minds. But we had scheduled the StageIt ahead of time and we weren’t going to cancel it, so we did it and it was cool.
Kelly: It was funny!
Luis: Learning the new songs like at the last minute. Because the way record is we just write as we record now. We used to write and then the play the songs out but now we just write as we record it. You have to learn to play the song like after it’s recorded!
Kelly: It’s like I’ll record the bassline, then we’ll record the guitar, then I have to come up with the vocal stuff, and I record the vocals and I never play them both at the same time! So I have to do it for a show so it’s like ‘oh crap, can I even do this?!’ That happened with our song Twist Me To The Left. Oh my gosh it’s this awesome bassline but then there’s this melody on top of it, and it took me months to separate my brain halves to make that song come out of my body its really confusing.BM: So tell me about your new release, how come you chose to just do an EP?
Kelly: We had five days to write and record something.
Luis: We had just gotten back from the Bowling For Soup run and so we filmed the show in Los Angeles for the live DVD and album right. So… it’s our home town so we thought ‘alright cool!’ and we’ve played the Roxy a million times, so we thought let’s just do this show. So we get back, we get done with that and we had time in LA, because we’re spending part of our time in Florida and part of our time in LA. We still had a few weeks in LA so it was like, alright! Our producer guy was there and he had some free days, so we thought we would just make something new for the pledgers.
Kelly: We crowd sourced our DVD and live album…
Luis: But it’s all older songs, you know. It’s basically all of our favourite songs, so we thought that it would be fair to give them something new. So our producer guy had a window of two days.
Kelly: And then we only found out a few days before that!
Luis: Yeah so I sent him a message like ‘hey, how about in two or three weeks, we set up some time to record?’ and he’s like ‘well I’m going to Nashville, so I have two days open in three days’. We didn’t have any songs written, we didn’t have anything! So we wrote eight songs in three days… And then picked the best three.
Kelly: Then finished writing them in the studio…
Luis: Yeah she was writing lyrics in the studio as she’s singing them.
Kelly: I actually sang some lyrics and then had to write them down, after they were decided on.
Luis: So that EP, we’re really proud of it actually.
Kelly: It’s the newest thing we made and it’s really good! We still got it somewhere!
BM: Is there a story behind the songs then or do you just write down what comes out?
Kelly: It’s just whatever, because usually we have something musically first and that makes you feel something. Sometimes it just makes me remember something else or a feeling or something.
Luis: A lot of it is just like stream of consciousness, sometimes there’s a theme, but the theme doesn’t become evident until you start writing it. We don’t say ‘I’m gonna write a song about this’. You kind of just start writing.
Kelly: Every now and then we do.
Luis: But that’s rare.
Kelly: Puppy Dog Eyes is a song off Barefoot and Pregnant and I was so tired and I wasn’t hearing anything… There’s nothing coming out of me right now. So then our dog was sitting in between us and Luis is like ‘just write it about him!’
Luis: We have a song about our cat, we have a song about our dog… We have a song about Whit! (points to their friend sitting at the other side of the room)
Kelly: Yeah! Little Medusa is about her, she was in a band called Little Medusa. So yeah it comes from all over the place.
Luis: There is never an intention or a plan though.
Kelly: We know that the majority of our fans may never get to see us play live.
Luis: We wanted to give them something, and plus we’ve never really done a video thing like a long video project. So it kind of all happened together with the Bowling For Soup thing, Jaret asked us to do the US tour, so obviously we were gonna do it.
Kelly: So we knew we were going to be touring a lot and we wouldn’t have time to write and record an album, so we thought we had to do something. It’s time for the live one!
Luis: So it was perfect, there was a show scheduled at the Roxy, we had our crew and the people we work with for videos were out there, we had the audio people that we work with out there- it just seemed like the perfect storm of all of these things coming together to make for a good live DVD. And it is, it’s great! We’re really proud of it.
BM: Has using PledgeMusic worked out well for you then, to crowd-source the project?
Kelly: It’s been amazing, because we started out releasing our first record ourselves, and then it got picked up by Lookout Records. Then our next two records came out on a record label. So I think the fact that we’ve amassed a fan-base through over ten years of touring now, and we got to see how an indie label works, by being a band in that system. So, we knew what we were getting into by starting to release our own records. This is the third time we’ve done it so by this point we kind of have it down.
Luis: You just have to do what the label does. There’s no reason why a band can’t do what the label does; you hire PR, you pay for the photography, you pay for the recording, you pay for whatever. We got distribution for the live thing, like a proper distributor! So all those things are funded by the fans, and at the end of the day, instead of the record label owning it or controlling it, the band does. So we still use proper people to help us with the project, but there’s no reason that the record label should own it. That’s just crazy. When the record label does it, they own your record forever.
Kelly: We make music for our fans directly and it’s like, we know them now. We’ve been doing the fan funded projects and the amount of times we’ve written people’s names and checked them off on spreadsheets.
Luis: Yeah we know these people, like almost a thousand people did the live album thing and I have an idea in my mind of most of these people. It’s like ‘oh that guy from that town!’ it just brings you closer, and plus the fans know that they’re supporting the band directly.
Kelly: So they’re happier about the direct exchange. They’re a part of the whole process.
Luis: We let them vote on the album title!
BM: You can keep them up to date as well, it’s nice to have them so involved with it.
Kelly: Yeah, it’s cool because Barefoot and Pregnant, doing that one we started the pledge campaign before we had written a single song. So we would send them demos and they really got to see how we created the whole thing and it’s just so much more fun that way.
Luis: Plus is shows them that we’re actually doing something, working on it. It’s like here’s this thing, here’s this thing…
Kelly: I almost feel guilty a lot of the time because a lot of our biggest fans when I have interactions with them are like ‘oh my God you’re so busy, I’m so sorry!’ and I’m like, it some ways it’s awesome and in some ways it does ruin a little bit of the effortlessness that people think that artists get to experience.
Luis: That’s not true though, artists have to hussle, they have to. If you’re really an artist then you have to, I mean you can be a performer and just get paid to dance around the stage or whatever, but if you’re a working artist then you have to hussle.
Kelly: Nothing is ever certain.
Luis: We just keep moving. You can’t overthink it, we don’t think ‘oh we don’t know If we should put out this song…’ it’s basically ‘hey Kelly what do you think, good enough?’ and she’s like ‘yep!’ Either it is or it isn’t, and then you just go. Usually the first thing is the best thing and then you just run with it. We worked to that point though, that’s why we know the difference between what’s good and what’s bad. You can’t do that straight off the bat, like 22 year old me would have had no idea.
Kelly: Oh man, 22 year old us, the thing that we struggled over and then finally agreed were good, half of the time were crap.
Luis: Right! It’s like the point you made before, once you see something enough, it’s like the art you see in a museum, the more art you see, the more of a judge of art you can be. You have to see music in the same way.BM: I’ve seen you described as ‘bubblegum punk’, is that something you guys came up with or the fans?
Kelly: I love it!
Luis: Some journalist wrote that, and we were thinking maybe it applies to some of our stuff but not all of it. It doesn’t so much apply to the live show, because our live show is more aggressive and rough around the edges than our records. Our records tend to be more pop-sounding, because we like to listen to music that is recorded well, so we’re going to make music that is recorded in that way!
Kelly: When we started, a lot of our melodic influences were like oldies radio, so the whole bubblegum thing really was an influence, I mean that’s like the 50s rock ‘n’ roll, pop era. We were heavily influenced by that- our covers were Be My Baby by the Ronettes, we did Crystals, Chiffons, so much of that girl group music.
Luis: We like girl groups! I think that girl group music is structurally very similar to like Ramones or early Donnas. Punk rock, the beginning of punk rock has a lot of Beach Boys or girl group influences, or early Beatles influences. So all that stuff, we’re fans of that era. It’s similar to what we do.
BM: So it was more flattering when someone came up with that term?
Luis: Yeah! We didn’t make it up. It’s like River’s name on Twitter, he’s the Dollytot, but we didn’t make that up somebody else did!
BM: So what are you excited for on the rest of the tour?
Kelly: I haven’t had proper fish and chips yet! I’m starving right now.
Luis: Indian food… you guys do Indian food right because you don’t skimp on the spices and stuff. There’s a good Chinese place in Liverpool we could walk there… We’ve played a lot of these venues before.
Kelly: We’re getting a VIP tour of Stonehenge!
Luis: This guy who’s an author and a fan, he asked if we wanted to go and we asked if he could get a car seat and he’s like ‘yep!’ so we were like ‘alright let’s go!’ So we’re taking a field trip.
Kelly: We went there last time, when we were on the Buzzcocks tour, but we didn’t want to pay because we didn’t have enough time, so we just jumped the fence and ran! Just like the cow fence not the protective fence.
Photos by Erin Moore at Forte Photography UK