Dire Dollyrots Drought Done
Kelly Ogden Talks about Innuendo, Motherhood, and Spaghetti
It’s been years since the Dollyrots played Oklahoma City. But fortune finally favored the city’s denizens: last April the band opened for Bowling for Soup, an act they’ve long been associated with, at the Tower Theatre. Eleven months later to-the-day, the Dollyrots headlined at the 89th Street Collective. The last time they played that club it was still called The Conservatory.
Formed in 2000, the band comprises vocalist and guitarist Luis Cabezas and singer and bassist Kelly Ogden. The married couple are currently touring with their children, six-year-old River [Sidenote: During an aborted first attempt at an interview, Luis told me that River will tell his friends when he is
going on tour.] and two-year-old Daisy. On tour with them is drummer Justin McGrath. You can see their upcoming dates on their website.
The Bureau caught up with Ogden after the show to talk about their upcoming album. [Sidenote: Originally funding via crowdfunding platform PledgeMusic, the band cancelled the campaign and self-funded the album in the wake of the platform’s implosion.] The new long-player has a name, but Ogden and Cabezas are keeping the title “close to the vest” prior to its release. [Sidenote: The Dollyrots announced the album title and previewed the artwork early on 7 May to their Patreon supporters. That evening they announced publicly that the album would be called Daydream Explosion. The album hits the street 12 July 2019.]
MPBI understand you recorded the forthcoming album in Minnesota?
Kelly OgdenWe recorded in Minnesota because — since our very first album, our producer — we met him in Los Angeles, but he’s a Minneapolis guy — and his name’s John Fields, and he’s kinda the other member of our band at this point. And so the way that we record now is we record as we write. So usually it starts with a beat or a click-track or a metronome even. And then it’s usually a guitar melody. And then I do a vocal melody, and then it grows from there. Sometimes it’s just a bass-line, sometimes it’s just cool drum part, but typically it’s a guitar riff with melody. Our goal is to always have programmed drums, guitar, bass, main vocals and some backing vocals done before we get to John.
We booked the time at Pachyderm, which is outside Minneapolis. We went to the project studio with John — it’s called Criterion; it’s the old Hüsker Dü studio — in the middle of Minneapolis for the first few days, and then we went to Pachyderm. But we booked Pachyderm, I think it was [for] January 23rd, and we still hadn’t written as of the beginning of December.
So we’re kind of panicking; we had already paid for Pachyderm. And then my dad passed away on December 21st. He’d had cardiac problems, and he had temporal frontal degeneration, which is a strange type of dementia, which he’d been dealing with probably four or five years. A few before we realized what was going on.
But we were not prepared. Because we’d thought,
Oh, you know, we’ll do it over the Christmas break, when sh-t shuts down, we’ll just work, you know,
we’ll send the kids to the grandparents to hang out, and we’ll write the record. But then, it was like,
I can’t write anything right now. My heart is crushed into tiny little bits and I can’t do it; I just can’t do this. And finally New Year’s Eve happened, and we had two funerals. [Sidenote: We recorded the interview in the venue parking lot. At this point Ogden saw a cat in the next-door lot and interrupted her answer to exclaim,
There’s a kitty-cat!]
But then we got home from the second funeral in New Jersey, and it was like,
We have to write the record. There’s no choice; I have to do this. And I mean Luis too; he’s known my dad since he was fifteen years old. It was the biggest loss either of us has had in our lives.
So we’d put the kids to bed, we’d go out back — we have a studio in our back yard — and we’d write. We’d write until three, four, five in the morning. And then we’d wake up at 7:30 in the morning to take our kid to school. And it was crazy and kind of manic, but the result was the most artistically strong thing I’ve ever done in my life. I was guided by emotions and maybe otherworldly things, because I think art, it comes from somewhere else. The art is not inside of me, and the art is not inside of Luis. You become a conduit for something outside of yourself when you become open. I think that’s what happened; I think because we were hurting and because we were under pressure, we had no choice but to create. I think the creation [of this album] is something we’re probably never gonna do better than.
Let’s just put this record out, take a tiny break, we’ll do a kids’ record, do a little side-project, and then maybe do another Dollyrots record, but like, it’s the greatest thing I’ve ever made.
It came from a very strange place, but the thing is, it’s not sad. It’s a really positive, powerful, empowering album.
The timing — going to Minnesota when it was freezing — Oh, we got a snowstorm! Man!
MPBLuis mentioned a Nirvana connection to Pachyderm?
OgdenYes. The two of us were kids when Nirvana was happening. They’re easily out favorite band ever. In Utero was recorded at Pachyderm. Then Pachyderm fell into disrepair, and there are stories about cults and funny things, and hauntings, and snakes in the ceilings. It became this kinda weird place, and it wasn’t a functioning studio for a while. But then John Kuker — he ran the studio where we recorded some of Because I’m Awesome, some of A Little Messed Up. They were recorded at his studio, The Seedy Underbelly, outside of Los Angeles. It was [an] incredible [studio]. Pachyderm’s kind of the Seedy Underbelly up north, at this point. Unfortunately John passed away. [Before that,] he purchased [Pachyderm]. And he wanted it to be exactly like the ’70s. It’s like magic. It’s like walking into somewhere I’ve never been in my life, but so warm and comfortable, and a little bit spooky, and a little bit magical. And the house was designed by one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s students. [Sidenote: We scoured the interwebs to identify the architect, but were unsuccessful.]
And so, it’s a house, with an indoor pool, but the thing is, the back wall, it looks onto a creek. And the entire wall is glass. As a kid who grew up in Florida, and then I moved to Los Angeles in my early adulthood, I’ve never seen the glory that is a perfect snowstorm in the middle of the woods. It was beautiful! There were black bear footprints, and we saw two bald eagles. It was crazy and — it’s never gonna happen again! It was just magical, and it brought something out in us, because we’ve done a lot of stuff. Luis and I have been together since we were sixteen-years-old; we’ve toured the United States; we’ve toured England, Ireland, Scotland; uh, some of Europe, but I feel like we’ve done the same thing over and over and over again, but this was completely new and different. And I think that it made the album special.
MPBIs there a song that you would consider emblematic of the whole album?
OgdenI feel like “Animal”: it was the last song that we wrote. [Sidenote: Dollyrots Set List — at the 89thSt Collective] We wrote it in the hotel room before we got to Fields’s studio the next morning. I still didn’t have all the lyrics and we actually had fans in the studio that morning […]. It was 10 A.M.; I hadn’t eaten anything, I hadn’t had my freakin’ coffee, and I had to sing the most like, loud, strong song on the record. But it’s a song about freedom, and it’s a song that, as a mother, that — it’s totally the Mom song. It’s about just getting in your car, getting away for the night, and remembering who you are and where you come from. And so obviously I love that song. And I also love — all of them. Just all of them. It’s hard: “In Your Face” is incredible; “Everything” is incredible; uh, “Flippy in My Red Dress” is the weirdest one. And it actually started out as a song for a side project that shall not be named until it happens.
It was the other band’s song, and it’s — I play drums, and I scream. And Luis plays guitar. It was one of those songs, and I brought it to John, and the thing is, Noah Levy [Sidenote: Drummer for the Brian Setzer Orchestra. ] — so we had this song, it was kinda weird, it wasn’t quite finished yet — anyway, we had this song, half-baked, and John was like,
Listen: let’s make it a Stray Cats song, and let’s make Noah play it. And we’re like,
We can’t do that! We can’t do that! And he’s like,
Yes, you can. We’re doing it right now. And so it morphed into this incredible, jazzy, kinda rockabilly song that — it may be my absolute favorite.
The lyrics were kinda fluid when we were recording. The chorus is what the chorus always was, but the rest of it changed. We had a scratch vocal. And then I went and made spaghetti for everybody. The thing about Pachyderm is, there’s no delivery. There’s no food anywhere nearby, so you have to actually cook for everybody. Of course, that’s me, ’cause I’m the freakin’ mom. So I was like,
Well, okay, guys, record the song; I’m gonna go make dinner, because that’s my job, I guess.
So I go and I make dinner, and I come in and they’re like,
You have to make it more dirty, so I was like,
No problem. I can do funny, dirty innuendo lyrics. Luis and I — the kids were away for one morning, and we started watching The Love Boat, [Sidenote: American comedy/drama television series set on a luxury passenger cruise ship. It aired on the ABC TV network from 1977 – 1986.] and I was like,
Oh, my gosh; I didn’t realize this whole show was sexual innuendo. We saw an episode where I just couldn’t believe it was on TV at that time.
So, they were like,
Go more Love Boat, and I was like
No problem; I can go full Love Boat. And then there was a take that was like [inhales sharply]
Dude, that’s too much; like, you can’t say those words. I was like,
Okay, fine! So I rewrote it. There’s the [album version], and there’s the dirtier version that I really like. [We may] release it later.
MPBTime to play Redeem a Song™. Name a song you love that gets no respect, that you love, and tell me why I should love it.
OgdenHere’s the problem. I like a lot of music. I don’t think about what other people think about what I like; I’m just a dumb happy music listener; I’m actually the same about movies and TV. [Sidenote: At this point Ogden struggled to find an answer, so I gave her the example of Richard Thompson playing Redeem a Song™ on NPR’s Fresh Air, where he revealed the baroque chord structure of the Britney Spears song, “Oops, I Did It Again.” This led us to a lengthy discussion of how critics don’t take young performers seriously, which we’ve omitted for the sake of remaining brief and on-topic.] I’m not a guilty pleasure kind of person. I just get pleasure [from popular culture]. And I don’t care what people think.
MPBThank you so much for taking the time for this interview.
Gallery: The Dollyrots
I reached out to The Dollyrots weeks before the show to let them know I’d be using a flash so I could shoot on film. [Sidenote: As usual when shooting in dimly lit clubs, I shot on
the rock ’n’ roll film, Kodak Tri-X.] They were totally cool about about it. Enjoy!
- Leica MP Classic
- Zeiss Biogon T* 21mm ƒ/2.8 ZM
- Leica Summicron-M 50mm ƒ/2.0 (“50 Jahre”)
- Leica Tele-Elmarit-M 90mm ƒ/2.8
- 1⁄50th second
- Exposure Index
- Vivitar 285HV powered by Quantum Instruments Turbo SC compact slim power pack
- Kodak Tri-X 400
- Adox Adonal (Rodinal) 1:100
- ~60 minutes semi-stand in a ~60 minutes semi-stand in Paterson Super System 4 daylight tank
- Epson Perfection v850
- Adobe Lightroom 6