Punk Rock! — The Dollyrots at the 89th St Collective

The Dollyrots: Interview & Gallery

The Interview

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.

Three local bands pre­ceded the Dollyrots: Shawnee-based “all-girl” indie rock­ers Shoulda Been Blonde, neo-soul styl­ists Me Oh My, and post-punk rock­ers Dresden Bombers.

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.Daydream Explosion front cover art]

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.

The Dollyrots (I) — The Dollyrots at the 89th St Collective
The Dollyrots (I) — The Dollyrots at the 89th St Collective

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!]

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!

Girls on Stage Left — The Dollyrots at the 89th St Collective
Girls on Stage Left — The Dollyrots at the 89th St Collective

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.]

The Dollyrots — The Making of “Everything”

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: Phone capture of Dollyrots Setlist, 89th St CollectiveDollyrots 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.

Kelly (Smiling) — The Dollyrots at the 89th St Collective
Kelly (Smiling) — The Dollyrots at the 89th St Collective

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
150th 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

About Chris J. Zähller

International Man of Mystery. Cocktail Nerd. Occasionally designs websites. Sometimes snaps a picture or two.

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