The Dollyrots Talk New LP ‘Daydream Explosion’, Touring With Kids, Steven Van Zandt and More (INTERVIEW)

The Dollyrots is a band from Los Angeles that has long entertained fans with its extraordinarily catchy songs and energetic live shows. The band has released six albums, including two on Joan Jett’s Blackheart Records, and is preparing to release a new full length album entitled Daydream Explosion, which will be available from Wicked Cool Records on July 12. Recently bassist and vocalist Kelly Ogden, one half of the husband and wife duo, took the time to chat about touring with kids, gaining the support of Steven Van Zandt, their new album and more.

What is the most challenging thing about touring with your kids?

Kelly Ogden: I think it’s lack of sleep. We bring full-time help with the kids, but in the end they’re our kids, and we’re always the primary caretakers. It’s hard to let someone else feed them and entertain them and take care of them all the time. We still do most of it, and we’re still doing our job, and we’re still out at the merch tables signing things after the show. It’s extra-exhausting. I used to nap all day on tour, rock all night, drink too much, and then wake up and do it again. It was awesome, but it doesn’t really work that way anymore.

What’s the most rewarding part of having the kids on tour with you?

Seeing them see the crowd from the stage. River, our five-year-old, asked for a guitar for Christmas. We kind of brushed it off. We weren’t even going to get one to be honest because he’ll just put it in the corner. We don’t feel like encouraging any musical practice with the kids unless they really want to do it themselves. It’s around them all the time. If it’s something they want to do, we’ll fully support it. If they’re doing it because it’s around, I don’t think that’s a good reason to do anything. Life is about doing something you’re passionate about. He asked for one and he started playing it every day. When the tour started he said, “Daddy, I need you to bring my guitar.”
“So I can play onstage.”
He said he was going to play the whole show. We agreed he could play in the middle of “Jackie Chan.” It’s a novelty song with a break in the middle. We did that song as the finale of the show. We started writing in a song each night for him to come out. It was so much fun. Just for him to understand what we do helps because most of the time his mom and dad stare at a phone and a computer and work all day. For him to see the reason why we do that is nice. Our daughter is still a little bit shy, so she won’t come out onstage yet, but I think we’re getting closer. We have a community of musicians, friends, and long-distance family that our kids know because we do the same couple tours every year. We get to introduce them, and they’ve known these people their whole lives. That’s also really special.

What does it mean to have the support of Steven Van Zandt and Wicked Cool Records?

It’s exciting. We’ve been fortunate. The last five projects we put out were crowdsourced, DIY albums that we put out as our own label, but we always had distribution. It’s a great experience. It’s brought us close to our fans. It has changed the way we make music and write music. Now we’re sharing the music as we’re demo’ing for our fans. It’s been extremely fulfilling. We had released a 7’ with Wicked Cool last year called “Get Radical”. It was a B side off of Whiplash Splash, our last full-length. It was a great experience. Little Steven is a true artist. He’s still writing and performing incredible music. He supports artists. He doesn’t want to change anybody or change what you do. He wants to help get your art out there. We had a PledgeMusic campaign going. When we were in the studio, we got a call from Billboard asking if we could make a statement about what was going on with Pledge Music. We looked around like, “What are they talking about?” People started sending us messages like, “PledgeMusic is going down. What are you going to do?” We ignored it completely until we got home from the studio five days later. We hadn’t hit our goal yet, so none of our fans were charged. We hit the Cancel button on it, which was terrifying. We were almost halfway to our goal. We had only been going a couple weeks at that point. We just created our own pre-sale store. We sent the demos to Underground Garage, which is affiliated with Wicked Cool. We said, “Hey this album is coming along. We hope you guys will spin it.” They came back and said, “We want to put out this record.” Everything else was kind of different this time, and you guys are an incredible label to work with, so why don’t we try something different this time? Everything timed out perfectly. After doing the last five records independently, I think it’s time for us to change it up a little bit. By aligning ourselves with them, fans of that label will give us a second glance. It will help spread this music to people who don’t already know it. We’ve steadily grown throughout the years. With each album, we’re reaching new people. We’re not crazy. We know there’s zillions of people we haven’t quite reached yet. It makes sense to do it with this record, which I think is really good.

You wrote most of the album after the death of your dad. How did that impact your songwriting and recording?

Writing music is almost a spiritual, out-of-body, weird thing to do. We used to have a lot of time. We would spend months in our rehearsal studio, opening bottles of wine and finishing them, writing songs in our apartment. We could do it at a leisurely pace. Now with the kids we have between 10 PM and 2 AM each day where our world is quiet and we can focus together and create something. During the day, there are so many distractions. Even if it’s not the kids, it’s phone calls and emails – the other side of the band work that we do. I think in the past, we drank a lot of wine, whiskey, or vodka. We were coming home from tour exhausted and in a weird headspace. For Whiplash Splash, I was pregnant, so my hormones were weird. We were ready to have a baby. This time, my dad had just died. It’s something I’ve been worried about for about 20 years. He had a heart attack when I was in my teens. In the end it was heart disease and dementia that took him out. It wasn’t that it was a surprise, but it was a profound experience. I was very close with my dad. It let my brain go to places it doesn’t usually go. I was feeling spiritual and thinking about death and mortality, and I was thinking about my relationship with my children and my place in the world, and whether my art is worth it for people. It was a thoughtful, introspective time. Luis has known my dad since he was 16 years old. I think it helped us reach places emotionally that we have never been to. The album is not sad or depressing. It’s joyful. It helped us appreciate life. Since we were so short on time, it also has an urgency and power that maybe we haven’t had before.

What was your reaction when the album was finished?

I was so relieved that we got it done. I didn’t know if it was possible. All I wanted to do was curl up in a ball most of the time. Luis was amazing. He spent a lot of time writing the music so I could write some melodies and words on top of it. It was definitely a surprise. We finished it in time to fly to Minnesota to work on it with our producer John Fields. We got to him with 17 or 18 almost complete songs. Some of them were complete. Some of them were verse-chorus-idea. We finished the writing and main tracking, then we went to another studio called Pachyderm outside of Minneapolis in a snowstorm and did the drums and live takes of the instrumentation and vocals. We took longer than we’ve ever taken with this one because we wanted to stage the sound up. We ended up at Pachyderm and got the drum sound we’ve been dreaming about since we were teenagers. In Utero was recorded there. Steve Albini did a bunch of records in the 90s there. PJ Harvey recorded there. So did Babes in Toyland. That place was also a spiritual, weird thing. That definitely comes through in the recording, the sound, the excitement. The recording process was as important as the writing process this time around. It was new and different.

What would you be doing if you weren’t making music?

I would probably be outside collecting scientific data. I studied biology and wrote a thesis on sea turtle nesting. My plan was to be an environmental scientist. Then my band did great. I still teach the kids about everything we come across outside. We spend a lot of time outdoors. I’m still teaching some biology as I go through life. I would probably be burned to a crisp counting sea turtle nests.

Check the band’s website for tour dates and more information about the new album.

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