Speaking from The Dollyrots’ second home in Florida, Kelly Ogden (lead vocals and bass), tells us about their sixth studio album Whiplash Splash. The album is due for official release on 24th March but already released to those who pledged via the crowd-funding campaign that paved the way for its production.
Kelly also gives us a little insight into how things have changed for them as a live band with extended commitments and responsibilities beyond life on the stage. With coffee in-hand Kelly is fuelled and ready to give us the rundown.
You recently released the new album via exclusive download to pledgers. Has the response been positive?
It’s been incredible. Luis (Cabezas. Kelly’s husband and guitarist of The Dollyrots) and I already thought this was our best album yet and the process of making the album was the fastest and most efficient we’ve experienced just because of our life circumstances, that’s the way it had to be. I think the result is a tough, honest yet still fun Dollyrots record.
Our fans are absolutely thrilled with it and we haven’t seen this in the past, but people are tweeting about it and sending us messages saying “I’ve just listened to it for the fifth time in a row” and I just can’t imagine liking something enough to listen to it five times in a row so I think it’s definitely being well received.
You mentioned this being the most efficient recording. Is that because you were heavily pregnant with Daisy and already had River, a toddler, to run around after?
Yeah, exactly. Because I was pregnant and we knew we were gonna take the time off between October and two weeks from now when we go on tour – we wanted to book some shows early this year – so we booked studio time with our Producer for September last year. We also had a three to four-week period of time where we wrote and recorded the bulk of the album in our home studio.
Having the studio at home must help when it comes to utilising as much time as possible?
Absolutely, and we were like a tag-team. We would put River to bed and Luis would be in our studio recording the guitars to a drum track – to be figured out later – then the next morning I’d listen to what he had recorded then write lyrics and record them with bass, then we’d move on. That’s how the record came together and once we had the guitar, bass and vocals we’d take that to our producer John Fields in Minneapolis. We’d spent around two weeks with him and that’s when we added the final drums and any other parts like keyboards, vocal harmonies and gang vocals, that kinda stuff on top of it.
With the synths, was that a new addition to your process?
That was John, our producer. With most of our albums we’ve either done more or less of it. The self-titled album has a lot of that in there as well. But then Barefoot and Pregnant was pretty bare bones. It was mostly just guitar, bass and vocals.
Who finally stepped in to fill the drum position on Whiplash Splash?
It’s actually a really funny story. We have a fan, turned friend, turned helper like Tour Manager, merch guy Chris Barber who lives in England. He came over to visit us when we were in the studio and he happens to be a drummer. So, we didn’t really have a plan because John (producer) can play drums and he has drummers in Minneapolis so what we had programmed was the backbones for the drums anyway.
So there wasn’t too much work required and your friend came on holiday and ended up working for you?
Yeah. He came in on the first day at the studio and John was like “what we doing with drums?” We looked over at Chris and said “you’re a drummer, right?” and he said “No way, are you kidding me?” but he did the work on the drums so it worked out great.
That’s quite the trip from being a fan to travelling to America and playing drums on the latest album.
I feel like that would be a pretty fun interview for you to get his perspective. His life completely flipped. He was working in a steel factory and we were like, hey why don’t you come over and go on this trip with us, this little adventure. From there he’s met other bands and it’s been really cool.
Going back to the album, this was your sixth in total but also your fourth by the way of crowd-funding. Do you feel more streamlined with the process now you have a few under your belt?
It’s definitely become more efficient on our end because we had to figure out everything from which envelopes to buy, how to do the postage and all that stuff that you don’t really think of when you’re just in a band. We’ve also bulked up our mail order business a lot so we do a lot of shipping already and that part of it is a much easier process now. We’re actually in the middle of it right now. Ten minutes ago I was giving our mailman like 400 CDs to put in his truck.
I noticed that some of the items you have available to purchase on your last pledge campaign are on the random side, like a Skype cooking lesson or an opportunity to have The Dollyrots as your backing band…
Oh yeah, nobody wanted that. I don’t know why? [sarcasm]
Does it bring you closer to your fan base, being able to offer things like that for them to purchase and ultimately help you record your album?
Absolutely it’s like that. When we first started out as a band the only place we met people was at shows but as we’ve grown and started to do the crowd sourcing, social media has kinda exploded and we have a closer relationship with our fans. We do Skype stuff with fans, Happy Birthday phone calls and competitions where we’ll just call you randomly.
I feel like we actually know a lot our fans at this point and they’ve been around a long time – some of them for ten years – so they become more of a family and I know bands say that crap all the time but we really do have a fan family that we don’t look at as just fans.
The music community does seem to be more of a family with bands becoming more of a presence and less faceless – do you think that drives how you operate as a band now?
I’m not really sure if it changes the music but it definitely changes our level of seriousness with it. If we were just making music for us and we didn’t really want to worry too much about what we were doing then we might deviate more. We may even slack off a bit, but knowing who is expecting it and what they’re expecting makes us put out better music because we know “them” as individuals and not just this amorphous group. We don’t want to let them down ever.
Staying with social media, I see you have a fair bit of content on YouTube, is that something you use to drive your reach?
You know, it probably is but we’ve become so bad at it now. We used to do it a lot more but I feel like it’s only used for official videos and we haven’t been putting up random videos like we used to. I don’t know if we’re missing out by not doing that but I feel like with this pledge campaign we put out around 28 updates and so many of them were videos that it gets kinda exhausting trying to remember what we already said and when it’s exclusive to pledgers we don’t want to go and say the same thing and post it on YouTube.
We may do a tour diary and put it up on YouTube, that could be a lot of fun.
That would be cool. You guys are quite unique when you tour as you bring your kids along. I remember you brought River onstage – with ear defenders on of course – at the Glasgow show when he was around 18 months old. Does having the kids along enhance the enjoyment of a tour for you both?
It does because Luis and I always wanted to have kids, even before we knew we wanted to do music we wanted to be parents together so it finally came down to timing. We thought if we’re ever going to do this we can’t get that much older or we’re not going to have much energy for little kids. So, we thought we’ll to the kid thing and if we need to take time off touring we’ll just take the time off and figure it out as we go. But, we found that River has been very easily adaptable to the situations we’ve put him in and we make sure that he’s only in safe situations and his ears are always protected.
It’s not really a sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll environment anymore. I think we were also ready for that because after so many years of sleeping on couches and just being wasted there’s only so much time where that’s actually fun and I was definitely getting really burnt out from touring. The last few tours we did before having River I didn’t know if I even wanted to play music anymore so now when we tour it’s that kinda dorky “when you have children you see the world through their eyes” feeling.
It really is like that and we get to go on adventures through the day because we’re not hung over and messed up. We get to go do family stuff.
On the subject of touring, do you have any plans to return to the UK?
We are in talks with planning a visit this fall (that’s Autumn for us folk on this side of the Atlantic) so fingers and toes crossed. We think it’ll happen but don’t know exactly when just yet. We really, really are trying to get back for sure before the end of the year.
If you do, be sure to make a stop in Glasgow again and I’ll buy the coffees.
Of course, we love Glasgow. Deal!
One quick story about Scotland. We were playing in Aberdeen and it was back in my Whisky drinking days. It was also back in my skinny-dipping days…
…No. Not in the North Sea?
It was exhilarating. I think some fans took pictures. I don’t know where they are and I don’t want to know where they are.
In that case, when you visit Glasgow we’ll be sure to keep you away from whisky and open water.
Yeah, it’s a dangerous combination.
On most of your albums you do a cover. Is that a conscious effort and do you have any others in mind that you’d like to do in the future?
So many. It’s funny because we know that we’ll probably do a cover but we wait until the very last-minute to decide and this time we were in the studio and it was like “oh shoot, we forgot to think about this so what are going to do?” We called our friend Jaret (Bowling For Soup) and asked “if we could cover any song in the world, what do you think we should do?” He said we should do ‘Walking on Sunshine’ and he wasn’t the only person. We thought, you know why don’t we try to cover that song and make it kinda cool.
It’s such a positive song and it was all done before we realised what was going on politically (the election of President Trump). We may have chosen a different song if we’d known how things were gonna turn out.
It’s such a positive song and perhaps that’s what the world needs now. Plus, it’s such a precise reflection of the type of band you are.
As a band we try to not be very political and that’s intentional. We try to keep our content upbeat and not to get too deep into politics. On my personal Facebook page I’ll be a little more clear about where we stand on certain issues in case there are young women out there wondering what I think about parenthood or something like that. I want to make sure that people can find out what our beliefs are but we don’t the band as a tool to cram it down their throats.
But, we may well have to start a side project soon where we can be very political and say exactly what we think, hah. I’m not necessarily an anarchist but I feel it’s important to say what we think sometimes, which is what we’ll be doing for the next four years. God!!
Beside your own, do you have any favourite songs or other bands?
Oh man. I’ve been listening to a lot of Against Me! And Bikini Kill. I always go back to the roots of our music which is like The Ramones and Nirvana. The Sex Pistols. Love Joan Jett, o f course. But then I’ve been going to the gym because I’ve just had a baby and I have to go on tour. Not so much that I look awesome but more so that I can sing and move around for that long without dying. When I’m exercising I listen to a lot of Madonna because that’s really god exercise music.
I found some trivia. Not only are you musicians, you also had parts in an episode of CSI: NY back in 2006. I was slightly surprised that it wasn’t the CSI: Miami given your Floridian roots.
Yeah. The funny thing with that is it’s filmed in Los Angeles (The Dollyrots town of permanent residence) and because we were living in Los Angeles it worked out. The episode is called ‘Stuck On You’ and it’s pretty funny and it’s probably good that I’m a musician and not an actor.