The core Dollyrots duo of Kelly Ogden and Luis Cabezas are married, and Ogden has just given birth to their second child. The family is about to embark on a tour for the first time as a foursome, though their first child is already used to the bus-to-city-to-bus routine. At this point, The Dollyrots are practically punk rock’s Partridge Family.
Having formed The Dollyrots back in 2000, the childhood sweethearts have grown both personally and musically before our very eyes. They’ve gone from the ultimate in party-hearty, super quirky pop-punk bands to a solid family unit without losing any of the fun factor that made them so appealing to begin with. It’s actually kind of refreshing to witness something so genuinely sweet and pure: a very-much-in-love couple who are able to live together, parent together and work together without tearing each other’s faces off. Domestic stability, it turns out, is really fucking cool.
“It’s harder on our mental state in some ways,” Cabezas says of touring with two kids and a “tour nanny” in tow, “but also easier because there’s this constant newness every day. A new city, and new venues. That novelty makes having a kid around a lot easier because it means they’re not bored. Our son is 3 now, and he’s already toured the States a number of times. He’s done the U.K. twice, he’s been on tour buses, RVs — he’s used to it now. It’s gonna be different with two. She’ll be about 4 months old, so it’s kinda that perfect age where she can’t move yet. She can’t wander onstage.”
Anyone who has ever had a kid knows that parenting is stressful. The lack of sleep, the overwhelming feeling of responsibility, the financial impact — it’s a beautiful thing but it’s also far from easy. People need breaks. So the fact that Ogden and Cabezas spend pretty much 100 percent of their time together, often in cramped vans and dressing rooms, with a baby and a 3-year-old, will be shudder-inducing to many.
“We were kind of a codependent unit before we even started playing music,” Ogden says. “Part of me thinks that, in some weird cosmic scheme, Luis found his way from Ecuador to our little cow-town in Florida to meet me so that we can do something crazy together. We’re just built for this. The truth is, even before kids, we push each other until there’s no room left to give as far as work. Sometimes to tears.”
Yeah, they sometimes end up lying in the fetal position in the bathtub or hiding in the closet eating Thin Mints, but that’s to be expected. The whole thing is just fodder for the songwriting. The fans have come to expect a certain sound from a Dollyrots album and the pair is happy to provide that, but the subject matter has always been intensely personal. And while there are no songs overtly about parenting, relationships are always a big inspiration, as with songs on the new Whiplash Splash album like “Squeeze Me” and “Babbling Idiot.”
“Musically we’re the same band we’ve always been,” Ogden says. “We’re just a little bit less of afraid of going out of genre. We have an amazing fan base that expects a Dollyrots record. If we want to make different music, it’s not gonna be the Dollyrots. It’ll be a different project that has a different sound and different influences.”
Another song on the new album, “Just Because I’m Blonde,” deals with the misogyny that Ogden regularly faces. While the pair is dismayed by what has been happening in the country post-election, the album was written before life under Trump began. Perhaps that’s why the album closes with a cover of Katrina & the Waves’ “Walking on Sunshine.”
Both musicians are delighted that they were able to write Whiplash Splash devoid of any depression and anxiety brought about by the new administration. “If we’d been halfway through writing and recording the new record, and then the election happened, it would be like two different records,” Cabezas says. “On the other hand, it’s almost better to put out a record like this because it acts as the neutralizer. This is a happy record. We feel like it can be an antidote. People come listen to it, and they can escape in it. There’s nothing wrong with fulfilling that role. Anti-Flag is awesome because of what they do, but we’re not Anti-Flag.”
The new album is tremendous. It’s also typical Dollyrots fare, sugary sweet and blessed with the catchiest of melodies, with a backdrop of dirty riffs. It’s the classic “ice cream and barbed wire” approach to songwriting, and it’s served The Dollyrots well for 17 years. The record was financed using fan pledges, so the band felt a massive level of responsibility to produce something great.
“We put it out to the pledgers first,” Cabezas says. “They’re the people who will pre-order it before we write it. A lot of them have supported previous projects, and they’re totally behind us 100 percent. So they’re the most hard-core fans, but they’re also not afraid to be honest with us. In general, this is the first time we’ve gotten this many messages saying, ‘I’ve played this record five times in a row.’ We’re just happy that we didn’t completely disappoint them. You can’t just like email them a turd. We might not be able to count on them the next time to trust us to make something good for them.”
On March 31, The Dollyrots will be playing the Hi Hat with old friends Go Betty Go. Ogden and Cabezas split their time between their new home in L.A. and their family in Florida, and they’re always happy to get back here, especially to play.
“We love the Hollywood venues, but we don’t love making people pay to park and all that stuff,” Ogden says. “It’s not hard for people to go to this show. It’s a relaxed sort of environment, because we’ve already played there before. We know what to expect. The sound is good. We’re really looking forward to it.”
The Dollyrots' Whiplash Splash is available everywhere in multiple formats on Friday, March 24. Find out where to get it at dollyrots.com. They play the Hi Hat with The Two Tens, Go Betty Go and Honeychain on Friday, March 31. Tickets and more info.
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