Interview & Photos by Rachel Lim
The Dollyrots are a punk rock band composed of married couple Kelly Ogden and Luis Cabezas. I had a chance to sit down and chat with them after their set and talk about the punk rock scene and some of their touring experiences. Luis had the classic black X’s on the back of his hands and couldn’t drink because he accidentally left his wallet at home when they left for tour which was an ongoing joke during and after their set.
You’ve played Warped Tour.
How many times?
K: Not sure...
L: I don’t know if it’s double digits, but it’s definitely more than, like seven. So I think it’s eight or nine.
K: A lot of times.
Okay. How do you feel about it being over?
K: I think it’s great. Like, the thing is, the rock-n-roll scene has changed, and it’s better to make something special. I almost feel that's what our band is doing right now… We do a tour every spring that’s midwest to Texas to California, and then, we do an east coast tour in the summer and, that’s it. If something is exclusive and people know that, that’s what it is. I think it makes it better in some way. Like if you know Warped Tour is going to be there every single summer like it got a little bit… I don’t know. It wasn’t that it was boring, but it was like the same thing over and over again.
L: Well it’s also like, the relationships we had from like 2004 or whatever. Of course, that turned into other things. Like the bands who met you. You end up touring with them outside of Warped Tour or you do stuff with them or whatever. You know, it’s like that generation of that music scene or whatever. Like we went this last time for the last one. We played the last one in San Francisco, and everyone had kids.
K: Yeah. I kinda was like “Oh god, the kids are going to be there”, and then I was like “Oh my god, so everybody else has kids here too.”
L: Like all these punk rock bands, they all got grey hair and kids. And we’re just like “Alright, I guess this is what it is.” And it’s like wise to end it at that point because it’s like we all kind of grew up. Like it’s cool but--
K: We can revisit it, but I don’t think it needs to be, my god, months of the same thing that we were doing when we were, like 20.
L: There’s gotta be something new that can emerge from it. I mean, you know, we’re happy being the band that we are, but think about if you were a band that’s five or ten years older than us. There’s gotta be a passing of the torch, so a new thing, you know. And that’s fine, and I don’t mind being like a nostalgia band at some point because then you get asked to do awesome festivals and stuff. But, you know, I think it was wise to end it before it seemed like it had to end. And it just went out--it was awesome. It was just an awesome ending.
K: The bands that play both the east coast and the west coast states are all the bands that made me think of Warped Tour. I mean, it was lacking in a few...bouncy souls, there were some that I like really, oh man... I wish I could’ve played with.
L: Most of them were either bands that we were friends with or bands that we grew up loving. You know, it’s like Bowling for Soup played on the East Coast, and then you watch Sum 41 destroy the afternoon.
K: Or The Offspring close the night.
L: Like we had our kids dancing to The Offspring. And it’s like “Yeah! I’m so glad you saw this!”
K: But the thing is, they needed bands to play every night for months every summer, and it turned into something that I don’t think was exactly Warped Tour. It was kind of like new metal-y. I don’t know… it wasn’t what made me think of Warped Tour. I feel like it’s better to just do one-off shows that are curated. I feel like it could be like “Throwback to 2007” or “Throwback to 1999”.
L: It could be new bands that have a similar aesthetic or a similar spirit.
K: That’d be cool.
L: And I’m not saying it needs to be genre-specific either.
L: But there is a certain irreverence and a certain f- you attitude to that festival, that you know, it’s better if it’s just super focused. Like everything is better if it’s hyper focused. So maybe that’s the strategy you know? And that’s cool. Whatever. Makes people happier I think. Makes for a better show.
How has the punk scene changed in the past 18 years?
L: I think it got more… from my standpoint, I don’t know how Kelly feels about this… I feel like it’s a little more restrained in terms of the delivery from younger bands. I think like, you know, when we started our band it’s like 2002, we barely had just gotten a cell phone, there’s no such thing as social media, so we came from a place of not worrying about if somebody’s Instagram Live-ing the show.
K: Shows were mayhem. It was raw, and I mean, we didn’t play everything exactly right. We would dive into the drums, we would dive into the crowd. And the crowd, like, didn’t care, because they were in the moment, and they felt free, and they could do whatever they were feeling in the moment. I think it’s restricted now.
L: So now like everything is a reality show documentary potentially. And I think that makes people feel a little “eh.”
K: Like “I don’t want to put myself out there.”
L: It has to be more perfect and more mechanized.
K: And us too. I mean I’m like “oh god, I can’t mess up. Oh god, I just messed up--it’s going to be on Instagram.”
L: We just had this conversation before the set. She made like four mistakes last time. I’m like, “you realize we spent the first ten years of our band making 20 mistakes.” So if anything it’s like that. But I also think there’s a ton of younger bands that are high school age that are basically trying to get that thing.
K: I’ve been trying to get that feeling back.
L: Whatever that halleuci-feeling is of not contrived music. They’re aiming for it because they know that it makes them feel good. I think there’s so much potential--
K: Eh, I mean that’s what punk rock is about. I think it’s more about a feeling than lyrics or the exact music or anything like that. It’s a feeling of freedom. And it’s a freedom to be yourself, whatever it is.
L: Bonus if you’re in tune and sound good on a record.
K: But it shouldn’t be the most important thing.
L: Really, records should be a gateway to fall in love with a song. You take that love of a song and go see a live show and see how real it is. You know what I mean? That’s what it should be.
K: We toured a lot with Buzzcocks, and that’s probably the #1 punk band I grew up loving. Like real, true English punk band. The thing is, those shows, I could let loose and just think about what it felt like when I was 16 listening to the records and think about what it must have been like for them too. ‘Cause at that point, we were performers, so I got it--they were trying to revisit something from the past. But people still felt it and got it. There was an energy.
L: Yeah, he’d introduce one song… what was it? It’d be like nostalgia! But there’s something to that, you know? Like you’re just trying to evoke something… I think it’s timeless. This last record came out, and half the interviews I have, someone’s like, “you know this reminds me of a cross between… you know, it’s like modern, but it kind of sounds like Joan Jett meets the Ramones meets a girl group” and I’m like “I know!” because it’s all part of the same sphere. It’s basically whoever you are at 16 going insane. That’s what it is. Whatever that alien is. And thankfully, we’ve been able to preserve that because we’ve known each other--
K: We’ve stalled each other in our development because we’ve been together since we were 16.
L: We stunted each other’s growth at age 13, and so we’re never going to grow up. We’re always going to feel like we’re f---ing 16 or 17 ‘cause that’s the best; that’s when you feel the most alive. Ever. In your whole life.
K: And emotional and f---ed up and those things.
L: No, you feel most f---ed up at 27.
K: No, I definitely felt the most fucked up at 17. Then 27 was close, but no no, 17.
What is your song writing process like?
L: It depends… Okay. Eighty percent of the time, I’ll stay up really late, I’ll summon the rock gods, and I’ll make an instrumental to like, fake drums, guitars, and some terrible scratch vocal.
K: Yeah. And the next morning,
L: I’ll wake up in the morning, I’ll go play it, and if it makes my hair rise on my arm, then it passes the test. Then she goes, and she attacks it on her own.
K: Without hearing the scratch vocal.
L: And so she’ll come up with--well, it depends. If I feel like it’s really really good, then I’m like “you have to hear the chorus.” Then most of the time she’s gets like, “whatever.” Then she makes all the melodies and the lyrics and the vocals and the whatever on top of that. And then, we both listen to it all together. And then we decide whether or not it’s awesome. Since we’ve been doing this together for so long, 85% of the time, it’s awesome! And then we’ll put it all together with all the background vocals and whatever, and when it’s time to actually do the record, we export everything, pull it in our producer session, and decide what we have to rerecord. On this last record, we literally rerecorded 10%. That means we kept 90% of the scratch guitars and the base and the vocals and whatever.
K: And more than normal, I think we actually did write stuff together on this last record though.
L: Yeah. Yeah.
K: There were some late nights where...
L: It was just very compressed for time.
K: My dad died December 21st, and we had maybe a quarter of the record written, and we had studio time on January 21st.
L: So we had four weeks to write what turned into 15 songs.
K: And I did not have it in me. But apparently I did. But it was a tough one.
L: It was like... her dad passed away, we had just launched PledgeMusic.
K: And then PledgeMusic also died.
L: On top of that, we had Christmas with the kids.
K: With a five year old and a two year old. It was like, my dad dies the 21st. It was like, “oh my god, we have to smile and do Christmas. Just smile and do Christmas.” And we all did. It was fine. And we did the funeral the next week.
L: Then we had to fly to Jersey.
K: We had to do another funeral in Jersey with his family.
L: So we lost that week and a half. So now we’re down to two and a half weeks, and we’re like “We only have three songs! Holy shit!”
K: I was like, “I want to curl up in a fetal position and cry.” He’s like, “You can’t.” And then we would just go to the studio and pray to the rock gods and be like, “Just send a melody. Send anything.”
L: We would just tag team: “You go over there, and then I’ll take care of the kids.” And then she was like, “Okay, you go.”
K: But I think the two records before this one, Barefoot and Pregnant and Whiplash Splash, I was pregnant, like severely pregnant, writing both of those. And so those have a feeling about them. When I listen to those songs, I think about all that: I was hormonal, different, and not normal. This one was different in a far more profound way, you know. It was a celebration of my amazing childhood, the support we’ve gotten through our adulthood. It really made us reflect on life in a much deeper way, even than having children made me reflect.
L: Which is a f---ed up place to be if you think about it.
K: It was not comfortable. It was definitely painful and hard and sad and awful.
L: But our job is to make music that makes people happy.
K: So that’s what we had to do.
L: That’s kind of what we do. That’s our goal. Because I feel like there’s enough just [makes game show buzzer sound] in the world...that sound can’t really be transcribed...it’s like u-r-g-h-h-r-r.
K: We’re political people. We listen to NPR, we watch the news everyday, we’re informed about the environment and how the world is probably going to end.
L: Which, by the way Kelly, is very legal and very cool.
K: Yes, but the thing is that our band isn’t about that. Our band is about making people feel good and happy and trying to make people feel the freedom that punk rock made me feel when I was 17. And so, we had to make a record and not drag all that shit into it. That’s kind of what happened.
L: So if you read between the lines, it’s actually--
K: It’s all there.
L: It’s a very complex album without sounding complex. Which, those are my favorite records. The best bands are the ones you can read into a lot.
K: We’re also parents of two tiny kids and trying to keep that together too. It’s a funny time.
L: I like it though.
K: I do.
L: I wanna be like, “That was like magic.”
K: Yeah, look back at it like “That was the best time ever!”
L: When we’re old, playing like theaters with seats, with seated people, people in chairs watching you.
K: We toured with The Go Go’s, and it was all seated theaters. [whispers:] So weird. They had great food.
L: They also had masseuses.
K: Yeah, they had masseuses. Not for us. For them.
L: They had beets. I mean like, actual vegetables. You never see vegetables on tour. You see Taco Bell,
L: It’s like, “You have beets? That’s weird. Avocados. Shrimp salad!”
K: We do have avocados on the bus.
L: Anyway, what’s the next question?
I guess now is the time to tell me about the trash can fire.
K: The fire.
L: Okay, so the last time we played Lancaster was in 2010, we were here with Bowling for Soup. We played Chameleon Club with them. They had two days off beforehand, so the bus sat… we were right in their bus at the time.
K: We were just their bus mates that opened for them and ate all their food and drank all their beer for a couple of years. That was kind of our life for a while. It was amazing.
L: It’s a good job to have.
K: Yeah. Yeah.
L: So we qualified for this job, and then we went on tour with our friends. It was the second night we were there, and since they’re boys from Texas, they had this mobile barbeque pit.
K: It was just like a little Coleman camp.
L: They wanted to set up barbeque, and so we just set up on the sidewalk, on the street, outside the bus.
K: Someone said it was a half a block from right here.
L: Down the street, just set up on the sidewalk and just grill. We made steaks, hamburgers, hotdogs.
K: Nothing that I could eat.
L: So like meat. Because it’s Texas. Just meat. So we’re just sitting there, and their sound guy, Derrick, is really good at making meats, or whatever. So we’re just hanging out there, and I don’t know, who has a barbeque on the streets of Lancaster, right? And so we had the meats--those of us that eat meat--or watched people eat meat.
K: And thousands of Miller Lites.
L: 8,000 Miller Lites.
K: As we did almost every night of that tour, we went in the bus and watched Stepbrothers. So we’re sitting there watching Stepbrothers--
L: Well. Let me preface this with...
K: This is the part I don’t know.
L: You know this. So Derrick at the end of the meat-making was like, “Hey man, can you just like go get rid of these coals?” So he hands me what looks like an aluminum foil thing wrapped in whatever. I was just like, “Sure.” I think he meant I was supposed to douse them with something to make them colder? Right? So I was like, “Sure, I’ll go get rid of this pile of coals or whatever. And it was just in this thing.” I was carrying them like, “I’ll just find the nearest trash can!” So I just walked across the street and dropped them into the trash can.
How did you not realize it was still hot?
L: Well it wasn’t hot! Because he had wrapped it in a cocoon. It looked like a space cocoon, you know, like something that would fall from fucking Droswell or whatever. Space. Droswell.
K: And you went like a block and a half across the street.
L: No, I went exactly across the street from where we parked the bus. And put it into the trash can! ‘Cause I’m like, “Oh, I guess I got to throw this away because Derrick told me to throw it away.” So I come back to the bus, and then, of course, as is tradition, we decided to watch Stepbrothers at night. We just sat down, and we’re all hanging out and watching Stepbrothers... This is like an hour and half later…
K: It was much later. It took a while for all the trash to ignite.
L: It surprised me how much later. It was literally halfway through the movie.
K: It took so long that we had no idea it was going on for a while.
L: So we’re sitting there, and all of a sudden, it’s like, [imitate sirens] “Oh my god, what’s going on?”
K: “There’s a fire! Oh god, there’s a fire. Do we need to go away? Do we need to evacuate? What’s going on?”
L: Everyone on the bus is just like, “AH!” We’re looking out the window of the bus, and across the street, there’s two fire trucks going like [imitates] and cop cars [imitates] all these lights. And then the freaking trash can is just like IN FUEGO [imitates flames]. It wasn’t like small flames.
K: It was amazing.
L: No, it was a good five or six feet over the trash can.
K: It was one of the metal ones.
L: Because whatever else was inside of it was also highly combustible. So they’re just like, “Oh my god! The trash can’s on fire! What the f---!” And so, it took me a while to realize what had happened: “Aw man, that’s f---ed up. The trash can’s on fire! That’s crazy.”
K: “Must have been a homeless person or something”
L: And then it dawned on me. That feeling of like reality melting on top of you as it dawns on you that something you did was terrible. [imitates melting]
K: Did you ever tell Derrick?
L: No no, they caught onto it immediately because we can read each others’ minds, you know?
K: Well yeah.
L: Like you spend enough time around somebody.
K: Tour bus life.
L: And the thing was, nobody said anything that night. We all just hung out the rest of the night like, “Oh, there’s a disturbance.” The whole time, I’m thinking, “Oh man, it would really suck if the cops, or emergency people, knocked on the door of the bus and wanted to see what happened. Because I don’t know, they’re going to go on a tour bus. Who knows what’s on a tour bus? It could be the end of the tour. Somebody happened to bring something--
K: There could be pot on a tour bus!
L: Dear god! So the whole time: worried, worried, worried. We finish the night, and phew, nobody noticed. Everything’s cool. I wake up in the morning, I’m all groggy and whatever, I walk out from the bunk, I roll out of the bunk, I walk out of the front. Wayne, their driver, looks at me: [imitates accent] “Hi. I heard you set the trash can on fire last night, mate” like he’s from f---ing Australian or something like that. I’m like, “Who knew! Somebody figured it out!” So I set a trash can on fire. And that’s what happened.
K: That was it. What’re you gonna do tonight?
L: I’m gonna get kicked out of the venue for drinking beer.
K: Right. Because you’re 40 fucking years old. [laughs]
L: Straight edge man. Minor threat! Whatever. I was just like, look at my… look at Wikipedia. Wikipedia will give you everything you need to know.
K: Like our band would be two years old.
L: Like I was saying, literally, I’d have to be two and a half years old when I started the band. I’d be highly impressive. I’d be like the Tiger Woods of rock.
K: This is also the most rock and roll thing you’ve ever done in your life: “Hold on, I’m going on tour for two weeks. I don’t need a f---ing wallet.”
L: I kind of don’t need a wallet though.
K: But you don’t!
L: Other people get me food and pay for stuff for me. All I gotta do is rock. Unless a venue’s super strict.
How many of those do you run into?
K: Just tonight.
How many venues have you done so far?
L: Well, it’s the fourth night. Well, it’s like, this is a particularly...
K: This is a pretty serious one.
L: It’s a pretty serious security situation. Which isn’t bad.
K: It’s fine!
L: I don’t mind security.
K: I like being safe.