Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Dollyrots

The Dollyrots' Kelly Ogden and Luis Cabezas invade Scoops Westside.



At Scoops Westside

3400 Overland Ave., Los Angeles (Palms) 323-405-7055

The original Scoops near Los Angeles City College is one of my favorite places to grab some ice cream, so I was more than a little excited to try out Scoops Westside with one of the sweetest couples in punk rock, the Dollyrots, who are also frequent patrons of the first Scoops.

L "We live near Downtown, so it only takes about five to ten minutes to get to Scoops," Luis Cabezas, guitarist for the Dollyrots, tells me.

"We go to El Gran Burrito right there, and then we go to Scoops," adds vocalist/bassist Kelly Ogden. "El Gran Burrito's beans are really good, and their salsas are the best. They're open 24 hours, so it's usually a post-show stop."

The L.A. duo invite me on their first trip to the Westside location as they prepare for the release of their fifth album, Barefoot and Pregnant (available Feb. 25), and a record release show at the Satellite on Feb. 20, as they continue adjusting to life as new parents to a baby boy named River, who was born in November and has affectionately been dubbed the Dollytot. Food blogger Matthew Kang opened Scoops Westside just over three years ago, and the shop offers all of the unique flavor concoctions that ice cream wizard Tai Kim is known for – such as Kelly's favorite (the non-dairy Brown Bread), mine (Salty Caramel), the unusual kobocha squash and blueberry jasmine and the exotic raspberry yuzu – selected each day by Kang, as well as made-to-order, fresh cups of tea and coffee from Intelligentsia and Heart Coffee Roasters. Luis  usually orders any flavor with coffee in it, and he opts for an Affogato (with a scoop of Banana Brownie added) today, while Kelly and I try some of the soy-based Maple Coffee gelato.

After ordering, we glance at one thing both Scoops share in common, a flavor suggestion board, where customers write down imaginative combinations, and I ask what a customized Dollyrots flavor might include.

Kelly immediately blurts out, "Non-dairy Coconut rum!"

"Along with something that reminds you of your childhood, like Strawberry Shortcake, but with a dash of whiskey," Luis chimes in with a laugh. "It would definitely have some essence of booze in it."

"I feel like some sort of carrot cake would be good, too," Kelly offers. "Irish Cream with strawberries would be delicious."

"How about Irish Strawberry Shortcake," asks Luis.

The mention of Irish Cream reminds me of a track from Barefoot and Pregnant, "Bury Me in Ireland," so I inquire if either of the Dollyrots are Irish.

"Two of my great-grandmothers are Irish," Kelly says. "Growing up, my mom's dad listened to a lot of Irish music, and I loved the rhythm and lightness of it. I especially liked that they were usually songs about death, drinking too much, sailing away forever or going to war. They're not necessarily happy songs, but they always sound happy."

That phrase can also be applied to many of the Dollyrots own songs, from "Bury Me in Ireland" all the way back to tracks from their 2004 Eat My Heart Out debut.

"We've had some of our best shows in Ireland, too," adds Luis.

"Our parents had asked us what our favorite place in the whole world to play was, and we said Dublin. Then, they actually went the last time we played in Dublin," Kelly says. "My dad had never been out of the country before that."

"Your dad had never been to a rowdy rock show, either, so we made him come out on the stage," recalls Luis. "He ambled out, and Kelly yelled, 'Here's my dad!" A thousand kids were screaming for him."

As they remember the awesome experience with their parents, I wonder if there are aspects of their childhoods growing up in Florida that they can't wait to share with River.

"Our friends just showed their 3-year-old 'The Muppet Show' for the first time," Kelly begins. "The first scene that came on was 'Mahna Mahna,' and they loved it. So, that will be cool."

"As far as music, he's already heard a lot because he heard stuff in the womb," Luis continues. "We didn't stop playing shows until she was a good four or five months in."

"And we never stopped going to shows," interjects Kelly.

"He's already seen Kim Shattuck play three times – with the Muffs, solo and with the Pixies. Plus, he heard us making our record," Luis says. "So he's been through the whole thing – a lot of drums and guitars – and I think it translated because certain things calm him down now. We turn on Flogging Molly, and he stops crying."

"Every morning when we wake up and change him we put on classical musical," adds Kelly. "He just lays on his changing table and swings his arms around, 'conducting.'"

"We're going to go to SXSW, so we're going to take him," Luis tells. "He's not going to be at shows, we're going to be careful with his hearing—"

"Our first baby present was a set of gun muffs," Kelly says.

"Punk rock will be a constant in his life, whether we want it to be or not," concludes Luis. "We're not really too concerned with, 'Hey, kid, listen to Ramones,' we're just going to try to give him a wide variety of things."

"Like big band, jazz, Chuck Berry, Phil Spector productions, the Beatles," lists Kelly.

The Dollyrots meld all of those influences into a cover that closes out Barefoot and Pregnant, a mash-up of the Ramones' "I Wanna Be Sedated" and the Phil Spector-produced "Da Doo Ron Ron" by the Crystals.

"The most influential movie in my life is Dirty Dancing," confesses Kelly. "The soundtrack is so great. I heard the Ronettes and said, 'I love this music! What is this?' My parents had some records and there were really good oldies stations in Florida where we grew up, so I listened to oldies music a lot. The melodies in girl group music and that era of time really stuck with me. I feel like those are the melodies that I come up with when we're writing a lot of the time."

"Nineties pop punk was all melodic. It was rough around the edges but basically updated Beach Boys," says Luis. "Once you get into that stuff you wonder where it's derived from ,and that naturally leads you back to key elements of rock 'n' roll that still influence our choices of where a song is going to go, where the chord progression is going to go. If Ramones did it, it also meant Chuck Berry did it. If both of them did it, then it means it's probably good."

"Growing up, I wasn't into metal, guitar gods. I thought that whole thing was hokey, which I think was a result of being raised in the Nirvana generation," admits Luis. "I learned how to play guitar by learning every Nirvana song, and then that led me to punk rock."

"Nirvana really led us to a lot of different music," Kelly reflects.

The musical pair met in the eighth grade and landed at the same college in Florida where Kelly earned a biology degree and Luis a neurobiology degree. They formed a band in 2000 and eventually made their way to Los Angeles in 2002. After releasing Eat My Heart Out, they were signed to Joan Jett's Blackheart Records who released their next two albums, 2007's Because I'm Awesome and 2010's A Little Messed Up.

"We had those two records on Blackheart, but before that, we self-released our first record before it got picked up by Lookout Records. We had all the art, photos and even all the ads all done. That gave us confidence, so we did Kickstarter [for their 2012 self-titled effort]," says Luis about venturing into the realm of crowd-sourcing. "With the Kickstarter campaign, the lesson we learned was: Don't promise way too much. We're OK with promising a lot, writing notes to everybody, making unique and personal things like Kelly baking cookies—"

Kelly interjects with, "I have like 50 dozen to make!"

"We scaled back a little on this one [the PledgeMusic campaign for Barefoot and Pregnant] to try to make it so we're not completely overwhelmed," Luis confesses. "Just last night we got our thousandth pledge. That was our dream, far off number, so every song is going to have a video. That also means hundreds of packages. We have to do our mailings for our pledge, so our living room is basically going to turn into a warehouse."

When I suggest getting a intern to help them with putting the packages together, Luis shakes his head no.

We had the option of someone else doing the mailing, but we have to touch everything, sign stuff. We know these people, we've met these people. It's Dawn from Boston or so and so from the UK. You think that there's no way you can keep track of so many people in your head, but if you interact with somebody four or five times, you know them. I like that part; it makes it feel like you're doing this for a reason," he says. "Music can be so impersonal. It's not a photographic medium, so there's not a visual. I was reading this article about how you never see audio go viral, and there's a reason for that. Viral stuff requires a visual component to it, and that makes music a little harder to become close to in our modern world. I feel like we compensate for that by giving people something extra."

It's this personal touch and accessibility to their fans that makes the Dollyrots so beloved, with 196 percent of their PledgeMusic goal for Barefoot and Pregnant having been reached. Since they went over their goal, they are donating five percent of all pledges to MusiCares.

Kelly rocks River in her arms and Luis sips on his Affogato (which "is like the best Starbucks ever!"), and we talk about some of Kelly's cravings during pregnancy.

"I did dairy while I was pregnant and ate a lot of Greek yogurt because the protein is so high. I made a lot of smoothies with protein powder," the new mother, who is normally a vegan, states. "I ate steak for the first time since I was 12. I hadn't ever wanted it before, but I kept seeing Sizzler commercials and said, 'I really want to eat that.' I ate the first bite and thought, 'oh, this is exactly what I wanted,' but as I ate more and more it turned into, 'I am so done with this.' I guess I needed it."

"He probably needed it. It was weird, she would see a Wienerschnitzel and say, 'That looks good,' and I would ask if she was feeling well," Luis remembers.

Since they've actually spent most of their time as Angelenos out on the road, touring the world with bands like Bowling for Soup, Buzzcocks and the Go-Go's and as part of Vans Warped Tour, the couple haven't had much of a chance to explore the environs of their Downtown digs until this past year.

"Usually we go to Grand Central Market because there's good people watching and it's like a spectacle. You can get any kind of food you want, and it's all a little suspect. 'Is this going to make me sick? I don't know, but it looks really good," laughs Luis. "There's that whole area around Fourth and Main that has a bunch of little cafes, so we'll go down there. We're on the edge of Koreatown so our neighborhood has a few spots that we're just now discovering, an awesome pho place down the street and good Korean barbecue. In the past we were always on the road, we would spend a maximum of four months at home. When we were at home we were recording or going to shows, but this past year was different because she was pregnant and we hadn't been touring. It gave us a chance to see what was within walking distance and easy to do nearby."

While Kelly loves the diversity of Los Angeles people and food, Luis feels like the pacing of life here is just right.

"It's not frantic like New York, but you still feel motivated because you see things happening around you. It makes you want to get up," he says. "All the people we've met that we've worked with – John Fields our producer, Dana Gordon our publicist – we've known them for over 10 years. It's cool, knowing you can count on somebody to help you do what you do. Everybody involved with this album was able to bring what we do to life and do their part to make it a little better."

"We've been getting our T-shirts from Angry Girl in the Valley for at least 10 years. Fuzzy, our mercy girl, has been a part of the band longer than any drummer we've had. We have a little family here now," Kelly adds. "John Anderson at Hunnypot does digital distribution with us, and he's pretty much the reason that we're still here. We were almost ready to turn back and go home, and he told us to go on this audition. We got the HP ad, and that kind of started things for us. We got a publishing deal, and it's really cool that we're still working with him."

"This kid has so many aunts and uncles," smiles Luis.

One of those uncles includes the producer that Luis mentioned, John Fields (Jimmy Eat World, Andrew WK, Miley Cyrus), who has worked on four of the Dollyrots' five albums. With him at the helm of Barefoot and Pregnant and American Hi-Fi's Stacy Jones on drums, Kelly and Luis returned to their punk rock roots for an album, while encapsulating this incredibly special time of their lives. While 'barefoot and pregnant' has commonly had negative connotations, Kelly wanted to put a new spin the phrase through the album and its title track.

"So many girls I've known along the way have stopped because they've had kids, they've just wanted a more stable kind of life. I feel like by us doing that song and this record, we found a way to bring attention to the saying in a positive way," she says. "Barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen – I'm not going to be in the kitchen (Well, I still might be because I like cooking!) – not right now, because we're going to be doing all of this. It was a kind of '50s stereotype, saying that's all women are good for is making babies. Well, I want to make music and I'm not going to stop doing that. Luckily Luis and I are able to do it together, and I think that makes all the difference. We have extended family and friends to help us along the way, and it's going to be an adventure."

Barefoot and Pregnant will be available Feb. 25. The Dollyrots perform Feb. 20 at the Satellite. For more information, visit

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