Interview With The Dollyrots' Kelly Ogden

The Dollyrots are a power-punk trio with a pop sound. They were signed by Joan Jett to her independent label, Blackheart Records, after Kelly Ogden worked up the nerve to give Joan a copy of their CD at the end of the Vans Warped Tour.

Lesbiatopia's own Sinnerviewer caught up with Kelly at the Dollyrots Atlanta show last week and gave us this exclusive interview:

Shannon: I have read that the band really got its start born out of political frustration when George Bush won the election. Tell me about that.

Kelly: It was more than political frustration. It made me question whether the earth would exist. I was like “This guy (Bush) is a moron, he doesn’t know what he’s doing and I have zero hope for a future. So I asked myself what I wanted to do with my life. I asked myself, “What do I really care about?” If I had only 4 years to live, what would I want to accomplish?”

For Louis and I, that’s why we started the band. We were in college. We were smart kids. We were there on scholarships and it was really cool but at the same time, if I had five to ten years left to live, which could be anybody’s reality, what do I really, really care about? We wanted to do music. We wanted to do something bigger than ourselves. Not to do music to get off on it personally or to be rock stars. But we had ideas and feelings that other people could relate to and we wanted to help express that for them and ourselves.

Shannon: I must say that Joan Jett is my all-time hero, the greatest rock-n-roll chick of all time and generally the best thing that has ever happened to this world. She’s how I heard of you. Tell me about meeting her on the Vans Warped tour when you worked up the courage to give her your demo and how that sort of set your career path.

Kelly: Well, when you’re about to meet your idol, it’s – wow. I was really little when she was rockin’ and she was always my music idol. And Cyndi Lauper was my fashion idol. Recently, I was at the San Diego “True Colors” tour and Joan Jett introduced me to Cyndi Lauper and I thought that I would melt and die. It’s a really amazing, really special thing that I just … if nothing else happened for me from here on out, I feel that what I’ve done is valid and cool. I’ve reached a lot of people and gotten to meet my idols. Meeting Joan, I was terrified of her because her exterior is so tough and powerful and cool and strong.

Shannon: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. When you are in the room with Joan Jett, there is no room for any other coolness but hers. She just exudes coolness…

Kelly: I now know that she has the coolest heart and she is really kind and she cares about people a lot. Our pet rat (Sniffy) died. We were in New York and we had to put her to sleep before we got on a flight. It was just terrible. Joan and Kenny (Laguna – Jett’s long-time manager) were on their way to VH1 to do an interview on The Who or something and they turned around and they came and took us to their house and Joan was just so compassionate. She cared. She’s a really strong and powerful woman which makes me really look up to her. But she’s also really sweet and caring and kind.

Shannon: I remember when I was 16 and I snuck into a bar where she was playing to try to see her do sound check. Kenny spotted me and invited me to sit with him to watch her. Then, he introduced me to her and I was so freaked out, I was speechless. So she initiated conversation with me. She was so friendly and kind. I’ll never forget their kindness to that geeky teenage Jetthead. And all of the times I have been able to meet her since then, she never disappoints me. She is always so gracious.

Kelly: Yeah, I feel like I can obviously gain a lot from her as a woman who plays rock-n-roll but at the same time as a person. She’s so loving and gracious and I think she gives a shit. When she talks to anybody, she gives you her time and her full attention and she actually cares. I feel like I learn more from her as a person than as a rock star. She cares. She’s cool. Even when she’s really busy and has to play a show, she’s still cool to you. She’s awesome.

Shannon: I know I could sit here and talk Joan Jett with you all night but I guess your fans might like to know more about The Dollyrots. Blackheart Records is sort of a music business ideal. It was the first independent label started by a woman (Joan Jett) and it would be my dream job to work for them. What is it like being on that label and working with legends like Kenny Laguna?

Kelly: Honestly, we feel like we’re a part of a legacy and a family. I can’t think of another example of a record label that could possibly make us feel the way that we feel about them. The acceptance and support that they give us – the genuine belief that we’re going to do something that’s going to work – they’re so cool.

(Luis, The Dollyrots guitarist, comes in with a shot of Jaegermeister for Kelly.)

Kelly: I throw up when I do Jaeger. I love the way it tastes but I think I’m allergic to something in it. (She drinks the shot)

Shannon: You all have been touring like a bunch of maniacs! What drives you to tour almost non-stop like you do?

Kelly: We just want to get to people. We want people to be able to meet us and talk to us and we want to play for them. I feel like with the Internet, of course we can reach a lot of people. We’ve been really lucky with licensing our music out to TV shows like Ugly Betty. We reach people but I want them to know us and I want to talk to people and learn about their lives and be inspired by them so I can write songs that they give a shit about. If I’m not touring, I feel like I’m being lazy to our fans. I want to give them the experience whenever I can.

Shannon: MySpace is a huge tool that you use.

Kelly: Yeah.

Shannon: I read your blogs. One thing I always notice that your MySpace friends say about you is how you are really good about answering your e-mails and keeping everybody posted. How cool.

Kelly: It can be really overwhelming at times. When we had the Kohl’s commercial, (The song “Because I’m Awesome” was featured on a commercial for Kohl’s department stores) I was getting a lot of e-mails. Sometimes, we’re on the road and we just can’t get to them all. I’ve started this new thing called “Utterz” so I can send a text message to everybody and it posts on MySpace. Sometimes, though, you’re tired and it’s overwhelming. And when the band is touring, it gets exhausting. The sheer numbers of e-mails you get can be a lot. But I don’t ever want to not answer them. It just might take me a little longer. I get at least 3 e-mails a week that I feel like I need to forward to Chris and Louis and Fuzzy. I’m like, “Guys! Look at this!”… Everybody is so cool. When people write to us, it really means a lot. That they took time out of their lives to say “Hi” and not know if we would read it or write back.

Shannon: I used to write a letter to Joan Jett at least once a week at P.O. Box 600, Long Island, NY. I had to quit when I started having kids, though…


Shannon: What are some tour road tips?

Kelly: Whenever you get mad, you have to tell people right then and there.

Shannon: So it doesn’t fester?

Kelly: Yeah. That is my number one tip for life. Relationships… family, lovers, your best friend. The second they piss you off, you have to tell them or forget it. It will never work!

Shannon: I was very sad to read about the passing of Sniffy, the pet rat of The Dollyrots. Has it been hard to tour without her?

Kelly: It’s really hard, honestly. It kind of sucks. Every time that I sit down to eat, well, I used to save her food in perfect proportions of what I ate. It’s a little bit lonely, honestly.

Shannon: I was wondering if on this tour, someone might show up with a new baby rat. What would you do?

Kelly: Honestly, it would be okay. But at the same time, I think it’s good for me to try to focus on things right now. We’ve been doing a lot more fly-ins to shows. It was getting stressful for me to sneak her on planes all the time. So, I don’t know how much my heart could handle of that. If it was a tiny baby rat that I could put in my pocket…. (laughs). I think I might be ready for a dog. When we’re at a point when we can have a bus and I can afford the $50 to fly it legally. Until then, I might just need a lot of attention from my people friends.

Shannon: Mermaids….


Shannon: (Laughs) I heard that you get excited talking about them. You had a concept idea for being a mermaid in the next video you plan to make for the song “My Best Friend’s Hot”. Tell me about that.

Kelly: The guy that we really want to make the video with, he recently did a pilot at Weeki Wachee, which is like a Florida park right near where I grew up. I don’t know… I have always wanted to be a mermaid. You can ask the guys in the band. Sometimes, we overindulge on tour. Sometimes, I might be wasted in a tub full of bubbles and they wander into the hotel room after a show and I’ll be like, “I’m a mermaid!” or “I wish I was a mermaid!” Since I was really little. It might be since I grew up in Florida where my little sister and I grew up in the water. We could be in the water 24 hours a day. We would take naps in the tub. I love the water and I’m trying to convince them to let us do a Weeki Watchee video kind of thing for “My Best Friend’s Hot”. In 2 weeks, we have a couple of days off in Florida and I’m hoping that the director will, too. Then, we can just kamikaze that shit.

Shannon: I’ve been told that you are interested in doing some kids songs (maybe acoustic), possibly educational. I could totally picture that when I heard it – give me the lowdown.

Kelly: When I was growing up, I spent a lot of time at my grandparents house and my grandpa used to sing songs all the time like “Someone’s in the Kitchen With Dinah”, “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad” – all these kids songs. But they weren’t really kid’s songs. He would sing old Irish folk songs and other cool stuff. Every now and then during sound check, I don’t know what to do. I hate to stand there and say “CHECK. CHECK.” It’s so fucking lame. So I sing the songs that my grandpa used to sing. Then, I think I should record an acoustic album of songs that Grandpa used to sing because it would be really fun for me and the kids.

Shannon: You think Blackheart records would be cool with that?

Kelly: Oh, yeah. They’ll let me do it. (Laughs)

Shannon: I know you are still touring for the latest CD – do you plan to go record anything in the near future?

Kelly: We played a new song tonight (at the Atlanta show on July 7th) that we’re still working out but we have a good chunk of songs. We’re hoping to go into the studio this fall unless we’re offered the tour of the century. I’m hoping to release a record next February or March. I love playing our songs but I feel like I need new stuff. I never want to be routine or boring when I’m performing. When I play some of these songs, I’m not thinking when I’m playing and that’s not so good. It’s time for some new stuff.

Shannon: I find myself really looking forward to your blog posts on MySpace. Do you get a lot of feedback from your fans about how good you are to keep us all posted on your every move? Because I, for one, appreciate knowing what you ate for dinner and what kinds of games you played on your DS. Maybe it’s just me…

Kelly: There’s not a whole lot of feedback. Honestly, I kind of question it. Everybody was like, “You have to write a blog!” If you’ll go back to the earliest blogs and read them, I was trying to just blog scientifically. It was like, “This is what we did.” It wasn’t very personal. Touring is really hard. Sometimes I have really bad days. I might be tired or sick or something happened in my family. There are a lot of things that happen and I wasn’t comfortable with telling people about it. Which is weird, because people already know me through my songs. What could it hurt to give more by saying everyday what is real and truthful even though I don’t give it all. I don’t want it to be a weird, neurotic, Courtney Love blog or something like that but it’s still kind of a hard thing for me to do but it’s cool. Especially because I can look back and remember what the hell I did. Time’s going by so fast.

Shannon: Yeah, it’s like an online rock-n-roll diary. I had a blog for a long time and my friends said it was like an online rock-n-roll scrapbook. It was.

Kelly: Yeah! I’m pretty much writing a diary and people who care about us get to read it!

Shannon: I read your blog the other day about your van getting broken into in New Mexico. That sucked.

Kelly: Ugh! I don’t even want to talk about that. Three weeks before that, all my clothes were left in a cab. I lost all of my clothes. Then the other day, the van got broken into and all they took was my extra suitcase with my makeup, my nail polish, all my hair stuff, extra shoes, and rosary beads from my mom – it was all my stuff and some of it can’t be replaced. Man, it sucks! I didn’t really complain about it, I just kind of didn’t talk for 2 days, which maybe you noticed online. But sometimes, when I’m really mad, instead of bitching, I just kind of go away for a few days and I sleep or play Nintendo or something.

Shannon: Okay, last question: I ask everyone I interview this because, honestly, it’s just interesting. Who do you have a girl crush on and why?

Kelly: (With zero hesitation) Drew Barrymore! Since I was little, I have been in love with her. You know the Rolling Stone spread? I don’t know what year that was, but wow! And that is what “My Best Friend’s Hot” is about. I’ve always had boyfriends but I’ve also had serious girl crushes and that’s what that song is all about – a girl crush.

Shannon: Anything else that you want to tell me?

Kelly: Just that I love that you care what my blog says.

Shannon: Aww! I do! I was reading about your stay in the Milwaukee airport and I was really feeling badly for you guys. I honestly enjoy reading it and I wish more bands that I care about would give me as good of a blow by blow as you all do. You make your fans feel like family.

Kelly: Thank you so much! I try.

1 comment:

johnnylockheart said...

Nice interview! Kelly couldn't be any more gracious, and The Dollyrots will definitely rock your socks off. Hope they come back my way again sometime soon...