THE DOLLYROTS bring their bright, guitar-driven pop-punk to Savannah before skipping across the pond for an end-of-summer European tour.
The Dollyrots have been on the road all summer in support of their eighth studio album Whiplash Splash.
Lead singer and bassist Kelly Ogden and guitarist Luis Cabezas have a tight musical bond. The pair are married and have known each other since eighth grade.
That’s when Cabezas confesses to falling in love with Ogden at first sight.
“I chased after her for like four years, but she was Kelly Ogden, beautiful smart, everyone loved her,” he remembers, “I finally convinced her to go to Homecoming with me our senior year and that’s when we were really together.”
After high school in Land O’ Lakes, Florida, the pair went to New College together in Sarasota. There, they excelled in science: “We were both pretty geeky, intense in biology. Kelly has a biology degree, and I have a degree in neurobiology.”
But science wasn’t to be their true calling.
After the 2000 presidential election results left the pair feeling adrift and on the verge of national apocalypse, Ogden and Cabezas decided to start a band. It was the best way to fight their feelings of hopelessness.
“We were like the world is going to end, and we might as well spend our days making music, doing something we love,” remembers Cabezas.
They started out playing college house parties and bars, honing their sound, tightening their live performances, and in 2002 at the ripe age of 20, they decided to move to Los Angeles and really make a go of their music.
Driving from Florida en route to LA, Ogden and Cabezas had a fortuitous meeting that shaped the arc of their career.
“We stopped in Houston to see The Breeders,” recalls Cabezas, “The show was sold out, but Kelly somehow got us in, and after the show we hung out in the parking lot the total fanboy-fangirl trying to meet the band. And we did. We had our pet tarantula and prairie dog with us, and we bonded over them with Kim Deal.”
Odgden and Cabezas stayed in touch with Deal and The Breeders, and once in Los Angeles, a member of the band hooked them up with a rehearsal space next to The Breeders at Francisco’s Studios.
In Los Angeles, they recorded and self-produced their EP Eat Your Heart Out which landed them a song placement, “Feed Me Pet Me,” in a Hewlett-Packard commercial.
“Here’s what’s funny about that song,” chuckles Cabezas, “Hewlett-Packard didn’t think our recording of ‘Feed Me, Pet Me’ was lo-fi enough, it didn’t sound garage band-y enough even though we recorded it in our garage-like rehearsal room.”
Ogden and Cabezas lucked out again. For the song to be used in the commercial, it would have to be re-tracked. But not just anywhere. A four hour session with producer John Fields was booked at Capital Studios in Hollywood.
“Yeah, we had four hours to knock out a less than two minute song in garage sound quality” says Cabezas, “in one of the best recording studios in the world. It was crazy!”
Producer John Fields, Ogden and Cabezas seized those hours and re-recorded their first EP. That recording garnered airplay in Los Angeles and grabbed label attention. In 2004, The Dollyrots signed with Panic Button! Records, which then fueled two years of touring with big hitters like Shonen Knife, The Breeders, Soul Asylum and Paramore.
The Dollyrots’ next big break came in late summer 2006 as they were wrapping the Vans Warped Tour. Joan Jett was part of the lineup, and the bands developed mutual admiration for each other.
“At the end of tour Kelly worked up enough courage to give Joan a copy of our new EP “Because I’m Awesome,” says Cabezas, “and we didn’t hear anything until one Sunday in December when we got a call from one of the people at Black Heart Records. They said they really liked our stuff and wanted to meet us that afternoon at the Morongo Casino.”
When Joan Jett’s people call, you do what they say. So Ogden and Cabezas drove over 100 miles from Los Angeles to Riverside County to talk turkey.
The Dollyrots were signed to Black Heart Records in December 2006, opening the door to a new level of success and opportunity. The album’s title track, “Because I’m Awesome,” garnered industry and fan awards alike as well as placement in a national Kohl’s commercial.
Since 2011, The Dollyrots have released five studio albums on their own label, Arrested Youth Records, and these days work to balance the demands of touring and producing music with managing a growing family. In 2014, Ogden and Cabezas welcomed the birth of their first child, in 2016 their second followed.
They all travel together when touring.
“What I love most about this time in our lives is that I have my kids and wonderful partner with me,” says Cabezas. “Yes, it’s challenging to get enough rest, always is, but I get to be there as a dad and play games and make lego things and do my best to support Kelly so she can rest and perform her best.”
Odgen recently recorded an album, not yet titled, of duets with long-time friend and collaborator, Jaret Reddick of ‘90s alt-rock band, Bowling for Soup.
“We’ll be putting that album out on our label at the end of August or early September,” says Cabezas. The Dollyrots have another album, also not yet titled, of their own planned for release in October once they return from Europe.
“We’ve been very lucky,” says Cabezas, “but like a lot of the acts out there making it, we worked very hard consistently over many years, especially in the hard time.”
As for advice for those in music pursuing careers today, says Cabezas, “If you believe in something, even if you are young, it doesn’t mean you’re wrong. Keep going.” cs