Today on Journey of a Frontman, I got the chance to talk to Kelly Ogden of the kickass pop punk band (and one of the coolest band names of all time), The Dollyrots!
Alex Obert: So first off, tell me how your week’s been and what you’ve been up to.
Kelly Ogden: Well, what is it today, Tuesday? Well, Saturday, we played in San Diego, which, normally you would think playing in San Diego, no big deal, just few hours away. But every time we play San Diego, we’re like, “Alright, we’ll just head back after the show, which means we finish with the show and then we hang out with everybody, have some drinks, load out. We leave the venue at 2:30 or 3. And then drive two hours back to LA. And then we put all our gear back into our rehearsal space and then we go to bed at 6 A.M. And then, Sunday, I did absolutely nothing. I was a lazy, lazy person and watched Doctor Who on Netflix. That’s all I accomplished. And then yesterday, I rehearsed, and we worked on the acoustic record that we’re finishing up, and then I went to a Dodgers game.
AO: Tell me, what to you are the best parts about being in a band?
KO: Oh, man. Getting to play music as my job is kind of crazy and I still don’t really believe it most of the time. Being able to make music that people care about, that matters to them, and meeting the people is probably the coolest part about all of it. Getting messages on Twitter, Facebook, and people saying that, “This song made my day.” or “This song got me through a break up.” or “I’m going to a job interview and I’m blasting Because I’m Awesome.”, it makes you feel good. Being able to make people’s lives a little bit better. It’s a really cool thing that I’m able to do through music. I have a Biology degree and I figured I’d be trying to save the world and make people’s lives better in other ways, but being able to do it artistically is really, not to be totally cheesy, but pretty much a dream.
AO: Since you’re a pop punk band, what other pop punk bands do you admire?
KO: Well, it would have to be mostly our influences like The Ramones and Buzzcocks. We like a lot of the earlier NYC/UK punk that would be considered pop punk and new wave stuff. And The Sex Pistols. I mean they were a totally manufactured pop band for all intents and purposes. Blondie, you know, a lot of that stuff. And then Nirvana, they toured with Buzzcocks, and The Pixies, and then that kind of opened up a whole can of worms for us.
Eventually I got a guitar and I asked Luis (Dollyrots guitarist) to teach me to play. I wanted to learn Leonard Cohen and Cat Stevens. I wanted to learn all of this Woodstock stuff and he was like, “No way man, you’ve gotta learn punk rock.” And so, we were sixteen or seventeen, around then, and I was taught about all those awesome, old school punk bands. That’s kind of where we come from.
AO: Aside from Los Angeles, where do you feel the great music scenes are at?
KO: You know, it’s really, really strange, but for a long time when we first started touring the great scenes were in smaller places. There was a great scene in the Cambridge/Boston area and also in Wisconsin. We would play basement shows in Appleton, Neenah and Mishicot with all these local bands and it just seemed like at the time, there was a really amazing scene there. Pittsfield, Massachusetts, that’s a pretty decent scene. Chicago, of course, they’re going to have some sort of music scene. In Los Angeles, there are like ten different music scenes, and hipsters in Silver Lake, and the people that are still playing hair metal on the strip. (laughs) There’s all sorts of stuff everywhere, but I think the more important scenes are scenes are in a lot of the smaller cities and towns that you wouldn’t even think of. It’s kind of a happy surprise when we fall into those places and we try to make it a point to go back as much as we can. The scenes only last so long and it seems like it’ll blossom when the kids are playing in high school, maybe a little bit post high school. And then, you’ve only got like three or four years before half of those kids move away, go to college, or decide that they’ve gotta get real jobs. Those scenes are kind of short lived, so you’ve gotta enjoy them while they last.
AO: In regards to music, once again, what is the first concert that you ever attended?
KO: It’s really, really funny. I was about eight years old and my dad and my mom were going to go see Billy Joel and my family’s from New Jersey. I grew up in Florida, but I was also born in New Jersey, so a Billy Joel concert is a really big deal. I used to go around singing “Uptown Girl”, that was my favorite song. But my dad and my mom were getting ready to go to the concert. I had a babysitter coming over. My mom, she wasn’t feeling very good, so my dad came in my room. He sat on my bed and he closed the door and he was like, “Hey Kelly, I’ve got bad news and I’ve got good news. The bad news is Mom’s not feeling very good, so she’s not gonna be able to go to the concert. So the good news is, if you wanna go, I’ll take you with me. And I was like, “Oh, I’m sorry Mom’s not feeling good.”, and my dad was like, “Alright, well get dressed up!” He left the room and I just screamed, and I jumped up and down on the bed. I went to my first concert with my dad. It was pretty awesome. I was wearing little, pink moccasins. I thought I looked like the shit. It was the best. I was a little dork.
AO: Speaking of concerts, if you could tour with two bands on the same bill, which two would it be?
KO: Well the first things that popped up were, it’d probably be Green Day and Bowling For Soup. They’re different kinds of bands, but I think that would be a really, really fun tour.
AO: Describe how your band, The Dollyrots, developed a relationship with Bowling For Soup, leading to collaboration albums.
KO: It all started when Chris Burney, the Bowling For Soup guitarist, sent a MySpace message, way back in time. It was probably like 2005 or 6 or something. Chris sent a message on MySpace, back in the day when we all used MySpace. He wrote, “Hey, my name’s Chris. I’m in this band and I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of us, Bowling For Soup. But anyway, I really like your band.” He said he liked a few of the songs on our first record. “You know, it’d be cool if we could play together someday.”
And I was like, “What? I can’t believe this guy just sent us a message!” Fast forward like a few years and our booking agent was like, “Hey, do you guys know Bowling For Soup? They’re going out on tour and we could submit for a support slot if you guys know somebody in their camp.” I was like, “I guess Chris Burney kind of knows us.” And so, it just kind of started like that and then they’re like, “Yeah! Of course! That’d be awesome!” So, we just went on that first tour and we all just got along so well. We became best pals. Now we’re just kind of like family. It’s awesome, dude.
AO: When you’re playing on stage, and you have a show and a tour, how do you prepare for a show and what do you do right after you get off stage?
KO: It’s pretty much always the same routine. We get to the venue, do soundcheck, and then I pretty much just wanna take a nap. I don’t eat within three hours of playing because then I risk throwing up or burping up burritos in the middle of a set, which is never a good plan. Usually, it’s two shots of whiskey and a beer. And I do fifteen minutes of vocal warmups. I do jumping jacks, run around in circles, try and wake myself up because I still get nervous, pretty much before every single show. I try to get the blood flowing because when I get nervous, I just yawn and I get really, really tired. (laughs) So, run around, do jumping jacks, act like a fool, and then once on stage, everything always feels normal. And then we play.
And then first thing I do (after the show) is go to merch. I’ll just run down there and just make sure I can say hi to anybody who’s there that wants to meet us and hang out, and then Luis and whoever’s our drummer at the time will come over after packing up the stuff and hang out with people too.
AO: Now how would you describe a Dollyrots show to someone who has never been to one?
KO: It’s a lot louder, more raw and powerful than our recordings are. Probably a little bit more punk rock than our recordings. It makes people smile while bashing into each other. (laughs) And sweaty, it’s always sweaty.
AO: In regards to your music and your hit song “Because I’m Awesome”, what does that song lyrically mean to you and how did you become inspired to write the song with the band in the first place?
KO: Well we were in the studio, recording that record and we had an entirely different set of lyrics. And so, we went in there, we recorded the instrumental, and I went to go sing the vocals, and I thought it just doesn’t feel right. You know what, I don’t know about this, and Luis and our producer John were like, “Yeah, don’t really like it.” So John said, “Go home and write a hit, and tomorrow, we’ll do your vocals.” So, I pretty much had a meltdown and was freaking out and we’re in the van driving back to my place. It was raining. I felt like it was a failure, like, “Oh, I can’t do anything! I don’t know what it’s gonna be about!” And I remember we were passing Hollywood on the 101, the Capital Records building, and it was like (*Angelic “Ahhhhh!”*) you’re in a movie kind of moment and Luis was like, “Why did this happen?” and kept just asking questions and trying to get me to say something or spark an idea and sarcastically I was like, “Well it must be because I’m awesome.” And he was like, “Oh my God, that’s it! That’s it! Because I’m Awesome!” And I said, “No way. We can’t write a song that says Because I’m Awesome.” So we got back to my place and just sat down and started writing it and it was intended initially as a sarcastic FU song to people who actually think that they’re the shit and make other people feel bad, but it’s kind of funny because people take it in all different ways. A lot of times, it’s become people’s pep song where they’re actually like, “Because I’m Awesome!” which is just really, really funny and very cool to us. So, it’s neat how the intention of the song, what we initially meant for it to be isn’t what it ended up being about in the end to most people.
AO: When you were filming the music video with the American Idol gimmick, how did that come about, and did you have any other music video ideas prior to that, for the song?
KO: We had a few, but none of them were that good. That was actually Chris, our drummer’s idea. Because it was right at the pinnacle of the American Idol stuff, I think Kelly Clarkson had just won. It was just such a big thing and as a band who has been working for four albums, even at that time it was three albums and had been on tour for years. We were just like, “Ahh! American Idol. You’re not gonna think that you just go on a TV show and then you’re a musician.” And we were like, “That’s not the way it’s supposed to work! You’re supposed to be in a stinky van eating peanut butter and jelly and pouring your heart out, not singing other people’s stuff.” And so it makes sense with the song for us and we thought it would be funny and it worked with the timing and everything. I can’t even remember what the other music video ideas were, but they weren’t as funny as that one.
AO: So, the last question I have is what do you have to say to those people who want to bust their ass and go after their dreams?
KO: Just do it because there’s never gonna be a good time to try and you’re never gonna have enough money saved up and you’re never gonna feel like you have the confidence to do it. You have to just be a crazy person and decide you’re gonna try. And the worst thing that happens is you fail, but at least then you’ll know that you gave it a decent shot. I never, ever regret making the decision that I made, moving out here. When moving to Los Angeles, we had $1500 between the two of us and somehow, there were kind enough strangers, acquaintances, people we met randomly. I mean when you’re really doing something that you believe in, I think that you find ways to make it happen and I think other people are happy to help.
AO: I would like to thank you very much for this interview, because it was awesome, pun intended.
KO: Thanks! (laughs) I say that a lot too. It’s really kind of funny.
AO: Where are you planning to play anytime soon?
KO: We don’t have a tour booked right now because we’re actually gonna start recording our next album. But we’re playing in Long Beach with The Muffs June 22nd. That’s gonna be awesome. Actually, we’re playing last minute shows in San Francisco & Oakland, May 17th & 18th, and that’s all we’ve got booked right now. But once a month, we play a live streaming show online at Stageit.com, it’s usually me and Luis, at some random place or on my couch and we play an acoustic set and there’s a chat room going at the same time. It’s kind of a hang and it’s kind of a show. At first we were like, “Are people gonna like this?” and people freakin love it. So, it’s a lot of fun and we get to connect with people that live all over the world. We don’t have to be on tour, necessarily.
AO: Alright, well thank you very much, I appreciate your time.
KO: You’re very welcome!