The Dollyrots lead vocalist/bassist Kelly Ogden said moving from Florida to Los Angeles in 2002 and then forming their own record label a decade later have been shrewd life decisions.
The band formed under a different name and was a part-time venture for Ogden, her eventual husband Luis Cabezas and two other friends during college. Disillusioned by the results of the 2000 U.S. presidential election, they decided to go full-time.
That doesn’t mean the pop-punkish Dollyrots have been an overtly political outfit, though some of their songs do meander that way. Knowing their 2018 release “Get Radical” was intentionally political, assuming it was a reaction to the 2016 presidential election would be fair. Ogden said no, as she wrote it in 2015.
“It was just about the way I felt the world was at the moment, and then the election happened and I went, ‘Oh my gosh, this song is even more powerful right now,’ and I didn’t even intend for it to be that way. Which goes to show it doesn’t matter who is in power, there’s still a lot of things that need to change,” said Ogden via Skype from her southern California home.
When your rapist walkin freely
Served less time than a shoplifter
Mommy dearest getting paid less
Than her Richard counterparts
It’s not a weakness
There’s no reason to be held down
I’ll be your witness
You gotta get this
You gotta spin this world around
Do it for the kids, Get up
Get Rah Rah Radical
Do it for the kids, Get up
Get Rah Rah Radical
- “Get Radical” by The Dollyrots
As the lyrics imply, her now 5-year-old son and especially 2-year-old daughter were also on her mind.
“I am a woman ... a wild young woman once, and I started looking at situations and news stories and realizing I was going to have to help a young woman navigate in this world,” said Ogden. “There were some injustices I couldn’t believe still existed. For example, a rape case where the guy pretty much gets off scot-free. You know the guy that shoplifted got a harsher sentence, then there is pay discrepancies between men and women. There are just a lot of things that are somehow still an issue, so I was feeling that very strongly with that little baby in my belly.”
Odgen and Cabezas settled in Los Angeles after a few years scouring the country searching for a new home. It became the right place at the right time for a band wanting to make its mark in music.
“We try to always be prepared and we always say ‘yes,’” said Ogden.
One day working her day job at the California Science Center while Luis was working at a nearby science lab, they left early to hit a random audition. It turned out to be for a Hewlett-Packard commercial that would run in "Lord of the Rings" previews at AMC Theaters. They got it.
“By doing that we met our producer, because he produced the music for the commercial. That record became the one we self-released that then was put on (radio DJ) Rodney Bingenheimer’s show on K-Rock (KROQ). Then we started playing a lot more around L.A. and then Lookout Records picked it up. That was the snowball that started us taking the band seriously,” said Ogden.
They eventually landed on Joan Jett’s “Blackheart Records” label, releasing “Because I’m Awesome” in 2007 and “A Little Messed Up” three years later. Ogden said there are certainly advantages to being on a major or even larger independent label, but they were intrigued by the D.I.Y. ethic they noticed other bands digging into around the time “A Little Messed Up” was released.
“At the time we were thinking we do want to have kids eventually, so how do we make this a stable business,” said Ogden. “After crunching numbers, it made more sense to do it ourselves. We could hire a lot of the same people an indie label would hire out for P.R. and a lot of other things we had as an established band we could utilize.”
Still she acknowledged time spent with an indie label was educational, in a good way.
“We needed those first three albums on an indie label to establish ourselves as a band,” said Ogden. “And learn how an indie label works so we could make our own indie label.”
Five album and numerous singles and EP’s later on their own Arrested Youth imprint, Odgen and Cabezas continue in the uncertain life of full-time D.I.Y musicians. It’s a career path they chose over promising (and likely stable) academic careers science. So why trade for life without a safety-net?
“As soon as you’re finished with a record cycle there is always this low point where you start wondering if anybody even cares about this band anymore. Usually we’re like, ‘OK we’ll do one more.’ And every time we do it, it just gets better and better. I never really thought that was something I was going to do in life and I’m just super grateful for it. I think Luis would say the same thing. We just have this drive inside to do it … and I can’t stop,” giggled Ogden.
The Dollyrots play Nightshop in downtown Bloomington on Monday night. Peoria's Tiny Sparkle and Springfield's The Complaint Line open the show.
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