Shortly after their disastrous aeroplane journey (more on that later), we caught up with all 2 1/2 members of The Dollyrots (that is Kelly, Luis and touring drummer Rikki – baby River was having a nap!) backstage at the Academy in Glasgow. Tonight was their first show as part of the newly-returned Bowling For Soup tour and they were rather excited about the whole thing…
I gather you had some trouble getting here?
Luis: Yeah, the first plane we were on started making a strange noise, like some kind of revving. We ended up landing due to a problem with the landing gear.
Kelly: We had to fly past the tower at 500 feet so they could examine the undercarriage with binoculars to tell us if we were going to crash or not. We finally landed…
Luis: … and they we were told “You can get off the plane if you want, our first priority is your safety.” So immediately everyone in first class got up and walked out.
Kelly: The rest of us were just sat there wondering how much this was going to cost us!
Luis: So we ended up on another plane and missed our connection, caught another flight and ended up running through the airport with babies and guitars and whatever, making it to the next flight with literally two minutes to spare. We arrive in the UK and our first question is “Where’s all our important show-related stuff?”
Kelly: Like my bass? Our stage banners, our winter coats…?
Luis: It’s arriving at the airport here at 9pm.
Kelly: So I’m borrowing a bass. It’s a lovely bass but it’s like eating soup with a fork. It’s weird.
When was the last time you guys were over here?
Luis: October 2014 as part of The Buzzcocks’ tour. We’d like to get over here every year but it doesn’t always work out. The 2013 BFS tour – their first farewell tour – we were asked to do that one, but Kelly was pregnant.
Kelly: Jaret was actually the first person to know I was pregnant, before my family. He was waiting to announce the tour and was waiting until I either got my period or I was pregnant! [Let nobody ever tell you that Kelly is a shy woman! – Mosh] We’de been trying and I finally told him, “We’re pregnant” and he was like “That sucks!”
Were you two a couple when you formed the band or has romance blossomed as you’ve been together musically?
Kelly: We’ve pretty much been together since high school, since we were seventeen. All those songs of ours, those teenage love songs? That’s us.
Luis: I fell in love with her at first sight when I was twelve. My family moved to this new little town and I saw this girl… and she wouldn’t date me for four years.
Kelly: He used to drive my little sister home so he could end up at the house. Kinda creepy. He’d write notes in blood, leave weird presents on the doorstep… The band was a joke, but started becoming something we wanted to do.
Luis: We were called No Chef and wrote songs with titles like “Bear Traps”.
Kelly: We wrote “Jackie Chan” then.
Luis: And we still play it, so it wasn’t all lost time.
You moved from Florida up to LA?
Luis: Yeah, we got the hell out of Florida because there’s not a music scene there.
Kelly: There’s the death metal.
Luis: But she’s got such a squeaky voice, that wasn’t going to work. She sounds a lot younger than she is now, but back then it sounded like she was seven or eight years old.
Kelly: Jaret can hit higher notes than I can now.
Luis: We wanted to be pop/punk like early Donnas or early Ramones, so California was the right place to go.
Kelly: Buzzcocks, Sex Pistols, Generation X… that’s what we grew up on.
You are pretty much a 2-piece band, but you swap drummers more often than Spinal Tap.
Luis: We’ve surpassed Spinal Tap!
Kelly: The way we look at it now is that we’re a couple, and we’re at the age when most of our peers have families and jobs, and they’re in other bands. This is the fun part – going on the road, interacting with the fans, getting up on stage. We want everyone to have fun, so we don’t want a drummer along who just feels like it’s work. Chris was our last full time drummer and he got married and they wanted a kid. There was all the pressure of not making enough money…
Luis: I mean, duh, you’re in a band! Are you surprised?!
Luis: It works out better. It allows everyone to do their own thing.
Rikki: There’s no pressure all around. They can schedule their own things, everyone else can schedule what they want to.
Kelly: It works well for us because we’ve been playing together forever so it’s easy to get stuck, so every time we play with somebody new it’s fresh and we learn things.
Luis: We started out as a three piece and had every intention of being a three piece forever. We’ve been around long enough now that we’re not changing a drummer every two weeks from the start. It’s three years here, two years, five years… People were involved in our band for a while. But eventually we just decided to do it, just as the two of us.
Do either of you drum yourselves?
Kelly: We got a drum kit for Rikki to practice on right before we left town and now I want to drum so bad! I want to learn!
Luis: The way we write is I’ll go in and program stuff, or use old sessions. I patch together the structure of the song and then we record on top of that, then do drums last in the studio.
Kelly: We don’t sit and talk about writing songs, we just write them when we have the time. You have 45 minutes, write a song. Right now!
Luis: You end up second guessing yourself less as you don’t have time to go with anything other than your first idea… and 99% of the time that’s the best idea. Every time I listen to something that was re-written I ask “why did we do that?”
Kelly: Except “Because I’m Awesome”. That was a complete rewrite for the vocals.
In a past interview you say that you started the band when George W. Bush was elected and you just decided that the world was going to end anyway, so why bother going to Med School. Is this true?
Kelly: Luis has already done the MCAT exams…
Luis: I have a degree in neurobiology, but it’s a worthless piece of paper because I’m never going to use it!
Kelly: And I have a biology degree. I was due to take the GRE exams the day after the election. I remember lying in bed that night, crying and thinking that he’s just going to ruin the world or at least the country. Do we really feel like going to school again? I was feeling so despondent that I just felt that I would rather rock and roll.
Luis: The GRE is the grad school exam. She woke up the next morning and just didn’t go! A couple of days later we just packed all our stuff into a couple of cars and drove across the country. We ended up in LA with no friends or family and about two hundred bucks.
Kelly: It was so stupid!
What do you think of the line-up of potential candidates for this year’s US election?
Kelly: I’m absolutely terrified.
Luis: She doesn’t know what she’ll do it Donald Trump becomes president.
Kelly: I guess we’ll have to move to England, I don’t know!
You’ve got a long-standing relationship with Bowling For Soup. How did that come about?
Kelly: It started with Chris Burney sending us a message on MySpace. He was just being cute like Chris is – “Hey, my name’s Chris and you might not know me. My band’s called Bowling For Soup and we really like your songs”. As if I’d not know who Bowling For Soup are!
Luis: It was just some random message saying he liked our music. Three years later they were doing an American tour and we reached out to them. Initially they didn’t say yes. They picked another band to do the western leg… but they still had the eastern leg! So on the western leg they were playing LA. We happened to be friends with these DJs from Columbus, Ohio who were doing their Grammy show. Jimmy Jam, the DJ guy, called us and asked us if we wanted to hang out so of course we said yes. When we passed through we’d always hang at his radio station or whatever. While we were there he asked if we wanted to go to the BFS show as he was on the list, so yeah of course. So we go to a bar across the street from the venue, which was kind of a mistake… though maybe not really…
Kelly: We drank way too much.
Luis: …got completely plastered, walked across the street and marched guest list style right to their dressing room, just before they were due to go on stage. “HI! We’re the Dollyrots! We really, really want to go on tour with you!”
Kelly: Such stupid, stupid morons…
Luis: Then two days later we got a message – “Bowling For Soup would like to take you on the eastern leg of their tour”! So getting wasted and crashing their dressing room just proved that we were fun and wanted to hang.
Kelly: I wouldn’t recommend doing that with your favourite band at any time.
Touring life has obviously changed over the last couple of years. What’s life like on the road with your son, River?
Kelly: I am so tired! I don’t know what’s coming out of my mouth half the time. I’m at that point that I used to reach after I’d drink a lot. But it’s fun. Honestly I’d gotten pretty tired of touring. I was burnt out and drinking too much. It was exhausting. It was like a job and I didn’t want to go any more. So we decided to chill out and see if we could have a family and it happened. Then I got that itch – I want to be on stage and play our music again.
Luis: Our first gig was SXSW. River was three months old. Our nanny who’s on this tour was with is on that one, too. We always have a nanny, or some help. We always make sur ethat he gets to bed at his right time and that there’s an outdoor activity for him during the day.
Kelly: Except today! She tried to get him to an indoor play centre, but it was soooo windy that they got half way there and he just couldn’t do it.
Luis: But he likes it. He wants to go travelling. When we drop people off at the airport, he cries. “River on plane!”
If you met a young band, just starting out as you were back in the day – what advice would you give them?
Both: Go for it.
Kelly: Go all in.
Luis: Go all the way. Move to where music’s happening.
Kelly: With friends! They don’t have to be the best musicians.
Luis: Be in a band with people that you like. And work your ass off.
Kelly: Play as many shows and write as many songs as possible.
Luis: If you need a day job to keep going or put back into the band then do it. You’ve got to be fully committed.
Kelly: And do a PledgeMusic campaign! But you have to do a lot of shows to get the fans to make that happen though.
Rikki: They encouraged us to do a PledgeMusic. I play in a band called the Two Tens and we just finished ours. We wouldn’t have done it if Luis hadn’t show us what to do.
Kelly: We wouldn’t have done it if Jaret hadn’t told us what to do!
You’ve got your live album out shortly and the EP that’s just been released…
Luis: We have the live album with us for people to buy at the shows. The official release is March 11th. We got a distributor so we had to push it back. We had the choice to release it straight away ourselves or push it back a couple of months. We had the EP in our back pocket so thought we’d just have that for the tour. The pledgers have the live album already, though.
Where was it recorded?
Kelly: In Los Angeles with Bowling For Soup… last September.
In ten years or so on the road, what’s the most insane thing you’ve seen?
Luis: The first thing that crossed my mind was when Kelly lost her mind because of the strobes in Minneapolis. She had a normal amount of food and drink before we played…
Kelly: …which is a little bit of food and a lot of drink!
Luis: We were playing the Triple Rock.
Kelly: The band before us, their schtick was to turn all the house lights off and turn on multiple strobes. I watched maybe three songs and I started to feel really weird… nauseous. I had a headache and felt like I was going to shit my pants. I ran to the bathroom and held myself over the sink feeling like I was just losing it.
Luis: So we get on stage and she’s pretending everything’s alright. The first couple of songs go fine then all of a sudden she just starts losing her mind in a way where she’d just stop playing a song in the middle and start screaming random things. She was playing the bass really hard then cut herself or something. She was spraying blood all over the place. She was just screaming stuff and wouldn’t finish songs, arguing with me on stage. At the end she just threw her instrument down – we didn’t even really finish the set. Our producer was at that show. Everyone was just “what the…?”
Kelly: I felt terrible. I was ill for a while after.
Luis: She puked all over our brand new van, she insulted me for two hours straight…
Kelly: I punched him. The only time I’ve ever done that.
Luis: We figured that venue’s going to hate us, right? We get home from tour and a few weeks go by and a package arrives in the mail. It was from the Triple Rock and they’d sent us their employee staff shirts!