ALBUM REVIEW: High Spirits – Hard To Stop

 

High Spirits’ endearing sincerity has always been a shining contrast to the often-sour realms of Hard Rock and Heavy Metal, and that feelgood brightness is needed now more than ever. While it’s been four years since the release of their last album, 2016’s Motivator, the Chicago project’s fourth full-length doesn’t skip a beat and their established blend of AOR and Classic Metal is well intact. You always know what you’re getting but it’s presented with far too much enthusiasm to ever feel stale.

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Self Driven Punk Rock – The Dollyrots

dollyrots

No all of it. The whole thing. You have to get the whole thing in there. It’s good for your stomach. Especially if you have a sour stomach, which is weird if you think it would make it more sour. Eat the whole slice – rind and all,” yells bassist and lead vocalist Kelly Ogden of LA pop punkers The Dollyrots, to her drummer for the evening Rikki Styxx (also of LA based The Two Tens), over a discussion about how to drink water.

“Whenever it’s in my water – you’ve gotta get your Vitamin C or [you’ll get] scurvy! We’re rock pirates but we won’t go that far!,” she says, with a smile.

the dollyrots 2

The band has been successfully supporting their latest album titled Pregnant and Barefoot, where they had just completed a national tour supporting Bowling For Soup this past summer, and previously doing a West Coast run with Black Flag and a UK run with the Buzzcocks.

This was all done following the birth of Ogden and guitarist Luis Cabezas’ son River, and balancing their home life with promoting their new album in 2013.

I love it! In so many ways it’s easier and some weird ways it’s harder. People are like ‘how do you bring a baby on tour?’ That’s the easiest part. I think my enemy is boredom. The kid is super smart and so aware of everything. We want him to have the best childhood ever. After childhood, everything is downhill. He might as well live it up and have the best experience possible. We’ll put on our happy faces no matter what. Just have the best life he could have,” said Ogden, about becoming a punk rock mother and raising their son within a rock n roll environment.

Would she do it again? “I might do it again if the cards align someday soon. We’ll see. Not right now,” she says, with a smile.

dollyrots with rikki styxx

Styxx became the latest drummer to perform with the Dollyrots, and since the band’s start in 2000 back in their home state of Florida, they have encountered a Spinal Tap esque situation with drummers (except without the explosions).

With a little help with Cabezas, Ogden named off the alumni of drummers who had fulfilled their tour of duty with them.

I totally remember all of their names. It started with Mike Benbow, then Frank Beasley, Josh Valenti, Amy Wood…Joaquin was in there for a week…one show,” she said.

Chris Black, Rick Welta, Alicia Warrington, James Carman, Aixa Vilar, Reed Crier…,” said Cabezas.

There’s one time we played in Massachusetts and we had 12 different drummers because Chris had to fly home for a wedding. Every kid in that city learned a song. It was cool in theory but it was the most excruciating show I’ve ever played in my life,” she then said.

These weird yetis would show up and they looked like punk rocker drummers. We thought ‘oh they’re going to be awesome!’ and then you’d have these dorky high school kids come and they’d kill it!,” he said.

I guess we don’t know all of their names for that one show,” she added. “Oh…there’s Mel. Fink. Mel Funk. I always mix up that.

dollyrots live 2

Since 2011, the band chose to release their own music without the help of a record label and handle their own affairs. Their self titled album was the first release on their own and through the help of crowdfunding via PledgeMusic, they found the help of their longtime fans to get their music out to the world.

I mean it’s based on the fact that we’ve put out enough records to have really awesome fans. So once you tour enough and put out enough music, then there’s people that will love you band no matter what you do. So the way we do it now through crowd sourcing, we feel like we really owe it to our fans to give them a really good album,” she explains.

dollyrots live

Ogden elaborates further about how being a DIY artist has changed their approach at how they reach fans without the help of a record label or a marketing company.

We push ourselves even harder than when we were on a record label. We’re really lucky to have [these fans]. The thing is, we’d be making a record in little bubbles and we wouldn’t have a lot of feedback except from the labels. We wanted them to like it. It wasn’t for so much for our fans. It was kind of weird because we make music for the people who listen to your music.

dollyrots kelly ogden

It feels so much clearer now. It’s like we’re making music for these people and we’re going to put it in an envelope and send it to them ourselves. It feels the way it should be. It’s cool because we get to be close to them and they get to see a lot more of our life and we get to be back during the writing process. It just seems…for our band at least – the whole growing up in the 90s was like…aww…you get to be in a band and we get to be mysterious. Nobody really knows things about you. That’s just not how our band works, which is a little surprising. Listen, I probably seem very outgoing but to be honest if we were to go to your house for a barbecue on a Sunday afternoon, I would have diarrhea because I would be so nervous about having to interact with people. We’re actually socially awkward. It’s funny but within the band thing it works. It’s cool doing this with our fans.

dollyrots Mailer-Header-Come-Out-And-Play

Aside from the crowdfunding and touring, the Dollyrots have constantly promoted their music through social media and kept their name out in the public. They have regularly released free songs (usually cover songs and holiday related tunes), and have used StageIt to attract their fans to watch their show streamed online.

It’s here! Our annual Holiday Merch Explosion! Head to http://www.thedollyrots.com & hook it up… brand new hoodies, bundles, & an ugly Xmas sweater!

Posted by The Dollyrots on Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Ogden talked about how much work went into running their crowdfunding campaign.

The bands that do PledgeMusic now – we were just talking about it – Sum 41 just did their new record. Weezer did one. Freakin’ Smashing Pumpkins did one….Soul Asylum….it just makes so much more sense now.

But those bands – I don’t know if they do it the way we do it with lots of personal stuff, which makes it a lot more fun for us. They do a preorder and then they have a merch company ship everybody their stuff.

dollyrots kelly with flag

Sum 41’s not sitting there personalizing all 40,000 CDs! Once you go over a certain quantity it’s not feasible,” says Cabezas, cutting into the conversation.

I didn’t bake cookies this time but I’ve been feeling the guilt working in. I’m considering making the cookies a super prime item. I’ll send you a dozen cookies…but it’s going to cost like $80 because last time I had to make 37 dozen cookies….in a one bedroom apartment with one oven and one rack! It took me four days. It was kind of awful. The thing is…it’s that many days of my life that I can’t do anything but bake the cookies,” added Ogden, about one of her ideas that became a bit challenging.

Through the PledgeMusic campaign, they reached fans from all over the globe. She shared some of the more unusual spots they received pledges from. “Obviously we have a lot of fans in the UK. There’s this island…some part of France…Revere Islands and it was some French island and the post office couldn’t even figure it out. It’s some weird French island the US owns.

Then she talked about the biggest challenges behind doing the pledge campaigns. Being that the Dollyrots have to run their own campaigns, the work involved is not always for everyone, but the band still chose to tackle the challenge head first.

Fulfillment. I think some people that are new to the method don’t understand that if they get a song and if 25 other people get a song that’s written for them, it may take us a year. We’ve honestly I would say 99 percent of the time people have been really cool about it. But I feel like there may be other people that are disappointed that we don’t hear from, and that sucks when it’s just the band. We don’t hire a merch company. It takes up our lives until we do it again and then it takes up our whole lives.

I know the ins and outs of the US Postal System. I have my own postal scale. We do every single bit of it. It’s kind of crazy. We get a discount in doing it online.

The Koreatown post office – the Dosan Ahn Chang on 6th Street is the one that me and Luis would take everything to before we got our own scale. They would see the two of us walk in and I would be holding the baby…I think we started before he was born. We started shipping before he was born. We would see us walk in with these huge boxes and they would all shake their heads and look down. People in line behind us – I would feel this stabby stab in my back when I’m at the window. It would take us about three hours at the window.

We’re there so long. We know their names. We know where they go on vacation and where they grew up. It was really funny. After a few times, they would be funny when they’d get us because we can just hang out and chat for a while. The managers at the post office were not happy.

While they are still promoting Barefoot and Pregnant, they have proceeded with working on their Family Vacation: Live In Los Angeles CD and DVD, recorded and filmed on tour this past summer. Ogden explained the story behind the release.

So we just finished and got the mastered audio back. So the audio part is done. The live video we filmed stuff all along the last couple of tours, starting in June until now. So we did the East Coast, Texas and the West Coast. So we did a lot of tour diaries.

dollyrots family vacation live in los angeles

The main shows, because hiring a camera crew is real expensive, so we only really filmed New York and LA, and we used LA pretty much for the show. It’s just a live show experience because it’s different touring for us now. We only do a week and a half because we have to fly in. We have a baby and a nanny and the three of us. It’s complicated and with the economy the way it is, it doesn’t make sense for us to be on tour for eight weeks at a time. So we find the places where we can afford to go and then book short little tours around that. It’s awesome.

[Teaser] A few more seconds of our upcoming live DVD!! #TheDollyrotsFamilyVacationPre-order: http://bit.ly/DRpledgeLIVE

Posted by The Dollyrots on Saturday, November 21, 2015

By Rei Nishimoto