The 24-track album is an eclectic display of the band’s progression and unwavering sense of self. Disc 1 takes listeners on an excitedly non-linear journey from their DIY foundations to their now-seasoned-standing while Disc 2 plays tribute to a handful of artists that have inspired them along the way. Marked by their signature ‘90s-reminiscent, ultra-high-energy variety of grunge-punk catharsis, this is one hole you won’t want to crawl out of.
Vocalist/bassist Kelly Ogden sat down with All The Alt Things to discuss the unconventional nuances behind the release, alternative nostalgia, and the reflective properties of the rabbit hole.
A 24-track album, compilation or otherwise, is clearly a massive undertaking. What prompted the decision to celebrate the band’s 20th birthday in this uniquely extravagant way?
KELLY OGDEN: It was actually very spur of the moment and out of desperation, to be honest. [Luis and I] have struggled a lot with creativity since being home due to COVID. We kept our kids home from school for a whole year and they’re little—eight and five now and even younger when it started. You know, we were just in full parent mode. With kids that small, there’s a lot of entertainment that needs to happen and constant feeding and cleaning. We didn’t have any opportunity to sit back and be creative. If I was listening to music, it was dictated by the kids. There was a lot of Kidz Bop and screaming about Minecraft, so it was not very stimulating as adults.
In some ways, it was wonderful to be home as a family. Our daughter is so young and she’s definitely a homebody. I think it was good for her to be home with us that intensely for that long. So, there were definitely silver linings. But creatively? Forget it. We just really wanted to put something out this year. So, after a few days of being extremely depressed, Luis woke up one morning and was like, “We should just put out the B-sides record. It’s our 20th year and I’ve got plenty of stuff on hard drives. I’ll go find it all.” He just needed to get clearance from Wicked Cool and a couple other labels that we had released things on.
So he called Wicked Cool and he was like, “Hey, there are some B-sides from the last couple albums. Do you mind if we put them out?”
And they [responded], “Yeah, sure do you want to do it together?” Which sounded great, but we wanted everything by Christmas. So they were like, “If that’s the case, we’re gonna need everything by Monday.” And that was a Thursday. So between Thursday and Monday, we got artwork from Stefan Beham. He’s an amazing artist in Austria and he turned it around in like 24 hours. Luis remixed a bunch of stuff and got to mastering. Track ordering happened. It all happened within about four days.
So there wasn’t a whole lot of thought. It was just like, “Well I guess we’re gonna do this and do it really, really fast.” [Laughs] We were supposed to have it by December 8, but there were COVID issues in the warehouse and supply chain issues. We didn’t end up getting the CDs until December 18, which was the cutoff for Christmas. So, we stayed up around the clock a couple days in a row and got all of them out in time. It was definitely a bit of a blur—a very fun blur. I almost didn’t get time to reflect on it until after all of that. Now doing these interviews, I’m like, “Wow, it really is happening.” It’s kind of strange.
That’s probably the most stressful quarantine project I’ve heard of yet.
Yeah. In a lot of ways it’s good that it was quick, though. We might have sat and thought about it for so long. Luis might have tried to remix things that didn’t need remixing. There comes a point with artistic products when you really just need to stop. And sometimes we have a hard time stopping. We like to tinker and perfect and try to get things as good as we can. So it was better that way.
I have to guess that, with so much time behind you, this record is just a glimpse into your unreleased collection. Was there any difficulty in selecting which tracks would make an appearance?
Yeah, there were some that were hard to decide on. But we wanted to make it listenable as an album too. So we tried to make it work as a record. That meant some things were still left out, but we’ve got time to put them out eventually.
Did you find that there were any unique challenges in putting together this sort of record relative to one that’s more of a standard record and release process?
I was a little bit caught up in how some of it is so raw and old, and then some of it is [more recent]. Two of the songs are pretty much brand new and weren’t previously released. So I was like, “Do we need to do it in chronological order? Do we need to put the dates next to the songs so people understand?” And Luis was like, “No, let’s just just make it work song to song. People are going to understand because of the type of release it is.” It was a little bit harder, though, because I was like, “Oh, this song is so old and raw right next to this brand new production.” It almost felt a little bit cringy to me. I always feel like that when I’m listening to myself, though. I don’t always have the highest self regard. So that was a little bit more challenging. At least with a regular release, it usually has a similar sound [throughout].
I can only imagine that pulling this album together has given you some good opportunities to reflect on that career. How do you feel that these songs reflect your progression and accomplishments as artists?
I definitely feel like I have more control of my voice and that it’s matured in a nice way. I almost like the way my voice sounds at this point. You know, in the early days before I knew how to sing, I was just working my way through it and figuring it out. Now 20 years later, I can look back and see how there’s something special about that. There’s a charm and an innocence to it. But I definitely feel more confident in my performances now.
I think part of that is just time, but I also broke my voice right after our third album came out. We were on tour and I just lost my voice. I couldn’t get it back. It was [the result of] exhaustion and overuse and poor technique. We actually had to stop the tour. Our last show was in Columbus, Ohio, and we had to get all the way back to L.A. I was on severe vocal rest for two months and it was really scary. MusiCares helped me see some really great doctors and paid for a vocal lesson with Ron Anderson, who passed away a couple of weeks ago. He taught me how to use my voice but sing around the node that was growing in my vocal cord. I still use his technique every single time I open my mouth.
So, I can hear when that happened. From the third album to the fourth album, I can hear [my voice] shift a little bit and that part is really cool. I’ve also gotten a little bit better at playing bass, but I still like the scrappy, sloppy style of those early days. I was a guitar player first, so my bass playing was just, “Okay, I’m only gonna play the root note of the barre chord for every song.” I love playing bass lines now when I can, but it’s been a cool growth for sure.
Were there any recordings that you were particularly excited to get out to your fans?
I’m just really, really glad that “Too Fun For My Health” is out there. We intended to release that in early 2020, but we didn’t at the time. I was wondering, “Where’s that one going to end up? What are we going to do?” So I’m glad that it’s the single. “Cloud Ten” is a song that we wrote while doing a live hang on Patreon with our patrons. It never really fit on an album but I always liked the idea of it. It has a really cool story. And I just love doing covers. Part of what was awesome about the influential bands that we grew up listening to was they led us to other bands. We learned about Nirvana, which then made us learn about Buzzcocks, Meat Puppets, The Vaselines, The Breeders, and the riot grrrl movement.
So, we feel like it’s cool to be a band that plays things from other eras. Hopefully we can introduce some other people to [other artists]. That’s part of why we usually put a cover on each album. But we do a lot of them just for fun for patrons. The day that Tom Petty passed away, I was like, “Man, I always wanted to do a Tom Petty cover. Why don’t we do one?” We recorded “American Girl” that night and put it out on Bandcamp. It’s nice to surprise fans with things like that. To have it all in one place makes it kind of special. I think people can really see our influences by looking at this album.
What does your selection process look like when it comes to those tracks? Is there anything special that you consider beyond just connecting to the artist?
The most important thing is it has to be a song that we really like, one that means something to us. But it’s really cool if I can sing it in the original key because that makes it even more recognizable for people. And if it can’t be in the original key, can we move it to a place that doesn’t make it seem weird or strange? Because sometimes that’ll happen. I like to at least have a nod to the original and not make it totally different. I think covers like that are kind of cool, but at that point, you might as well just write an original song. I’d rather do covers where people can recognize it and know where it’s coming from. So, I like to not have to change it too much from the original.
And then sometimes songs just don’t work. We always put out a Christmas song or two and, this year, we tried to do “Christmas Wrapping” by The Waitresses. I’ve always liked that song and every year, when we ask fans what Christmas songs we should do, they always want us to try that one. Luis and I spent like four hours one night trying to record it and eventually we just looked at each other and were like, “This sucks. We are not going to put this out.” It wasn’t working and sometimes it just doesn’t. There’s no harm in moving forward from that.
One thing that I think is really neat about your enduring presence is that you’ve been active through some considerable ebbs and flow of alternative culture. How would you compare being active in the current alternative scene against let’s say that of the mid-2000s?
It’s definitely kind of confusing. [Laughs]. As a band, in the beginning, we learned to play with a few cover songs. Luis was the only person in our band of four people who had ever played an instrument before. Our drummer had played one drum in the marching band and I had kind of learned to play along to a couple songs on guitar. But when we actually decided to start the band, step one was Luis teaching us how to play. We each got to pick a song so there was a Misfits song, a Ronnettes song, a Ramones song, and a blink-182 song. We practiced and practiced and practiced until we could all play all four. What came out of that is just what Luis and I sound like when we make music together. We’ve never been able to or even wanted to go with the trends that are happening.
I think part of just staying true to what we do has been ignoring a lot of what’s changing around us. Maybe that’s why we’ve lasted—we haven’t ever tried to be popular. We’ve never been all that worried about it because we have great fans that like what we do. And we have a lot of bands, like Buzzcocks, Black Flag, The Go-Go’s, and Bowling For Soup, that understand where we’re coming from and will take us out on tour.
It’s been a career where we’ve just stuck to what we do. I guess by not being cool, we’ve been able to stick around longer. In some ways, I do kind of love the Travis Barker pop-punk resurgence that’s happening. I think that’s fun and interesting. But even as a band that’s been labeled pop-punk, we still don’t really fit in with that. We did Warped Tour year after year after year and I still looked at all the names on the When We Were Young festival lineup and I was like, “Oh yeah, those are all the bands that we didn’t really fit with.”
We’re old school. Luis and I love that early British punk rock and the New York Ramones scene—the CBGB, Max’s kind of stuff. Even though we were kids in the late ‘90s, early 2000s, we weren’t listening so much to what was popular right then. We were very into Lookout! Records, K Records and a lot of grunge stuff as well, but not so much the SoCal punk scene. It’s kind of the story of my life. I’ve always had a lot of friends but I don’t exactly fit into a clique. And that’s how the band is.
It’s the best way to be though.
I agree. I don’t I don’t mind.
Speaking of the WWWY festival, I honestly don’t think you could have picked a better time to do a sort of retrospective release, given all the nostalgia for 2000s music that’s been surging lately. Do you have any thoughts as to why people identify so strongly with the music and culture of that time?
I really think it’s just an age thing. The people who were young and listening to those bands are now a little bit older and have some disposable income. It’s the stuff they still listen to every day and so it makes sense to start having festivals and get those old bands back together. It happens every generation to some extent. A lot of those bands didn’t go away. They’ve been touring but it hasn’t been on the same level. And since Warped Tour, there hasn’t been a festival that really spoke to all of those people. It’s a pretty smart move on Live Nation’s part.
About The Dollyrots:
The Dollyrots are married couple Kelly Ogden (vocals/bass) and Luis Cabezas (guitar), joined on tour by Justin McGrath on drums. Over the 20 years preceding Down The Rabbit Hole, they’ve released nine studio albums and a slew of EPs and singles; graced multiple Warped Tour Lineups; and shared stages with the likes of The Buzzcocks, Bowling For Soup, and Forever The Sickest Kids.
Catch The Dollyrots on tour:
Tickets can be purchased from The Dollyrots website.
With The Von Tramps…
- 3/10 – Reggie’s Rock Club Chicago, IL – Mar 10
- 3/11 – VFW Post 246 Minneapolis, MN – Mar 11
- 3/12 – X-Ray Arcade Milwaukee, WI – Mar 12
- 3/13 – Beachland Cleveland, OH – Mar 13
- 3/14 – Rumba Café Columbus, OH – Mar 14
- 3/15 -The Melody Inn Indianapolis, IN – Mar 15
- 3/16 – Old Rock House St Louis, MO – Mar 16
- 3/17 – Nightshop Bloomington, IL – Mar 17
- 3/18 – The Sanctuary Hamtramck, MI – Mar 18
- 3/19 – Southgate House Newport, KY – Mar 19
With Bowling For Soup & Lit…
- 4/12 – Empress Ballroom Blackpool, UK
- 4/13 – O2 Academy Glasgow Glasgow, UK
- 4/14 – Grimsby Auditorium Grimsby, UK
- 4/15 – Scarborough Spa Scarborough, UK
- 4/16 – O2 Academy Birmingham Birmingham, UK
- 4/17 – O2 Academy Bournemouth Bournemouth, UK
- 4/18 – Riviera International Centre Torquay, UK
- 4/19 – Brangwyn Hall Swansea, UK
- 4/21– De La Warr Pavilion Bexhill On Sea, UK
- 4/22 – Winter Gardens Margate, UK
- 4/23 – O2 Academy Brixton London, UK
Swimming in an ever-rising sea of 2000s emo nostalgia, music journalist Mala Mortensa only surfaces to dig into the depths of the modern alternative underground. Soundtracked by a neverending Spotify queue, she spends most of her free time perfecting heavy eyeliner looks, chilling with her two insane-o dogs, and anxiously waiting for the next AFI tour.