UTG INTERVIEW: Bowling For Soup & The Dollyrots

BowlingForSoup

Texan rockers Bowling For Soup should need no introduction. For almost twenty years now, they’ve kept fans amused and entertained with their signature brand of irreverent, uproarious rock ‘n’ roll. Earlier this year, the band followed the success of their eleventh studio album Fishin’ For Woos by putting out a split EP with long-time friends and sometime collaborators The Dollyrots and Patent Pending. The EP, One Big Happy, formed the backdrop of the three bands’ UK and Ireland tour in October 2012.

UTG caught up with both Bowling For Soup and The Dollyrots on the Oxford leg of the tour on October 27th, discussing fan reactions to the show and the bands’ work, as well as the changing face of the music industry and what it means to them.

Bowling For Soup

UTG: You’re on tour with The Dollyrots and I know you’ve worked with them quite a bit. How did that friendship come about?


Erik Chandler, bass:
We met them originally by kind of just talking online. Then we started hearing their music and so we had the opportunity to invite them on tour in the US and we just got along with them amazingly. In the States, for the past two years, the better part of the time that we’ve been on tour, we’ve shared that with them. So we brought them over here and they are our best friends as far as bands go in the entire world.

You do seem to have similar sensibilities as bands – a fun-loving, playful approach to your music, so I can see how that would form a fruitful friendship. How did Patent Pending get involved?


We did a couple of one-off shows in the last two years where they were the opening act, and we liked them. Once again,  we had the opportunity to offer them an opening slot on a tour and once we went on tour with them it was like, ‘Oh my god, these guys are us, ten years ago,’ so when we were able to put this line-up together with our little brothers and our best friends, it was really amazing. After tonight we have two shows left, and no-one in our band has really gotten the homesickness yet, just because we’ve been surrounded by so many great friends. Normally at this point of a tour, you get several people who are like, ‘Oh, I hate that glass, that table sucks, that refrigerator is the worst thing ever!’ and it’s bad news. It doesn’t mean anything, it’s just that you have tunnel vision and you’re trying to get to the airport and just get home, but we really haven’t had that this time. It’s been really cool.

Obviously, your band is quite well-known for having a more humorous take on topics that might otherwise be treated very seriously.


I think that we’re all sometimes, or a lot of times, surprised at what we get away with. A lot of the time, an idea comes up and it’s like, ‘We’re the only people that can do this and get away with it and not seem like a big bunch of assholes.’ I think I feel very lucky that we have that; that Bowling For Soup has this great dichotomy of funny, very light-hearted stuff and then at the same time, if you down into the albums, there’s a lot of really serious stuff going on in there. It’s like we’re juggling both of these at the same time. But they seem to both be accepted and that’s…you know, hurray for us that we can pull that off! But I’m not exactly sure why that happens. That’s just the way we’re always done things and people have just accepted it.

I also got to write about both Jaret’s and your side projects earlier this year, and I really enjoyed both. Why did you turn to a different form of songwriting or was it just a different outlet?


I haven’t really written anything for Bowling For Soup in years and that’s just because the songs I write don’t really fit in with what we do. So my solo project started out as a project Jaret and I were going to do together. We went on tour and we took the band Smile Smile with us and Ryan from Smile Smile and Jaret got together and started writing some songs, and they put People On Vacation together. So Jaret told me he had this other thing on and he didn’t have time for both that and our solo project. Immediately when he told me that, I took a very different direction. I had been writing an alternative country album for he and I, so when we had that conversation, it just kinda flipped my head about what I was doing and then I wrote this rock album and I’m super happy with the way it came out. I’m really excited about all the songs. I just got the full band in place and we’re doing our first full band show on November 7th in Dallas, then the album will be out early next year.

I’m glad to hear that, as I remember thinking when I was writing that there were a lot of great ideas but only four songs, so I’m looking forward to the full album.


Well, those songs will be on the full length and you’ll get about nine more as well.

There’s been so much upheaval in the scene over the last few years, with the increasing influence of the internet but also how easy it can be for some bands to have their five minutes of fame, if you will. As your band has been together for some time, have you noticed any major shifts in the way people approach their music?


That is a very valid question. When our band started to rise, it was right at the beginning of all the illegal downloading, so we know exactly how many albums we would have sold before that started happening. We know exactly how much of our music was taken illegally, but at the same time, that’s spread our name across the world. You can get upset that you haven’t sold 10 million albums or you can get excited that you have one of the most illegally downloaded songs ever. When iTunes started putting singles up, we had the number one downloaded single on iTunes. You know, it helps you, but at the same time…it’s like, ‘Oh back in the day, that would have been something completely different and I’d have a much nicer car now.’ But I get to do the thing I love the most with my best friends in the entire world and so you can’t really complain. It’s all promotion and then that goes into spreading the word and I’m actually very happy for that.

I have heard other bands have the same attitude, you know, someone takes your album and puts it on all their friend’s iPods but hey, that’s ten or twelve more people who are listening to the band.


Exactly, and those are the people who’ll come out to the shows and give you money for tickets and buy a t-shirt, and that’s actually what you live on as a band. We happen to now own our record label but not everybody gets to do that. For years and years, the only money that we ever made was selling t-shirts and selling tickets to shows and we did well doing that, but you never made a dime selling a CD. Now that we have our own company, we have just for the first time started making money selling CDs and it’s kinda cool. It’s not a lot but I mean, nobody is hurting, we’re doing just fine.

Do you feel any pressure to adapt your music as trends change? It would seem there’s a lot to be said for keeping a readily identifiable sound and knowing what to expect.


We have never intentionally tried to reinvent the Bowling For Soup wheel. Over the last few years and albums we got really involved in the studio process and brought some more tricks and trinkets in to the music but on the last album, on Fishin’ For Woos, we deliberately only scheduled 14 days in the studio [so as to] get back to guitars, drums, and bass. We thought, ‘Let’s just go back and make a rock album, like we did back in the day.’ In our heads – I think I can speak for everyone – we’ve never really done anything differently than we started doing in the first place. It’s just that we got better at the studio process and so, in having done that, we got better at using other things in the studio and it was like, ‘Let’s throw some keyboards on here,’ etc. [UTG: It can be a natural progression, you know, ‘now I know more about this, I’d like to use it more.’] Yeah, exactly. I mean, we never tried to change our sound and make that shift from band doing this to band doing that. So the way we look at it is, if you go buy a new AC/DC album, a new Bad Religion album, you know exactly what it’s gonna sound like. We hope that if you go buy a new Bowling For Soup album, you know exactly what it’s gonna sound like and that’s exactly the way we want it. The songs that don’t fit the mould, they can go for our side projects and it’s not something we want to push on Bowling For Soup fans. We hope that the Bowling For Soup fan carries over to the side project stuff, but that’s not the attitude of Bowling For Soup.

Lastly, what kind of responses have you had to the tour? I find the mix in the crowd and the broad age group really striking, so that must be fun.


That’s really funny cos we see that everywhere. It’s really great. The tour’s been fantastic by the way, and the age range of the fans is just ridiculous because now we have people… We’ve been around for so long that we have people who are our age who’ve been coming to see us for years and years and now they’re bringing their kids with them. But then at the same time, a couple of nights ago, there was this guy who couldn’t have been less than 65 and I just saw him working his way through the crowd throughout the show and by the end, he was up on the barricade at the front, wearing a Bowling For Soup t-shirt and singing every word to every song. I was just like, ‘Wow, how did you get into our songs,’ and so it’s mind-blowing but at the same time extremely flattering. I would never have imagined that the music we play would have such a widespread appeal. When we started, we felt like a college band and we were – that’s how it started, we played at college parties, and then things started happening. Then at one point the fanbase started getting younger, then getting older, and then you get this mash of your 65-year-old guy over here and your 12-year-old girl over there and you end up thinking, ‘…can we still say fuck? No, we’re still gonna say fuck but everyone be aware that you’re gonna hear some language tonight.’

 

The Dollyrots

UTG: Firstly, I reviewed your album earlier this year and I really loved it, so I wanted to ask you about that and the responses you’ve had to it?


Kelly Ogden, bass/vocals:
Overall, the reaction to the record has been even better than expected. I don’t know if you know our past work, but it’s definitely a more polished, pop, put-together record I think, and so of course some sites are gonna be like ‘It’s not punk enough’ but we weren’t trying to make a punk record, we were trying to make a really good record. Maybe it’s a little bit new-wavey, maybe a little bit punk, and maybe a little bit pop and so overall the response, especially from our fans, which is the most important part, has been overwhelming.

When I was writing, I remember noting that it’s ostensibly pop-punk, but a lot more pop. It’s a lot more fun and accessible. Do you find sometimes that people try too hard to sound a certain way, especially these days? I’ve noticed a lot of bands that seem to try and adopt whatever’s hot right now, so is it important for you to remain organic?


Kelly:
For us, we have really tried to not listen to music when we’re in our writing period. I mean, it becomes difficult sometimes, but we don’t really listen to any other music [during that period] and we just try to create what comes out of us. Our music is a byproduct of what we grew up listening to by default. The pop aspect is girl groups, 1960s pop, really varied. The punk rock we grew up listening to is, for whatever reason, The Ramones and The Clash, the Sex Pistols and Blondie and it was that wave of classic punk rock. So then you know, we were kids in the 90s and there’s that influence too and the music we make sounds like that, like us. We’re never gonna stop making that music and we’re never gonna change the way we deliver the music because we try to deliver it in the way our heroes delivered music. We’ve just come to the conclusion that we’re gonna play our show and if it’s awesome – like if it’s like last night [Ogden slightly injured her wrist at a show in Bristol], I could be having a disaster but it makes the kids start moshing, then that’s what the show is. But it’s not premeditated, it’s not trying to be cool.


Luis Cabezas, guitar:
We don’t have a plan or a theatrical production, it’s just spontaneous.


Kelly:
Yeah, every night it’s whatever it is.

And you funded the album via Kickstarter? You got a tremendous response.


Kelly:
The response was incredible. I met a couple of the Kickstarter backers tonight at the meet and greet. It was probably the most important thing for us to do as a band at this point because when [the fans] all come together and they do something like that as a group, it not only makes us feel like we can give them an amazing record, so we need to produce what they deserve, but it also created a sense of community for them. Our fans know each other on Twitter and Facebook and they have a group, The Dollyrots Kickstarter Backers, and it’s kind of amazing. It really was so much more than we thought it would be, in every single way.

It’s a very good tool for building links between a band and the fans. Sometimes, I think, bands can get a little bit out of touch and then things can go awry. It’s good for you, especially as you’ve been on the go for quite some time, to know that you still have that bond there.

Kelly: Without that bond, it’s not worth it, not worth touring, or anything. We don’t get onstage every night because it makes us feel good, we go on because we feel like our fans deserve to see what that is. In all honesty, it is really hard. I’m kind of a shy person and it wasn’t my plan to be performing onstage but I feel like it’s brought out things in me that maybe wouldn’t have come out in other ways. We don’t do this for our egos or any of that.

I’ve heard that a lot from bands I’ve talked to over the years. Sometimes people in their private life can be quiet, but when they go on stage, they can be this amazing creative version of themselves.


Kelly:
I haven’t ever gotten to that place where I can be something more than me. It kind of sucks, I wish I could flip a switch and be some other creature! At home, I’m in a Sex Pistols tribute band and I’m Nancy and so I get to be this other disaster bitch and in THAT, I’m a character. But when I’m onstage here I’m just me, and that’s all there is to it. It might be better if I were a character… [laughs]

You have a very good relationship with Bowling For Soup, obviously. You’ve done a lot of splits and such with them, so how did the most recent split come about?


Kelly:
It was just Jaret, I think he sent a text? Saying ‘Hey, you wanna do a split album for the UK tour?’ and I was like, ‘Yep, awesome!’


Luis:
It was bound to happen, cos we did a split with them in 2010 and I think the experience was really good for both bands and fans. It introduced everybody to everybody else and it’s like, there are some fans who don’t go to shows for whatever reason, and you come to realise this when you’re in a band. It’s a bit like, ‘Oh, this kid has bought every CD and every t-shirt but I’ve never seen them a show’ cos they don’t like the idea of going to a rock show or they live somewhere where we never tour.

Growing up in Ireland, that’s something I can identify with.


Kelly:
Every time we have come to the UK, we have played Belfast and Dublin!


Luis:
It’s just a little out of the way and you have to take a ferry and… [UTG: It’s really expensive.] yeah.


Kelly:
But to be honest, Belfast and Dublin were my favourite shows, followed by Nottingham and Bristol.


Luis:
We did that split with Bowling For Soup and it was just a natural fit for the three of us to come together. Every tour has a feeling, and this is like the tour soundtrack, you know? We’re sharing everything, it is like one big happy family.


Kelly:
Oh we are sharing everything, the bread, the beer, the back line, the banners…the kick drum sticker! It’s all one.

In terms of the future, are there any major plans or things to look forward to?


Kelly:
When we go home, as part of Kickstarter, our fans could buy a song written for them. So get to go home and write an acoustic record and we’re going to try and have it finished before Christmas. We’ve finished about half of the songs, about six of fifteen, but it’s really cool because when we write songs they’re always about our life, or people close to us. We write truth, we don’t really write tough stories or whatever, but this has been really fun cos we’re just writing songs for people. One song is about Disney, one song is about this guy whose boyfriend thinks he’s a werewolf. [UTG: How very Teen Wolf.] Yeah! There’s a song about Russia that we call “The USSA.” They’re all these weird songs that we would never have written if our fans had never asked us to write them. So we’re gonna put out this really weird and cool acoustic record.

Did they send you a list of things? Like, ‘write a song about THIS’?
Kelly:
Well, we said send us at least three sentences, maybe a paragraph, and Luis and I sit down and we just try to make it a song.

The Disney song sounds intriguing. Is it any particular aspect of Disney or what is it?
Kelly:
All of the pre-choruses have the Disney couples’ names, but it’s getting really hard to rhyme them…

 

Written and conducted by: Grace Duffy

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