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By: Tim Forster
There is a famous story about a music journalist who went to see Buzzcocks supported by Gang of Four. He was so amazed by Gang of Four that he left at the end of their set, missing Buzzcocks, so that nothing would diminish the significance of what he had just witnessed. In about 2004 I went to see punk band Capdown supported by Douglas but first band up on that night was a band I had never heard of, Adequate 7. I was so impressed that I went to see them another ten times before they split up in 2006!
A few weeks ago I traveled down to London for an All-Dayer, and despite the above paragraph I decided to nip to the hotel I was staying in for a quick shower before going onto the gig. I left the hotel, found the venue and walked in catching an exhilarating, energy filled last couple of garage rock/grunge punk tracks of what must have been a cracking set by DOLLS, a band I will definitely being making the effort to catch in full in future!
DOLLS are a two piece comprised of singer/guitarist Jade Ellins and drummer Belinda Conde, they formed DOLLS in 2014 and have three excellent tracks up on Soundcloud, double A-side single ‘Audrey’ and ‘Kid Kannibal’ plus ‘Killing Time’. Despite my frustrating tardiness they were kind enough to agree to an interview.
(((o))): Could you give us the story so far!? Have you been in other bands before? When did you form?
Jade: I had my own gothic (well tried to be) rock band at Uni and now currently I’m also in Long Teeth. Bel and I met about 2 years ago now and got on ‘like a fucking house on fire’.
Bel: Before joining DOLLS I was in a seven-piece band… so this was quite a change!
(((o))): Where did the idea for the name DOLLS come from? Is it a comment on the reductionist view of women in contemporary society as in ‘Living Dolls: The Return of Sexism’ by Natasha Walter?
Jade: No actually, I thought it was a cool short punchy name, and original… then it turned out almost every other band ever had the word ‘Dolls’ in their name.
(((o))): Did you have a fairly clear idea of the sort of sound you wanted from the start or has it been more evolutionary?
Jade: When we were first jamming together I was still very much in my Blues Rock stage. So every song was very riff based with wailing vocals. I was a bit scared to use more pop based chords back then as I thought it might sound cheesy. I got into listening to more punk and ‘arty’ bands such as Bikini Kill, Sonic Youth and Ought about a year ago so our sound changed a lot. I realised pop chords weren’t the problem, it was more what you did with them. Now there is hardly a blues riff in sight!
(((o))): How would you describe your sound?
Bel: I think our sound is a mixture of wanting to ‘get out’ what frustrates us about the current society we live in, with a touch of Jade’s ballsy vocals and my loud drums. We like to make an impact through our music and really reach out to our audience.
(((o))): What were your early influences, was there any musician or band that inspired you take up an instrument yourself?
Jade: My parents are both musicians so music was always around. Pretty much as soon as I could move they gave me a guitar. Thank God! I loved classic rock bands when I was little as my Dad used to play them all the time in the car such as Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin. I also loved a bit of Britney and Christina though, I still do!
Bel: I didn’t come from a musical background at all – I had to fight my mum over the years to get a drum kit! My early influences were serious heavy and nu metal bands, such as Slipknot and SOAD. Hehe…
(((o))): You’ve three tracks up on Soundcloud-could you talk us through them-‘Audrey and ‘Kid Kannibal’ seem quite dark!
Jade: ‘Audrey’ and ‘Kid Kannibal’ are supposed to be fun and tongue in cheek. Not taken too seriously at all. I guess people can interpret them to whatever they want though!
(((o))): More generally what sort of subjects do your lyrics engage with-are they mostly based on experiences or inspired by other sources like films and books?
Jade: It’s a mixture really. Sometimes I will see a film and a character will inspire me for a song. Some are more personal.
Bel: When I write some lyrics for our songs, I like them to be quite ambiguous so each person that listens to them can find a particular meaning themselves.
(((o))): How does the creative process work for DOLLS, is it a collaborative process or one main songwriter?
Jade: I generally will have the chords and a basic structure of a song ready before I take it to Bel and our other co-writer Sam. I find it really difficult to get songs out of jamming and rather have some time to myself first to decide what kind of song it will be. A few songs have formed out of us jamming them on the spot like ‘Kid Kannibal’ but that is quite rare now. Other times Bel may come up with a drum beat that I find inspiring or Sam may come up with some chords that I want to work with.
(((o))): I caught part of your set at Loud Women Festival and was so annoyed with myself that I hadn’t got there earlier-you were excellent! Is it on stage where you are most at home or in the studio, which do you prefer?
Jade: Thank you! Performing on stage, is definitely why I do this. It’s actually my favourite thing to do! That’s why I don’t mind us gigging all the time and never understood when other bands would complain about it. The studio is still bit of a weird environment for me, however we have just been recording four songs with Jim Sclavunos (Grinderman, Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds) which was a brilliant experience. I felt like I needed to go and practice a million hours after working with him as it was so inspiring.
Bel: Being onstage is where I feel the most comfortable! I love playing live and I believe that is the best way to put our music across. It’s great to get good feedback from our gigs!
(((o))): A lot of female musicians seem to experience a degree of sexism, what has your experience been like in the alt rock/punk/DIY scene? Is it a better place for women than mainstream culture?
Both: Each scene varies, even the more underground scenes still have sexism. The Punk DIY scene where they put on female fronted bands in particular has been great. We haven’t experienced any sexism and always feel supported. Which is why these nights exist! The general alt rock punk scene can be very different. There are a lot of male ‘punk’ bands that still think it’s ok to belittle you, or expect you to be a bit shit as you are a woman. Some of these bands have even had female members in. I guess sexism is still more dominant in mainstream culture, but it can happen anywhere.
(((o))): Do you think things are improving in that respect?
Jade: There’s still a lot that could be improved.
Bel: Yes, definitely gender equality in the music industry still needs to improve massively.
(((o))): What bands and writers are you enjoying at the moment?
Jade: I’m loving Parquet Courts, Hinds, Angel Olsen, Ought, Queen Pj and the Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds new album is ace!
Bel: I really like King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, The Oh Sees and when I need to chill out I go for Bowery Electric.
(((o))): What are your plans for the rest of 2016 and into 2017? An album at all?
Both: Like we said before, we have just recorded four tracks. What will happen to those four tracks is still a bit of a mystery. Hopefully they will become super popular, we will become mega rich, and we will be able to finally afford a roadie so we don’t have to carry our shit around with us on the tube!
Big thanks to Bel and Jade for interview.