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By Photo courtesy of Hey Ocean
By The Bakersfield Californian
Bakersfield will play host to a couple of cool winter shows this weekend that offer a glance into two different youth-oriented music scenes.
First up is Los Angeles pop punkers The Dollyrots, a band which, after years of toiling on the indie tour circuit as the opening, opening band, scored a major coup after their song "Because I'm Awesome" was picked up by Kohl's for use in a massive back-to-school ad campaign.
And that was just the beginning. Before long the band was featured on an episode of "Ugly Betty" and the film "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2."
Those are just two of many advertising and licensing deals the band has scored over the years, thanks to a willingness to go, go, go, according to guitarist Luis Cabezas.
"We've done up to 150 shows a year depending on if we have a record out or not, but typically 100," said Cabezas, speaking from the home of Dollyrots' bassist and vocalist Kelly Ogden. The two were preparing for their latest trek, which makes an early stop at B Ryder's on Friday.
"We don't like to take a day off and play mostly six to seven days straight," Cabezas said. "Our friends in Bowling for Soup told us, 'If you're not playin', you're payin.' It's the truth. Touring is expensive. We try and stay and busy."
The sound of the Dollyrots, which formed in 2000, is best described at its core as pop punk. Cabezas has become accustomed to hearing the band's name associated with groups like The Ataris, Simple Plan and New Found Glory, among others. But even as many of those bands have scaled back their careers for fewer shows or just dropped off the planet, The Dollyrots have kept at it, working year-round whether the genre is considered in or out with listeners.
"The definition of pop punk changes over the years. What used to be considered pop punk isn't what it used to be. The Ramones were pop punk. Paramore is not pop punk. You should have some awareness. It has to have some elements of classic rock 'n' roll," he said.
Signed to Joan Jett's Blackheart Records in 2004, the band released two records under the guidance of Jett, who gave them street cred with punk purists. The opportunity also provided Ogden a chance to bond with one of the world's most iconic female rockers.
"Meeting Joan Jett was something that really helped me decide to stay true to who I was," Ogden said.
"I'd like to set a good example for young girls who want to be in a band. Stay true to what you want to do."
After leaving Jett's label two years ago, the group decided to take a risk by planning their follow-up recording around a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign. They raised more than $33,000, four times their original goal of $7,500.
"We were completely shocked by the support we got," Ogden said. "We know there are people that like our band, but we only see pockets of them on tour. I think people are a lot happier putting their money directly towards a musician or someone they support, but, man, were we focused on making a good record. Bands don't have to rely on record companies anymore, but you have to be a lot more creative now."
Released in September, The Dollyrots' self-titled CD doesn't stray far from previous offerings, with the signature chug-chug style and catchy melodies the group is known for. Fans of the Ramones will once again find plenty to eat up.
"We learned a lot from Joan Jett when we were on her label," Cabezas said. "She sticks to what she believes in, what she loves and what she's good at. She's about being true to rock 'n' roll. That's what we wanna do."
Before leaving to resume loading up their home on wheels, Ogden shared an open invitation for their Friday show Bakersfield.
"If they know the music, they know there's going to be good songs delivered in an off-kiltered, rock show style. It's not necessarily perfect, but it's a good, sweaty rock 'n' roll show."
Friday's showtime is 9 p.m. with opening act The Aviators. Admission is $5. All ages admitted. B Ryder's is located at 7401 White Lane. For more information, call 397-7304.
Hey Ocean at Jerry's Pizza
Guaranteed to bring some much-needed sunshine to Bakersfield is pop trio Hey Ocean, who roll into Jerry's Pizza on Sunday.
Holed up a tiny Eugene, Ore., hotel room at the time of our phone interview, guitarist David Beckingham described their journey south as just another step toward discovering as much of America as they can over the next two months.
"People respect you more if you build things up organically," said Beckingham, sounding optimistic about the band's promotional tour in support of their latest record, "IS."
"I'm still gauging what the U.S. music scene is like, because all I know is what it's like at home."
Also featuring bassist David Vertesi and vocalist Ashleigh Ball, Hey Ocean is big in their native Canada, where Ball also works as a prominent animated voice-over actress. Parents and kiddie cartoon aficionados may be familiar with some of her work in "Care Bears: Oopsy Does It!," "Barbie: The Princess and the Popstar," "My Little Pony," "Friendship is Magic" and "Bratz."
"Ashley flies back and forth all the time. She'll rejoin us back in San Francisco. What would the kids do without her?"
Sweet-toothed and crafted to pop radio perfection, there's a lot to like about Hey Ocean's music.
They're nothing like fellow Canadian Justin Bieber, whom Beckingham prefers to keep out of the equation; instead Hey Ocean has more in common with the alt-rock brilliance of Metric. (And let's not forget Arcade Fire, whose success in America the group wouldn't mind following.)
"That's a huge thing to aim for, but there's so many good bands coming out of Canada right now. We just want to convey things through our music that resonate well with people, because they can see through everything."
One fan who saw potential for the group in the States was Kiss bassist Gene Simmons, who joined scores of music scouts interested in getting a piece of the Canadian music boom.
"Gene was looking for a few bands from Canada to work with and asked if we would put on a show just for him, which sort of speaks of his ego-maniacal ways. We halted our schedules, but the only thing we could do is book an early opening slot with a punk band in a very small club in Vancouver. It was actually pretty funny and even weirder for the punk band when we asked them. Gene showed up, took us to dinner and told us what he liked and didn't like."
The situation became even more uncomfortable for the band when Simmons put them in the studio to record a demo of Janis Ian's 1970's teen drama anthem, "At Seventeen."
"He was obsessed with that song. It's a beautiful melody but doesn't really fit us. We'd also found out he'd tried having a male artist record it, which was, again, really weird. While we were recording he said, 'Dumb it down and stop singing.' At one point, I think he said, 'Like a retarded 12-year-old,' which was really offensive. Ashleigh got really drunk and sung it sloppily, and he was like, 'Perfect, that's what I'm looking for. You gotta dumb it down for the people.'"
Months after parting ways with Simmons, Beckingham said today they still find themselves questioning if that experience actually happened.
"That whole situation was so bizarre, but you shouldn't expect anything less from Gene Simmons."
Doors open at 6 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $10. Show is all ages. Also appearing are bands Arizonity, Streetside Vinyl and Autumn Breeze. Jerry's Pizza is located at 1817 Chester Ave. For more information, call 633-1000 or visit loveheyocean.com.