Steve Wright interviewed Doll on Friday October 30th, the day after the band had played at Leeds Academy
Have you all played in bands before?
Yeah, we have all played in lots of bands before. Oliver was in a ska band called Invisible Jim. Chris was in a metal band, and Matt was in a heavy rock band called Father Paranoia. They were all still in those bands when we started Doll & The Kicks. Before I came to Brighton I was in a few bands in Liverpool. One was a funk band; another was a dance band when I was in 6th form. My friend used to make lots of dance tracks, which were backing tracks on his computer. Then he would give them to me and I would do the melody and the lyrics. That was basically the first kind of band I was in. So we have all done loads before Doll & The Kicks.
How did Doll & The Kicks come together?
Oliver and I were in the same class at college in Brighton and I wanted to start a band. So I brought in five tracks that I had recorded in a studio with a producer that I know. I played a couple of the tracks because it was a music course. So everyone brought their stuff in and played it to each other at the end. I played a couple of tracks and afterwards Oliver asked me if I was starting a band, and if I needed anyone, and I was like... "yep, yes I do"'. So that was him and I at the beginning.
Matt was a friend of my housemate's girlfriend at the time and he joined the band that way. And Chris again, was a friend of a friend because we were looking for a drummer, as that was the last person we needed, and they introduced us to Chris. I think all the other guys at first thought their other bands were their priority and that Doll & The Kicks was just a sideline. Then that quickly took over. I think they started to enjoy it more and that it was more successful, so they all dumped their other bands.
You were a 5 piece band originally?
Yeah, we were a 5 piece and Oliver and Matt were both on guitar, and we had another bass player. In fact we had several bass players, but it never really worked out because they were never quite committed enough or we didn't get on with them as well as we got on with each other. So it never seemed to work out and then eventually we moved Oliver on to bass as a temporary measure as we were looking for someone else, someone perfect. Then we realised that after doing a few gigs, people seemed to like it much more with just the four of us. There was more space for the vocals. We started writing better songs, and it had always kind of been the four of us to begin with anyway, as the core unit. So we just thought once we had convinced Oliver to stay on bass, we would keep it like that.
Who came up with the name and where did it come from. Plus was there any other names to choose from?
There wasn't really any other names because it was just me. When I brought those songs in to the class, I had called myself Doll. That is a title of a Foo Fighters song. It is the opening track on 'The Colour And The Shape' album and I saw the Foo Fighters when I was really young. It was my first ever gig. So that has always been quite important. You know, when you go to your first gig and you have a really good time, you're like... "wow, I really want to do this!" So that is where Doll came from. When we got the band together, it was just a case of turning it into something that wasn't just a single person. We branded a few things around and Doll & The Kicks seemed to fit the sound good and go well together.
Where did the band do their debut gig?
Our first ever gig was at the Pav Tav which is the Pavilion Tavern in Brighton. It is a local pub and it is really cheap. Loads of students go there, but loads of locals go there as well. The sound was obviously terrible, but the gig was really good. It was packed and obviously all our mates came, but it was really fun.
When was this and was it as a 5 piece?
This was about 4 years ago, and we did the gig as a 5 piece because we became a 4 piece just after we did Glastonbury and that was June 2007. So we have been a 4 piece for just over two years.
The Glastonbury gig saw the band play on the BBC Introducing stage. That must have been really good for everyone and exciting?
Yes, it was amazing. We were so excited about that. We couldn't believe it because we only found out about 2 weeks before that we had actually got a place. Phil Jackson from BBC Southern Counties told me that we had been put forward, but we really didn't think anything of it. Then I got a call to say that it had actually gone through. We were all dumb-founded really, and were really excited. We played on the same stage as people like The Ting Tings who are obviously now massive. It was just a real fun thing to do. It was a just a shame the weather was so bad... ha ha!
Then you released 'Roll Up The Red Carpet' as a download single during January 2008?
Yes we did.
What made you choose this song?
It just seemed to be the song at the time. Obviously since then, we wrote most of the album after that. That is one of the oldest tracks on the album. At the time I think that was out best song. It was quite danceable, everyone seemed to like it, and it was also quite different. It was easily recognisable that is was us. So yes, for those reasons I think we chose it.
I believe that at the same recording session you recorded another song as well?
We did. We recorded 'Roll Up The Red Carpet' and 'Rising Sun' with a couple of guys who are Oscar The Punk. They do dance re-mixes for people like Sophie Ellis Bexter, Kylie Minogue, Moby and Gwen Stefani. They are two really good guys and they basically got us in to Nellee Hooper's studio in London which is called Home Recordings. It is swankiest studio you have ever seen. It has got a big cinema as well as hundreds of really vintage instruments and amps. I have never been in a studio like it really, and we virtually got to use it for free for a couple of days on the down-time which was amazing. Oscar The Punk did a really good job and we were really pleased with their recordings.
Then you recorded your self-titled debut album during late 2008?
Yes, it was recorded around Christmas time. It was just before the Morrissey tour. We recorded it at Metway Studios in Brighton. It belongs to The Levellers. Again we did it on the cheap because our producer Al Scott is friends with The Levellers, and he got us down-time again because obviously we didn't have any money... ha ha!
We did the album in two weeks and with the time and money that we had I think we did a really good job of what we had, and what we could do with it. Unfortunately I had a really bad throat infection just beforehand and my doctor wouldn't give me any antibiotics. And the day before, it still hadn't cleared up which I knew it wouldn't have, so I went back to a different doctor and she immediately gave me extra strong antibiotics to try and get rid of it, but still my voice wasn't 100% which was a real shame, but I think it sounds fine on the album so that's alright.
Again I believe you recorded another song that didn't make the final cut?
Yes. We actually had quite a lot of songs to choose from. We actually had to narrow it down to ten, but we ended up with about fifteen that we really wanted on the album. Then we had to narrow it down again. But there was one song that almost really did make on to the album called 'Story Of Gold'. It is one of my favourite tracks of ours, but we just didn't feel like it really quite fitted with the others. I still feel that it could have gone on there, but we decided not to put it on. Also the time constraints as well meant that we would have struggled. In fact there was two other tracks, 'Story Of Gold' and another one that we started recording and then stopped.
The album has sold very well so far I understand?
Yeah, we've sold nearly 4,000 copies, physical copies. That is not even counting how many have been up on iTunes. We've only had it up on iTunes for the past couple of months, but we have had quite a few quite big payments from them already. So I don't know how many it all would be including the iTunes ones, but a lot, which is good.
So how did the Morrissey tour come about?
Our manager Jennifer Ivory used to work for Sanctuary Records which was Morrissey's old label. She met him there and they have been good friends for many years now. Then when she started managing us she told him about us, obviously, just as you would tell a friend. Then one day last year he decided to come down and watch a gig at the Barfly in Camden Town in London. It is literally one of the smallest venues around. I think it fits in about 100 tops. So he came down and watched us there. Spoke to us all afterwards and said how much he enjoyed it.
Then he came to another gig at Proud which is the Proud Galleries in London during January of this year. He brought Janice Long from Radio 2, Rob McSween from his booking agents ITB, and his management team from LA, along with some other people to watch us. Then after that they asked us to support him on him on his tour.
You have toured with Morrissey in the UK, Europe and Russia so far. All this must have been very good for you?
Yep, yes we have. It was amazing. Touring anywhere, even to do just the UK leg would have been brilliant for us, but the fact that we have been able to do it over such a prolonged period of time, and in so many different countries has meant that we have changed as a band so much. We are so much tighter, and I think it has done us the world of good. Also obviously getting to travel in that way and to do something that you love is the biggest blessing of all. Like being able to go to Russia. I've always wanted to go and I never thought that I'd ever get there. To be able to go was just awe inspiring. It was really good.
You did an acoustic session on the Janice Long Show for Radio 2 earlier this year?
Yes, when she came to see us she really liked us and invited us on to her show to do an acoustic session. She is so lovely and a Liverpool girl like myself. She knew about what school I went to and she reeled off a list of musicians that went to my school which I didn't even know! She was just so wonderful to us and really friendly. We had a great time with her. It was good.
What songs did you do?
We did 'Cry In The Kitchen', 'If You Care', and I think we did 'If You're Gonna Leave' as well. Those were the three.
You have already done some acoustic gigs as well haven't you?
Yes we do acoustic gigs when we are at home. Obviously we haven't been at home much this year, but we do acoustic gigs quite regularly in pubs and bars around Brighton because it is a bit of extra pay for the band. And it's also just really fun! All our mates generally come down to see us because the gigs are usually on a Sunday. Everyone drinks, and we do an acoustic set of about an hour or two hours with a break in the middle. It is just a nice relaxing way to spend a Sunday afternoon and evening.
And you do covers as well?
Yeah we do covers, so that is another reason why it is fun as well because when we do the acoustic set we always stick five or six covers in there. We like to change them a little bit. Put our own little twist on them and make them sound a bit different.
After doing the Tour Of Refusal with Morrissey, you went straight back out on the road again doing a headlining UK tour. How did that go?
It was really good. We were really pleased with the response that we got. We were really expecting to be playing to empty rooms, and not that we would have minded, because that is normal for a first headlining tour for a band, especially a band that aren't even signed or don't have any PR or anything like that. We were playing small venues like 100 - 150, and I think the smallest crowd we played to was about 30 - 40. And everywhere we did play everyone who was there really made a special effort to come and really enjoyed it. I think to be able to pull that many people, even so far up as Inverness, we were really pleased and it was great fun.
You are currently back on the road with Morrissey again. So where does the tour take you to this time?
We're doing some more UK shows and then we are going back to Germany, which I am pleased about because we loved it there. We are also going to Holland, France and Belgium. Then there is Dublin, which we didn't go to last time. Then we're going over to the States, the West Coast for December, which obviously we are all super excited about!
And you played in Leeds last night at The Academy. Did you enjoy it?
Yeah it was really good. Morrissey had an amazing show last night. I think it was quite possibly the best one so far for him. He seemed to really enjoy it and he was really good. And we did a good show as well. So it was fun all round I think. It always makes me a bit more excited when he has a good show because obviously everyone is in a really happy mood and it is a good atmosphere.
What are the plans for the band next year?
We have just started to book our second headlining tour for February. We are also going to go over to Germany ourselves because we have a German booking agent getting us some gigs over there. We are doing a festival in Holland and doing a couple of other gigs there. We have also applied to do the South By Southwest Festival, but obviously we don't know if we are going to get that. It is one of the biggest music industry festivals in America. They hold it in Texas. It is over loads of venues and it is really prestigious. It's a really a good thing to be able to do to network and to meet people also. We're hoping that we will be able to get onto that next year.
Thanks very much to Doll for taking the time out for me to interview her.