Sisters Lucy and Gwendolyn Giles of Sacramento’s Dog Party finish each other songs and sentences. They attend college in different California cities—Lucy in Long Beach and Gwendolyn in San Luis Obispo—but they stay together at their parents’ home in Truckee for the summers, when they tour and record.
As a kid, Lucy used to study a dog encyclopedia cover to cover. When she started a band with her sister at age 9, she desperately wanted “dog” in the name. A decade later, Dog Party has opened for Green Day, appeared on a recent cover of the Sacramento News & Review and released a sixth album, Hit & Run.
Lucy and Gwendolyn’s father introduced them to rock ’n’ roll early in life. Lucy’s first musical memory is him playing her the White Stripes’ “My Doorbell.”
“I thought Jack was a soulful black woman,” Lucy said in a phone interview. She appreciates how “Meg White holds it down with a simple beat, and stripping things to their roots has its power.”
The sisters began making music before the influence of love, teenage angst and peer pressure. They didn’t want to be anyone except themselves.
“We were so young that it just happened,” Lucy said. “My sister would be playing a riff on her guitar, and I would start singing words that came to my mind.”
Lucy, who sings and plays drums, said that another pivotal moment in her musical journey was discovering the Ramones in middle school. Again, she was drawn to the minimalism. And she still is. She recently simplified her song-writing process due to the influence of short, sweet songs from the ’50s and ’60s.
“When I’m writing songs, I tell myself, ’It doesn’t have to be too long, just end the goddamn song,’” Lucy said. “I keep it simple because I sing and play at the same time.”
The sisters call Hit & Run a coming-of-age record because they both experienced recent heartbreak. “But it’s not a cry-about-it kind of record,” Lucy said. “It’s more like, ’We don’t mess around.’ It has thundering drums, fuzzy lightning guitars and is saturated with harmonies.” Power chords surround the crisp, harmonized vocals.
The sisters will kick off their summer tour on July 6 at the Holland Project, which they called their favorite venue of all time.
“Every time we come here, there are always great local openers who are usually young,” Lucy said. “We love to see kids going out there to play because my sister and I started our band when we were so young.”
“We’ve played there four times,” she added. “We love it so much. We tell anyone who’s going through Reno, ’You have to play the Holland Project.’”
Lucy is always happy when singing or pounding on things with drumsticks with her sister. They’ve been on long, tiresome tours, but they become re-energized whenever they play together.
When they write in the same room, they finish each other’s lyrics. During school semesters, they’re connected by email and GarageBand. Typically, Lucy starts writing a song and leaves a verse unwritten for her sister to complete.
“We are two years apart, so we’re super close,” Lucy said. “We have this, um … kind of … what’s it called?”
“Telepathy,” Gwendolyn filled in.