Pre-teen angst

Carmichael elementary-school band Dog Party: Think pugs with mohawks

Lucy (right) and Gwendolyn Giles are Sacramento’s youngest rockers.

Lucy (right) and Gwendolyn Giles are Sacramento’s youngest rockers.

There are five of us eating Zelda’s sausage-and-pepperoni slices and watching YouTube videos of teenage rock bands. The video clips are from the Jammies: SN&R’s annual youth-music concert series and celebration. Some of the bands are really good, more are just OK, and a precious few—no names—are painful.

But when Dog Party’s video comes on, everyone drops their pizza.

Dog Party is 10-year-old Lucy Giles on drums and vocals, and her sister, Gwendolyn, 12, on guitar and also on vocals. Part Breeders, part Vivian Girls, the sisters have attitude, smarts, talent—even angst. And they’re not even teenagers … yet.

The band started in November 2007. Lucy is the younger of the two but talks the most. She’s drinking a hot chocolate during our interview, examining her ginger cookie, which is vegan and has her perplexed. “You mean, they don’t put eggs in these?” she wonders, waving the sugary circle like it’s a UFO. “Why would anybody eat this?”

She takes a nibble and, as it turns out, she likes it.

Gwendolyn’s the more serious of the two, the one who channels Lucy’s unbridled imagination and turns it into unexpectedly good indie pop. Lucy pounds on the drums and sings melodies, Gwendolyn fiddles with guitar chords and structures the songs. Lucy laments schoolmates who are weird, or who litter, and Gwendolyn channels her feelings into songs like “U Doubt Me” and “Why?”

Again: not even teenagers yet.

On “U Doubt Me,” Lucy drops a bass-snare backbeat while Gwendolyn riffs a single note up and down the neck, singing about how people judge them because they’re young. On “School Again,” Gwendolyn writes: “We can’t wait till summer / back to school, what a bummer,” with a chorus of only “nah nah nahs.”

Classic California garage rock.

“Just because we are kids doesn’t mean we can’t do stuff,” Lucy reminds.

Gwendolyn started learning guitar at age 9. Before that she played the flute, but when braces got locked onto her teeth, it was tough to stick with woodwind-family instruments. And then she got a guitar for her birthday.

Lucy took up the drums because, well, she’s a little spark plug. “I like to hit things hard and get my energy out,” she explains, fluttering up from her chair—no explanation necessary.

Both of the girls are competitive skiers. Slalom, giant slalom, downhill—they spend every winter weekend in Tahoe racing. They show up at this SN&R interview in designer ski parkas, sporting brand-new, very cool Saucony kicks. Stylish, but without a hint of rock-star ego.

Dog Party rehearses in the Giles family dining room in Carmichael. It’s a loud house, but the parents don’t mind; their mom says she folds laundry and listens to them practice.

Interestingly, Mom and Dad never played a musical instrument themselves.

So, how’d they get the name Dog Party? “My sister told me I was a dog,” Lucy starts.

“I also taught her how to speak so nobody could understand her,” Gwendolyn adds.


Here’s the real story: Instead of doing homework one day, they were brainstorming band names. “How about ‘Dog Fiesta’?” This became Dog Party. Their logo is a canine with a mohawk.

Lucy is a capricious young girl with taste in music beyond her years. She cites TV on the Radio and CSS, or Brazilians Cansei de Ser Sexy, as influences. They listen to the White Stripes, the Black Keys, the Beatles. They cover the Ramones’ “Out of Time” and “Blitzkrieg Bop,” and some Creedence Clearwater Revival and Beach Boys numbers.

A new song, called “Epa” (pronounced, eeeh-PA), is based on a noise Grandpa from The Simpsons makes. “It’s not about the environmental … whatever that thing’s called: the Environmental Protection Agency. We call the song that ’cause it’s just funny,” Lucy clarifies.

She’s 10.

Gwendolyn says the girls secretly stay up till 2 a.m. sometimes, writing songs way past their bedtime. That probably makes school rough the next day, but they’re both good students—though Lucy only “50-50” likes school.

As for the rock, they’re 100 percent committed.