With a new album, label and publishing plans, Dog Party’s Lucy and Gwendolyn Giles are just getting started.
Hit & Run pogos along with all the buzzsaw guitar chords and candy-coated choruses that’s defined Dog Party over the past decade. But over its 11 tracks, the new album from Sacramento’s sister duo aims for a grander statement.
Hit & Run is the sound of an empire being built.
The album, which will be celebrated on Saturday at Holy Diver, marks the debut release on Dog Party’s self-run Brat Music label. But that’s just the beginning. Brat Magazine is also planned for the near future. So is an album of old-timey cover songs reflecting a heightened DIY-style approach and new era of savvy from the much beloved band.
“We are really intrigued with the business side of rock ’n’ roll, and are interested to see how far we can go with it ourselves,” said 20-year-old drummer Lucy Giles. “No one cares more about our brand than we do, and the bigger we can build our brand on our own, the more it could be potentially successful later.”
That’s right, Dog Party is graduating from a band to a brand. And it’s a brand defined as a sister-sister act with a precocious take on pop-punk and some of the pinkest hair imaginable.
The duo was formed when Lucy and sister Gwennie Giles were still in elementary school, playing gigs at Old Ironsides while their classmates fiended for Chuck E. Cheese. Now, they’re bona fide veterans as Gwennie, 22, eyes graduation from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo this year with a degree in graphic communication and a minor in psychology. Lucy is meanwhile pursuing a major in studio art and a marketing minor from California State University, Long Beach.
They’ve built a formidable highlight reel over the past decade, including releases on the indie-favorites Asian Man Records and Burger Records.
They know the feeling of touring Europe multiple times, of making a cameo in Punk’s Dead: SLC 2, of opening for Green Day on a highly touted 2016 tour. (“It was surreal,” said Lucy. “Billie Joe handpicked us to open for them. They were really nice guys.”)
Now, the Giles sisters want to know the feeling of being pop-punk lady bosses. After all, signing to a major label doesn’t hold the same sway as it did, say, in the glory days of grunge. Musicians of this post-label era are more likely to crave independence and quality control over signing on the corporate bottom line, whether it’s Chance the Rapper or even Metallica, which launched its own independent label after leaving Warner Bros.
“We were hands-on with everything,” said Gwennie Giles about Hit & Run. “We were able to design the cover, design the inserts. We had full creative control, and it’s really awesome to have such a connection to fans through the process and the online orders.”
That’s to say, the women of Dog Party are already putting their future degrees to good use through their combined studies in marketing, graphics and digital media. But all those skill sets don’t mean much if the music doesn’t rock. In that sense, Dog Party may be primed more than ever to take its success to the next level.
Hit & Run marks some of the band’s most buoyant and well-crafted tunes yet. Produced by Chris Woodhouse (Thee Oh Sees, Ty Seagall), tracks including the album-opening “The Walk” and “Operator” wrap their seething-about-relationships-gone-wrong angst around an irresistible melody. They are pissed off, but somehow the music makes you want to mosh and smile.
“If you look at all our records and our catalog, you can watch us growing up, which is pretty unique,” said Lucy. “This record is full of emotion and heartbreak, but it’s not a sad boo-hoo record. It’s a ’get out of my face’ record. It’s a ’don’t mess with us’ record. It’s a bunch of raw emotion.”
Hit & Run also hints at a new effort coming soon. The album features a Ramones-ish spin on “Fujiyama Mama,” a hootenanny of a Wanda Jackson track originally recorded in the 1950s. Dog Party now has a whole album of old-timey cover songs on stand-by, including their takes on tunes by Merle Haggard, Ann Margaret and more.
“I love music of all kinds, and old music especially,” said Lucy. “So, if I find something that’s mind-blowing to me and I want to share it with people of this generation—kids my age—I say, ’Listen to Wanda Jackson; this is cool.’”
Now, the sisters are eyeing more freedom to build Brat. Dog Party’s traditionally been most active during the summer months, when the sisters are free from schoolwork. But, with college graduations on the horizon, Dog Party will soon be a year-round deal of touring and more recording.
They are ready to inspire you or your kids. They are ready to bring everyone together for sing-a-longs and stage diving at a show near you. They are ready to build Brat on their own terms.
“[Going DIY] gives us the ability to build it exactly the way we want it,” said Lucy. “This is most important to us—keeping the integrity of our band.”