By Julian Fulton
Dollys was conceived by lead songwriter Jeff Lane along with Natalie Newbold, Michael Mendonez, and Erik Romero. 3 of the 4 captured my attention years earlier when they were still in Green Paper, a similarly psychedelic pop outfit who’ve since morphed into Dollys. I was pleased to have them on the bill when my band released our first EP, and again when, as Dollys, they joined us for our first basement show in New Brunswick (a scene much more familiar to them). Both times, audiences left feeling incredibly impressed with this band, and I include myself in that category.
Dollys is a firm reminder of the caliber level of pop music indie rockers are capable of. They’re a groove-inducing mix of retro concepts that have made sweet, sweet love to new technologies, reflected most accurately in their recordings. Guitarist and back-up vocalist Micheal Mendonez explained, “Whether it is using the space of a large reverberative garage with a long-distanced microphone or running tracks through a small reel to reel tape machine, experimenting during [the recording] process is always fun.”
When I was around twelve, I began to uncover my true musical identity through the late 60’s era of conceptual rock ‘n’ roll, a likely contributor to my fascination with these nostalgic, Beatles-loving beatniks. They’re music often includes story arcs and themes, following in the traditions of Sgt. Pepper’s, Quadrophenia, and The Dark Side of the Moon (complete with atmospheric tendencies and overlapping tracks). Actually, Michael directly attributed a love for Paul McCartney as the major unifying force in Dollys’ fruition.
“So much of what we talk about is a reference to him and his work that we find ourselves agreeing with each other on certain sounds and structures [because] we all have him as a common factor in our perception of what we like about music.”
And while McCartney played a role, Jeff, Mike, and Natalie actually met through school and friends over the years, introduced later to Erik Romero while he was engineering at Lakehouse Music in Asbury Park. With Erik, the group had the final creative and technical push it would need to really get this project rolling.
Following the release of two singles and their ambitious debut EP, the harmony-filled clan is already at work on EP1’s follow-up. Surprisingly, despite little to no break between releasing EP1 and recording EP2, the group maintains that producing the former was one of the biggest struggles they faced this year.
“We were tracking all over the place – our homes, different studios… So bringing it all together in a timely fashion was difficult and stressful,” said Mendonez. “That got worse when we got to the pressing stage, and the company took much longer than the expected time frame. Our shipment of records actually came in the day before our EP release show.”
Regardless, the band had a successful release show, and has since made it a goal to take their energetic live act on the road as often as possible in 2014.
So really, there’s no excuse for you not to witness frontman Jeff’s virtuoso finger-picking, frontwoman Natalie’s exemplary command of both sophisticated rock drumming and charming vocals, everyone’s intriguing pedal work, and the bodacious yet delicate harmonies that are the cherry on top of their sound. Dollys is a band with endless potential, a deep reverence for Pet Sounds, and heartfelt aspirations. “We’re just happy to play for people who like to listen,” says Mendonez of this emerging psych-pop powerhouse.