Doll Skin offers up striking parallels to The Runaways. Both bands feature a young, all-female lineup. Both bands play a gritty, hard-charging, punk-ish brand of rock 'n' roll. Both bands were "discovered" by a rock 'n' roll impresario instrumental in guiding their development. The biggest difference is that when The Runaways debuted in 1976, they were considered a novelty act.
"There are a lot of parallels," Doll Skin drummer Meghan Herring acknowledges, "but these days there are a lot more all-girl bands. It's not that uncommon. Obviously, we're also trying to push the limits and work really, really hard to stand out, not only as an all-girl band, but a band that can make music that sticks around. That's what they did, and we hope to do that, too."
Doll Skin sprang out of Scottsdale's School of Rock in 2013. Herring, now 19, brought the group of teens — vocalist Sydney Dolezal (16), guitarist Alex Snowden (16), bassist Nicole Rich (17) — together for the Rock Revelation Battle of the Bands. Doll Skin didn't win, but their raw talent was enough that judge and Megadeth bassist Dave Ellefson quickly signed the group to his label. His professional insight has helped the girls quickly develop into a musical powerhouse.
"We have become so much tighter because he's been kicking our ass in the best way," Herring says with a laugh. "It's getting us in shape and making us a tight band. He's always supportive. He lets us be us but also suggests a bunch of good ideas."
Ellefson produced the band's just-released debut EP, In Your Face. While the production is tight, maybe a little too slick in places, there's no denying the gritty edge and pure desire these teens bring to their music. "Family of Strangers" feels decidedly Runaways-like in the chorus, yet Dolezal's near-hip-hop vocals sung over giant power chords makes the track immediately distinctive. "So Much Nothing" crushes the heavy melodic rock genre, while "Wring Me Out" mashes '70s punk with '90s hard alt-rock. "Let's Be Honest" goes straight to the Riot Grrrl core.
"We thought we had one genre in mind [punk] and that it was going to be awesome. Of course, when you aim for a genre, that's exactly what you're not going to be," Herring says with another laugh. "As we started writing more songs and making more music, we've brought more influences into our sound. We've become pretty diverse."
Unlike the mostly underage Runaways, Doll Skin's parents are along for the ride — literally touring with the band. While most rock 'n' rollers would find this a detriment — how can you trash hotels rooms when you're with your parents? — Herring says the band relishes the overwhelming support. In fact, in order to facilitate a more favorable and less restrictive future touring schedule, the girls are all switching to online schools in 2016.
"Our parents are, like, beyond supportive. They get so excited over the smallest things that happen to us," Herring gushes.
Of course, there are limitations to being high schoolers (Herring attends Scottsdale Community College) when it comes to touring.
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"Dave sometimes finds gigs for us, but then it's like, 'Oh, wait, you have school,'" Herring says. "We have to cancel stuff, even if we don't want to."
That could change. If the band really takes off, Herring says the parents have indicated that school could be put on hold altogether.
"Really, I can't image just any other parents saying, 'Oh, yeah, you can go on online school and possibly drop out if this thing really gets going,'" she says. "It's a blessing. The parents are wonderful for us."