A Hard Doll's Night: No Longer Minors, Doll Skin Are Poised for Major Success

Alex Snowden, Sydney Dolezal, Nicole Rich, and Meghan Herring are Doll Skin.
Alex Snowden, Sydney Dolezal, Nicole Rich, and Meghan Herring are Doll Skin. Jim Louvau

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“The thing Dave says about us being the whole package was mainly down to the School of Rock,” Rich says. “They definitely taught us how to play music, and that was a big thing. But they also taught us to perform, work well with other musicians, take influence from other genres, and how shows run.”

Herring signed up for the Scottsdale music school the first day it was available, and she credits it for helping with her timing. “Speeding up and slowing down. People form habits when you aren’t taught how to play in a scene, y’know? And my teacher told me you need to keep on a metronome — it’s super important — and don’t be the drummer who speeds up and ruins everything.”

And Rich and Snowden have taken the school’s mantra of “cable through the strap” to heart.

“When you’re playing an instrument and it’s on a strap, always put your cable through it because you will step on that cable, and it will come out and you will be so shocked you will not be able to put it back in your guitar for like 30 seconds,” Rich says. “And it will be the most embarrassing 30 seconds of your life, so save yourself from that!”

“It never happened to me and I never saw it happen,” Snowden nods, “but Shane, who was one of the directors, if he saw your cable not through the strap, he would come and step on it.”

Dolezal says, “The whole School of Rock experience is almost competitive but in a super-healthy sort of way; you try to better than each other, but at the same time you’re just trying to become better musicians and better performers.”

Snowden agrees. “It introduced me to a lot of technique I never noticed before playing around other musicians that know what they’re doing. They can be older or younger, the diversity in skill level pushed you to be compatible with all sorts of levels. You can play Beatles songs with 8-year-olds but then you can play Dream Theatre with a 19-year-old on an eight-string that shreds your face off. You have to pick up from all of that the technique you get from that broad range of students.There’s nothing like it.”

“I used to watch Alex a lot when we first started playing and I was like ‘Aww, she’s got cool stage moves, I wanna do that,’ not like, ‘I want to be better than Alex,’” says Rich, who then amends her statement. “Okay, I wanna be better than Alex.”

So what was the skill set of 8-year-olds coming in? “You play ‘Seven Nation Army’ and that’s about it,” Dolezal laughs. “But then you got this kid who’s probably better than I’ll ever be my entire life. These kids come in as beginners and wind up surpassing you so quickly.”

Fast forward to last winter, when they recorded Doll Skin’s first full-length, Manic Pixie Dream Girl, with Ellefson producing.

“From then to now, we’ve been really busy, go go go,” Rich says, clearly not complaining. “We released our album, we’ve been on tour with OTEP, we did Warped Tour, then a month headlining, another week and a half of Warped Tour, and two months of headlining stuff after that.”

“What’s cool about Warped Tour is that it’s so diverse now,” says Dolezal, who has been dreaming of being on a Warped Tour since she was 13. “They have the mutant stages which are super-heavy metal, everything from thrash punk to screamo metal, they had rappers on this year, cool solo artists, some ska, hardcore punk; they’re definitely bringing back some of the old-school punk, which was cool.”

Rich agrees. “We were kind of included in their punk group and that was awesome,” she says. “We just fit in really good … We’ve mostly gone out with heavier acts like OTEP for two and a half months, which is very heavy compared to what we are. Heavy metal audiences still liked us, but we’re not metal.”

Not without a little work. “When we get paired with metal bands, people expect us to be not good and then they’re like, ‘You guys blew me away.’”

“Metal fans come in with certain expectations and we’re not what you’d expect, an all-female metal band,” Alex Snowden says. “But we can hold our own.”

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The association with Megadeth’s Ellefson and Megaforce Records, the 35-year-old label known for housing the output of Metallica, Anthrax, Overkill, Testament, and Manowar, may have a lot to do with that impression, something Ellefson probably realized when coming up with the EMP imprint. Ellefson’s imparted wisdom to the band to “say yes to everything” came into play when the alternative rock band originally balked at the idea of touring with OTEP.

“Say yes to everything — the guys drilled that in our heads. That sounds wrong. Wait. What they mean is, ‘Give everything a chance,’” Dolezal says. “Dave can be really annoying at times, but he’s always right. We said yes to every interview at Warped Tour and we’re still getting ripples of coverage from that. And although we were worried about playing to a metal audience, we toured around the country for two months, thanks to OTEP.”

“Metal fans come in with certain expectations and we’re not what you’d expect, an all-female metal band,” Snowden says. “But we can hold our own.”

Given the general outsider status that heavy metal engenders from the mainstream, it’s not surprising when Herring says, “I feel like metal fans, they don’t come off as accepting of other genres, but seem more open to other music genres.”

So the band has been able to scratch recording an album before turning 18 and doing a Warped Tour off their initial bucket list. But as Rich adds, it’s a list they have to keep amending with recurring frequency. “Next would be doing a Warped Tour all summer. And Europe! It looks like it could be a lot sooner than expected, little talks here and there. Nothing solid at all. We would love to go Europe.”

Then there is breaking through on mainstream media. Locally, the band has gotten support from Heavy Metal Television, which plays its videos in regular rotation and even awarded them “’Best Break-Through Band” in November 2016. They’ve gotten radio love from 93.9 KWSS-FM, and 98 KUPD has played them on their legendary Sunday night punk rock show.

Herring marvels that the song they picked to play was “Shut Up (You Miss Me).” “They played our poppiest song, our radio-friendly anti-punk song,” she says. “But it was cool. That show is the bomb.”

And former Rodney on the ROQ host Rodney Bingenheimer, who supported the first all-girl punk rock band The Runaways lo those many years ago, has been a longtime supporter of Doll Skin.

“I think he’s played us on his new Sirius show,” says Dolezal, who also recalls the thrill of the week they released their second single “Daughter.”

“We were the second-biggest added single on radio in Billboard, right under the Foo Fighters and before a bunch of bands we just love. We’ve gotten a lot of love around the country, especially from a lot of the smaller stations where we’ve gone in and visited.”

Playing with the big boys in Billboard on record doesn’t mean they’ve escaped creepy guys on the road. At a time when Facebook feeds are covered with “Me Too” statuses from women brave enough to say they’ve been sexually harassed in the workplace, it hardly seems surprising when Rich says that “being young and females that don’t look like they’re young, you get unwanted and extremely inappropriate advances from older people in bars.”

But the clubs all know they are underage, and besides their own chaperones, they are pretty well-protected.
Plus they can hold their own, as they mentioned before. They all laugh recalling a time they were approached by some guy who said he was from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. “He didn’t even have a laminate, he just pulls out a lanyard that just says ‘Rock and Roll Hall of Fame,’” Rich laughs. “I mean, he could have bought that at the gift shop.”

Even girls trained to say “yes” to every opportunity would have to balk that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is 25 years too early, anyway. But not off the bucket list.

Doll Skin are scheduled to perform at Club Red with One-Eyed Doll on October 31. Tickets are $15 to $17 via clubredrocks.com.
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