Excitement is running exceedingly high. So if something is mentioned that gets the Doll Skin seal of approval, you might hear a muted, high-pitch squeal while the band members maintain a rock-star veneer. This becomes evident when Herring’s mom delivers a case of juice boxes to be consumed on the road. Although they are clearly pleased, everyone doesn’t go apeshit like kids in a Sunny D commercial.
But they won’t hit the road until tomorrow in the early morning hours. So the conversation veers from favorite foods, candy (they love and crave candy, and want it thrown onstage), and funny meme characters to Halloween costume ideas. The foursome is on a roll of unbridled enthusiasm that, in a few short hours, will be applied to delighting over clubs with a working shower, truck stops with a microwave, and the availability of veggie platters and more candy. The good kind.
Right now, they are deciding what to dress up as for the band’s Halloween show.
Bassist Nicole Rich is threatening to wear a scary rat costume from IKEA. Herring and guitarist Alex Snowden rattle off a couple character names I don’t recognize. I suggest that given the group’s youthfulness and unity, the Golden Girls might be a funny idea. Herring, the grand dame of the band who would be stuck playing Sophia, surprisingly likes this idea. It wouldn’t be the first time she’d get the short end of the Halloween stick. Rich brings up last year’s passed-over choice, the Powerpuff Girls. Which would be great for a trio. “But Meghan has to be the transvestite lobster — it’s not a bad idea!”
Spice Girls are considered, but then singer Sydney Dolezal suggests Gwen Stefani in various stages of her career. This gets high-fives all around and is put on the erase board for 2018 consideration.
It’s hard — even for a droll rock writer — not to get caught up in the heady elation of a band in their moment of bliss. But once the talk gets down to band business, you’ll find you’re conversing with seasoned veterans, musicians who have already accrued useful information from every step and misstep on the road.
You have to remember that Dolezal, the singer and youngest member of the group (even saying that makes her sound a little like Cindy Lou Who, sorry) has been seriously plying her stagecraft for rock stardom since the age of 13. And she’s just tipping over the edge of 17 now.
It was roughly two years ago when these four teenage girls from Phoenix signed to Megadeth bassist David Ellefson’s EMP label, an imprint of the metal-centric Megaforce Records, and this crazy upward trajectory began in earnest.
Ellefson was a judge at a Battle of the Bands contest at Desert Mountain High School, which his son was attending. Herring attended that school, too, and recruited her now-bandmates to enter as a group. The girls sang one original called “Family of Strangers,” which Herring wrote the summer before at School of Rock’s songwriting camp the band collectively finished, and two covers, “Uninvited” by Alanis Morisette and “Weatherman” by Dead Sara.
Ellefson was immediately hooked.
“I have to credit Doll Skin for being the impetus for me forming EMP,” Ellefson says. “I wanted to have the necessary forum in place to showcase their talents. And to be able to put the distribution of Megaforce behind it.”
What was it that struck him so immediately about Doll Skin? “They were the whole package, a band that was fully formed. The attitude, the chops, the stage presentation — it was all there the first time I saw them play.”
“That was actually our first gig,” Dolezal admits sheepishly. “It wasn’t our tightest gig, but we made it through all right.”
Lest you think that Doll Skin are some aggregation engineered in a lab or that there is some Svengali behind the scenes calling the shots, one listen to “Boy Band” on their debut album should dispel that notion:
You can’t play songs written for you
You’re so processed
You think you’re a success”