Usually, a story about your band talking to a mystical medicine man would only be appropriate as a campy music video. For Los Angeles rock quartet Dorothy, this tale, which is at the header of their website, is a well-fitting detail considering the magic involved in a genuine rock band making it big in this day and age. Their debut album, June’s ROCKISDEAD, is a collection of blues-rock tracks that aren’t watered down like other rock revival acts. The title, bold as it may be and another entry in the “all caps no gaps” delivery method, says it all. But no one wants to listen to pure rock anymore, right? So how is this band so successful?
Dorothy seem to have done some necromancy to bring that sound back into popularity, getting themselves signed on Jay-Z’s Roc Nation, some killer placement on a Gatorade ad featuring Usian Bolt, and opening slots on tour with Miguel and Haelstorm, all within the two short years the band has been in existence.
Vanyaland got on a call with lead singer, Dorothy, to talk about this supernatural rebirth of rock. They’re currently on tour with fellow big-room rock revivalists the Struts and will be stopping at Royale in Boston this Tuesday (August 2); the tour bus wasn’t the easiest environment for a full band conference call, but drummer Dylan Howard, bassist Gregg Cash, and guitarist DJ Black were present and eager to participate.
John Stapleton: So the name of the album is ROCKISDEAD, what are you trying to say with that?
Dorothy: We’re just being funny! I’ve just been hearing everybody say that rock and roll is dead and that it died in the ’80s, but you’re forgetting about Nirvana and the Black Keys …there’s always rock and roll!”
But why do you think such a pure rock sound like yours has caught on so well?
Dorothy: I don’t really know the answer to that, but our bassist Gregg Cash here has something to say.
Cash: I think it’s the authenticity that we’re bringing to the table, people are picking that up. We are here to destroy your ear drums!
Dorothy: Actually, I do have to give credit to the Black Keys, where they aren’t pure, they have the hip-hop drums to their blues rock, but if they didn’t kick that door open I don’t know if we would have worked out. They added some elements to it that made it more relevant to this generation of kids and we love you and would love to play with you! Not to make this interview about the Black Keys but we want to say thank you to them for sure.”
How did a sound like yours get signed to Jay-Z’s Roc Nation?
Dorothy: It was after we released our “After Midnight” video which was pretty DIY. I was just eating breakfast and my manager called and said that Roc Nation wants to sign us for publishing. We were going to give “After Midnight” to Rihanna but then she said that this was such a Dorothy song and she can’t sing it like me and I’m really glad she respected that.
And now here you are! The first time I heard your guys was in a Pandora commercial that had your song “Raise Hell” in it. Do you guys get to pick where your songs are going like that?
Dorothy: That all goes through the label. They love the music so much. There’s nothing out there like this really so they’ve all been pushing and pushing and pushing and it just kind of broke wide open so that people were asking for songs that sound like ours. There is a Hyundai commercial with a straight up rip off of our music and I don’t know who did that but we noticed and fuck you! Thank you — but fuck you!
How does it feel hearing your music and not the rip offs all over the place?
Dorothy: I don’t hear it as much because I don’t watch television, but during Oscar week, there was the Orange is the New Black commercial and then there was a Survivor one. There was a text from someone in New York in a Starbucks and they were playing “Wicked Ones” which is awesome because we all drink a lot of Starbucks.
Finally, I’ve got to ask about the Medicine Man. How did that all come about?
Dorothy: We were in Mexico City for a Skull Candy store launch and guide was like, “There’s the pyramids and we can go see the shaman” and I was like “What?” and he was like “He practices Santeria. He’ll fix you up.” We get there and it’s this little shack and there’s chickens its hot outside. There were all those Mexican rosary candles and he’s got these wooden little trinkets and he was like “Okay, okay come with me.” He didn’t really speak English that well and he had like one eye.
He did Santeria on me and our drummer he was telling me things that like no one could have possibly known and that there is someone who won’t let go of me, which is true. He had to do this whole process three times: He rubbed me in lemon and blew cigar smoke all over me and spit this dirty water all over me. This person to this day still won’t leave me alone, but it was an interesting experience and I have it on video somewhere and I had written a song about a medicine man before that had even happened.