Local alternative punk band Doll Baby have come together once more to impress you again with their newest EP, Hell Block. This five-track release is another outstanding addition to the band’s growing repertoire, and they’ll be celebrating its debut this Friday with a show at Gallery 5.
Doll Baby formed over two years ago and have been making a name for themselves ever since. But when the band first formed, they didn’t even have a name. “The first Doll Baby show we had was in Roanoke and we still didn’t have a name yet,” said drummer Dan Kelly. “The guy who set the show was like, ‘I didn’t know what to call us, so I called us the Wishes.'”
Kelly and singer/guitarist Julie Storey have known each other for over a decade. “We started playing in a folk band a few years ago,” Storey said, referring to previous project Haints In The Holler. “Sometimes we had three members, sometimes we had eight. We did our last tour with that band, and then we decided we wanted to do something else.”
The new group was a new direction for Kelly and Storey, but wasn’t as big a stretch as you might assume. “Most of us have been in punk bands, but we listen to everything, so we get influenced by a little bit of everything. We’re a good mixture,” Storey said.
Hell Block follows up Doll Baby’s first three-track EP, Polliwog, released last year on Crystal Pistol Records. This release sees them making the move to Egghunt, and is the fourth installment in that label’s Hatched series of cassette releases, which previously featured such Richmond notables as Dazeases and Big Baby.
Kelly elaborated on how the brand new Hell Block EP had its roots in the band’s earliest efforts. “We recorded a four-song demo years ago,” he said. “We had three songs leftover from that demo, and two new ones. We wanted to re-record them in a studio.” With over a year of gestation, the songs ultimately took about a week to record. Production and engineering was done at the Ward with Bryan Walthall, Rusty Thomas Scott, and Ricky Olson.
“The last song on Hell Block is called ‘Silver Stars,’ and that’s probably my favorite song of ours,” Kelly said. “It’s about running away from your problems, but it’s also about when our cat ran away, so it’s kind of about how everyone runs away from stuff at times.”
Storey admitted that she has a difficult time expressing the meaning behind the songs she wrote. “I feel like they’re about what’s going on in the world, with our current political climate, and what’s going on in this country in general,” said Storey. “I’m pretty exhausted with the system we currently live in, that we were born into. There’s one song on the EP, ‘For Sylvia,’ that I wrote and got the idea from a book I was reading.”
Doll Baby will be taking Hell Block on the road next month, touring with bassist Jake Guralnik’s other band, Bat Boy. They’re excited about this thirteen-show tour of the East Coast, but that’s not all they’re excited about. “We have a video coming out! Our friend Allie Smith from Blush Face directs it and our friend Hugh Burruss’s filming is ridiculous,” Storey said. “Sammi Lanzetta, who was in Venus Guytrap and is out doing her own thing now, stars in it. We’re planning a December date at Hardywood for the release.” Keep an eye out for that one.
Hell Block stands as one of my favorite projects I’ve heard yet out of the local scene. Storey’s vocals are as unique as they are powerful, and the chemistry between the members is quite evident in the perfect cohesion they demonstrate on this EP. The first track “Alive” is super impressive. Right off the bat, Storey’s vocals piqued my curiosity.
“For Sylvia” really strengthens my opinion of her vocals, and it sounds like they have fun playing these killer tracks. “Perfect Posture” demonstrates the band’s range and capacity for altering sounds. “Softee” features an acoustic guitar which is never overpowered by the presence of the electric. The combo between the light, high melody of the electric and the strained vocals coexist seamlessly.
Finally, “Silver Stars” has fantastic guitar parts. I love how the vocals are sparse compared to the other tracks, leaving room for the listener to enjoy Doll Baby’s energy. Plus, this song contains the line that’s still stuck in my head: “Throw a party on the basement floor.”
The Hell Block release show will be this Friday at Gallery5 with Wing Dam and Haybaby. The cover is $7 and the tunes start at 8pm. For more info, click here.