By Bree Davies
By Emerald O'Brien
By Gina Tron
By Jon Solomon
By Drew Ailes
By Courtney Harrell
By Kyra Scrimgeour
The members of Lola Black don't consider themselves a supergroup. It's easy, however, to argue that the band boasts the credentials for such a designation. The sextet's resumé includes stints in groups like Blister 66, Snapstick Dynomite and the Eight Bucks Experiment, each of which made its own waves in Denver's punk and hardcore scenes. But the players in Lola Black insist that they weren't banking on past successes when they got together a little over a year ago.
"We don't really say we're a supergroup, just that we're a good group of friends that loves to play music together," says guitarist Chris Dellinger. "It's just a nice coincidence that we have a lot of previous success with both Blister and Eight Bucks. It's really coincidental. We didn't set out to be a supergroup, by any means."
While the bandmembers say they want to draw on their past musical experiences, they are quick to add that shifts in the act's sound and format make Lola Black something entirely new. "There are definitely elements from past groups. It's not like any of us come from country or straight-up rock," notes guitarist Paige O. "It's kind of like a graduation into a more polished sound."
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Dellinger says it was a matter of simplifying a number of different groups into one.
"We had too many bands at one time and decided to condense it all into just one band, basically," Dellinger recalls. "We took the best players out of each of the bands that we were in. We just put it together and put Lola in front of it."
In lieu of the stripped-down, bare-bones dynamic of Blister 66 and Eight Bucks, Lola Black revels in its fatter sound and more extensive instrumentation, which includes two guitars and an organ.
And instead of the frenzied, frantic male vocals of the previous outfits, this one features a female singer, a defiant and sultry figure who inspired the band's name. Lola, who offers her first name only, graduated from the role of backup singer in Snapstick Dynomite to Lola Black's frontwoman, namesake and public face.
"I'm definitely the baby of the group," admits Lola, 24. "I've definitely found my voice. Since these guys have so much experience, I want to prove myself to them and prove myself to our fans that I can do it just as well as they can.
"This is fairly new for me," she adds. "Obviously, from singing backup vocals to being the frontman of a band – it's all new to me. At times I don't know what I'm doing. But it's very exciting, and I love every minute of it."
The band's eponymous diva cuts an imposing figure. With her black hair stacked high upon her head, her collection of chain bracelets and her colorful array of tattoos, Lola has no hesitation in seeking the spotlight. Her standard piece of jewelry — a set of brass knuckles on a chain around her neck — is the group's logo, and also hints at an attitude that quickly comes out in conversation.
"We want to take the world by storm," Lola says. "Lola Black, we're in your face. We'll kick your ass and you'll like us, damnit."
The rest of the band has no problem with Lola's prominence.
"In Eight Bucks, we had a loud sort of growling, just yelling in your face. In Lola Black, we're trying to phase in Lola's sound," observes Alfred O., who plays organ. "We want her to have the spotlight. We treat her like a friend, but we don't mind if the rest of the world treats her as a star."
Dellinger notes that Lola's inclusion has drawn a wider audience to their shows. "I think at first people weren't used to the idea of us having a female singer, to be quite honest with you, as far as the Blister guys and the Eight Bucks guys," Dellinger admits. "But then when people got used to it and saw how in-your-face the show was, our fan base just blossomed so big. Then, having a female singer who's only 24, obviously that made our crowd base that much bigger."
Lola's range of sounds helps broaden the appeal, too. With influences from Joan Jett to NOFX, her defiant style fits the band's mixture of pop punk, hardcore and thrash. Her voice veers from emotive to explosive, all in the confines of a single song. "I blend them pretty well," she allows. "I emotionally relate to every song, so it's easy for me to make those transitions."
The mash-up of styles is a central part of Lola Black's forthcoming EP, Plastic Dashboard Jesus. From straightahead hardcore anthems like "Hated" to speedy, poppy punk outings like "Spinner," the recording is ambitious in its breadth of styles. Jesus was recorded at the Decibel Garden studio in Denver over about a month, with Dellinger and Ian Gilchrist serving as producers, and Bryan Dennis and Haylar Garcia working as engineers.
Drummer James Rock said the EP's title came from a tongue-in-cheek reference to a superstitious automotive good luck charm. "It's kind of like an inside joke we had," Rock recalls. "A plastic dashboard Jesus keeps you safe when you're doing illegal activities behind the wheel."
The band will unveil the new CD this weekend at a show at the Gothic Theatre. While the members say they'll look to start touring and working on a full-length album next spring, they add that this winter they'll be focusing their efforts on promoting Plastic Dashboard Jesus. "To finally have a disc in your hand," says Paige O., "something to show for it — that's like a milestone."
Indeed, for the more experienced members of the group, the show will serve as an important moment for their newest ensemble, a step in a fresh musical and professional direction.
"It's a second chance for me," Dellinger admits. "With Blister 66, I was the frontman, and we achieved a great deal of success. At the end of the day, I thought that, being the singer for that band, maybe my time being relevant in music might have been done with. But then to flip the script so drastically and become the guitar player — it's given me a new lease on life with my music career."
Bassist Matthew Hale said the EP release and the accompanying show will have another type of significance. Like several of his bandmates, Hale juggles his musical career with his duties as a parent and other full-time jobs. It's a different feeling than playing as a nineteen-year-old in his parents' basement, he notes.
"I am enjoying playing more. Ever since I became a parent, things have changed. It makes for a lot more fun," Hale observes. "Being younger, being for yourself, you have a lot of different priorities. Being a parent, personally, the things that used to scare me, that I used to worry about, don't matter anymore."
It's a theme that recurs in feedback from the group's other members. With their collective experience in the Denver music scene, as well as their daytime jobs and real-life duties as parents, Lola Black is a watershed moment.
"Everybody knows what to do. In Eight Bucks, we spent a lot of time banging our heads against the wall trying to figure out: How do we make it? How do we become a successful band?" Alfred O. recalls. "This band already knows how to be successful, they know what to do, and everybody's on that same page. We're actually going somewhere."