Updated: Sep 15, 2021
Although their recent tour dates have been canceled, vocalist/guitarist Melissa Brooks is keeping the creative content going during these strange times.
(From left to right: Keilah Nina, Melissa Brooks, Jackie Proctor) Photo by: Sydney Wisner
Formed in 2012, the Aquadolls have become a staple in the DIY scene around the LA and OC areas. Over the years, Brooks has carried the band into a realm beyond the underground. From the get-go, her wavy tunes added some much needed positivity into to the youth culture of the early 2010's. Having released albums on Burger Records and playing with the likes of Weezer and the Growlers, the Aquadolls steadily ride their wave of "mermaid rock n' roll" into the sunset.
From bedroom demos to studio quality recordings, the Aquadolls have polished up their sound and are ready to play bigger shows. With a new manager and booking agent, they had a solid plan for they year; however, the global pandemic has cast an air of uncertainty for what's to come. In the meantime, Brooks is staying creative while sheltering at home.
Gotta keep the hustle going, right? Brainstorming ways to keep up with the demand of her fans, Brooks came up with a few new projects to work on including a series of Youtube videos, solo recordings, and a livestream DJ set for her birthday.
Curious to learn more? I had the chance to catch up with Melissa this past week while she was cleaning out her closet.
Photo by: Rob Loud
Here's what she had to say:
Q: You started releasing music as The Aquadolls in 2012, how’s your journey with the band been these past 8 years?
A: Well, it’s definitely been a journey. When I started the band, I was still in high school. First of all, I wanted to do it because I wanted my peers to think I was cool and I’d always talk about being famous one day. You know, what’s a better way to do that than to start a band. So we ended up playing our first show at my high school talent show and they made us change the words to “We are Free” because I couldn’t sing about getting high. I had to change up a bunch of the lyrics which was pretty funny. After that, we played a lot of DIY shows. I had a tough time finding band members that wanted to be permanent and wanted to do the band as a living.
Then we started gaining traction online, especially on Tumblr. Back in the day, we were really popping on there and that’s when we started working with Burger Records. They put out our first EP in 2013 and our other album in 2014. It wasn’t up until almost two years now that I found Jackie and Keilah, who’re my band members now. I love them, but yeah it took awhile to find them and the people who’re down to just spend the rest of their life playing shows and recording. Doing all that, it’s a tough gig.
Q: So you’ve kind of labeled your music as mermaid rock n roll over the years?
A: Yeah (laughs), I don’t really know what that means. I guess I like to translate it to mean some bad bitch girl on the beach who jumps in the H20 and grows a tail so she can play a show in the coves underneath, underwater. She doesn’t get electrocuted because it’s all magic.
I don’t really know, like it kind of comes from the band name The Aquadolls. My friend actually made that name up when we were in high school. She came up with it because it sounded “mermaidy” and we were writing a lot of songs about the beach. You know, beachy, surf rock inspired stuff. I mean, I don’t even really surf or go to the beach, but it sort of just became that kind of thing. I’ve been rolling with it, those mermaid vibes. I’ve always liked mermaids.
Q: Did you find yourself playing more shows in LA or OC when you first started up?
A: Oh yeah, it wasn’t until like fours years into the band that we played our first show outside of California. Yeah, we’d play LA and Orange County all the time. Even up until last year I wanna say, we were mostly playing in those areas. One, because we didn’t have a booking agent or help to get us shows anywhere else. We were mostly booking stuff ourselves, playing DIY shows like house shows, warehouse parties. You know, just more underground stuff.
Then we finally got an agent in 2016 and that’s when we did our first US tour. After that, I had some crazy shit happen in my life to where I wasn’t working with them anymore and went independent again. That’s when we started playing LA and Orange County again a lot to the point where people maybe got a little burnt out of us because we were kinda playing the same market. It’s like, “oh they’re playing a show in Garden Grove this week, but they’re going to be back in Santa Ana in two weeks. Like I’ll just wait for that show”. So I feel like there wasn’t a lot of demand which is why we decided to step back.
Then, we got a manager who’s like frickin’ saved our lives, he’s saved my butt for real.
He helped us get a new agent and that’s how we got to go on tour both last year and this year and play festivals and stuff.
Q: Do you enjoy touring?
A: Yes, I’m supposed to be on tour right now, but you know the CoronaVirus. It got canceled, so I’m bummed. One, that’s how I make my living. For all of that to just go away and not get those checks, it hurts a lot. Besides the money aspect, I could give a fuck but obviously I have bills to pay. First and foremost, I love performing and I love playing shows so much. Getting to travel to places that I’d never expect to be like Kansas City or Nashville, Texas, New York, you know random places that I’d only ever dream of going. To go there and play music and have even only two people show up, it’s freaking cool and I love that. I just love to travel and yeah I can’t wait to do it again soon once all of this blows over.
Q: Is it trippy when people come to your shows in those unexpected towns and they actually know your music.
A: Absolutely, like we’re just an indie band. We don’t have a label or anything like that. We’re pretty DIY, like we promote ourselves and we don’t get hit up by any big blogs like Pitchfork or shit like that. We’re pretty low-key, so for people to know we exist first of all is rad. You like us or you don’t like us. If you know that we exist, I love you and I thank you, like you have taste. When people actually come to the show, it’s like “dang, you actually paid like ten bucks to see me go boop-bop, boop-bop bop onstage with my girls”. I don’t know, it trips me out. It’s really cool and I love it. Everyone that comes to our shows is always really nice, so it’s like a cool community.
Q: In that sense, is it easy to get jaded by the LA or OC scenes?
A: No, not anymore because we kind of waited a while before playing there again. This time literally March last year, we were playing LA and OC a lot, so it got to the point where it kind of burned out. We did a bunch of touring last summer and especially in the fall and winter we did like 40 dates all over the US. When we came back, I wanna say it was like in December, we played LA and OC again and it really popped off. People really showed up because we waited so long. All the regulars that’d normally be going to our shows came and then new people came too, so it kind of grew which is really awesome to see.
Q: Your most recent release is “Euphoria (Club Mix)”, have you ventured into any other scenes or genres lately?
A: Yeah, I remixed that song. I’ve been dipping into electronic music for quite a few years now and I’ve been teasing this solo project that never seems to come out because The Aquadolls is my priority. I always put that first, so my solo stuff always takes the back burner.
I have been doing production for a couple years now, you know very basic edm kick drum house music shit. Some of it’s kind of 80’s-esque, some of it’s emo trap beats, some of it’s industrial, like I’m all over the place because my music taste is very all over the place as well. But yeah, I’ve been producing and collaborating with other artists too.
There’s a really rad artist who goes by Game Boi adv and he produced like three beats for me, so we wanna drop them sometime this year.
That’s more of a vaporwave project. I’m really excited for that. His beats are really chill and sexy. It’s pretty different. I feel like during this quarantine time, I’m going to be recording a lot. I actually just ordered a new interface and a new microphone so once that comes in, I’m really, really going to start recording stuff.
Q: While making that electronic music were you able to get shows with Dem Ham Boyz?
A: Yeah, the Aquadolls played a couple Ham shows and then we kind of snuck in a couple of my solo songs into the set. Like I’ve DJ’d Ham before, but I didn’t play any of my original material. It was a MySpace night, so I was playing a lot of emo throwback stuff. I’ve also DJ’d a festival called Subculture that I helped throw. When I DJ’d Subculture, I wanna say like 50 percent of the stuff I play during my set is my own original mixes. So it’s like a combination of my solo music and ravey, uptempo stuff.
I do my own remixes as well of other artists' songs. I really want to do a mixtape or something on SoundCloud that’s like one of my mixes. I think that’d be something cool to do because on my birthday which is April 12th, I just have a feeling that we’re still going to be locked in. I throw a party for my birthday every year and it’s always a rager. I can’t not throw a party this year, so what I wanna do is a Youtube Live where I do a DJ set with all my original stuff. So that’s a project I’m working on right now and hoping to have ready by April 12th.
Yea, I’m trying to party, bro. I’ve just been playing these livestream raves on Youtube everyday and they’re just like really keeping me kind of sane, somewhat.
Q: Similarly to that, do you still like recording bedroom demos when writing new Aquadolls songs?
A: Yeah I write almost everyday on my own, but in January me and the girls went to our manager’s house and he let us crash there for like two weeks. We recorded everyday, making new songs, so yeah we have a ton of demos. We picked our favorite ones from those and re-recorded them with Fat Mike from NOFX, so that’s probably what we’re going to be releasing next. Those stemmed from bedroom demos, but for Aquadolls releases it’s going to be some really good quality shit.
I’m still going to be doing bedroom stuff, like I just started up a Youtube series. Well, I mean I’ve only done one video so far, but I’m going to start doing more videos called the Bedroom Sessions where I take one of our songs and I kind of re-record it on GarageBand. So I’ll play it and at the end of the video, I’ll break down the production and explain how I did it. So yeah, I want to start doing some more videos like that. One it gives me something to do in this really boring time and like two, I just really wanna make more Youtube videos and stuff like that to keep the content going. Keep the vibes going.
Q: I recently watched the movie The Icarus Line Must Die and it got me curious, is it easy to come across bigger names in the music industry by being in LA?
A: Um, kind of. Everyone’s kind of there at some point. I met Joe from the Icarus Line through Cherry Glazerr back in 2013. Joe recorded “Stoked on You”. We did that album with Joe and Lucy Miyaki from Tashaki Miyaki. Yeah I don’t know, like a year after that maybe in like 2014 Joe was like, “hey, I’m making a movie would you wanna be in it?” Me and my ex were in it and when we showed up, Ariel Pink was just there smoking a cigarette, chilling and I was like, “what?”. You know, you never really know who’s going to be where, especially in LA because it’s so small. I guess going to parties and stuff, you might run into someone you wouldn’t expect to see. I don’t know, it’s all kind of a small knit, but it depends.
It’s funny how some people will get all nervous to talk to you because you’re a musician. It’s like, we’re all human, we’re all the same. Like I’ll say that but if I see Charli XCX or someone I really like, I cannot form sentences and it’s so embarrassing. I remember when I first met her and I was like, “oh my gosh I saw you on Jimmy Kimmel I mean Jimmy Fallon”. It was just really awkward, I was just really awkward. I don’t know when I’m nervous, I’m really bad at talking to people so I’ve definitely had some weird celebrity encounters. If it’s someone I’m not a super big fan of but I still appreciate their music and think that they’re dope, I’ll just talk to them like I’m talking to you. You know, there’s the exceptions like the Charli XCXs to me or like Gwen Stefani. I’d probably start crying if I ever met her, I mean literally cry.
I’m going to throw my drummer Jackie on blast right now because it’s funny, but she’s a huge Foo Fighters fan, like stan to the death Dave Grohl fan. Forever her life and everything’s Dave Grohl. So my manager goes back with them, he’s like promoted Foo Fighters shows back in the day. So he likes to go surfing with Chris Shiflett who’s in the Foo Fighters. When we played ACL, Chris Shiflett was also playing in another band. So our manager introduced us to him and Jackie literally started crying and had to put her sunglasses on.
She wasn’t able to talk because if she opened her mouth, she’d be crying. She was like, “ I love your music”, and it was like the most wholesome, cutest, funniest, most beautiful thing I’d ever seen in my life.
Just to see her light up like that, completely turned to mush over someone from the Foo Fighters and that’s just Chris Shiflett. I mean we’ve talked about this too, if she were to ever meet Dave. She’s like, “I couldn’t meet Dave because I’d just freak out” and my manager’s like, “you’re gonna meet Dave someday. It’s going to happen.” It’s just really funny.
Q: Other than possibly meeting Dave Grohl, does The Aquadolls have anything in store for the rest of the year?
A: Yeah, I mean with the whole global pandemic everything is kind of up in the air. I mean we had a really solid plan, but everything kind of got flipped upside down. It’s obviously not just our band, but every band in the whole world is dealing with it. But yeah, we are going to drop some music. I wanna say during the summer (laughs).
We’re playing Inkcarceration festival in June or July and I really hope it doesn’t get canceled because that would suck. We’ll be playing the Ohana festival in September and we’re also going to be playing the biggest festival of our entire career ever in August, but I’m not allowed to say what it is because it’s not announced yet and I honestly don’t know if it’s still happening. I hope it is, fingers crossed everything works out and we get to reschedule our tour dates that we’d be on right now.
You know, right now it’s just really hard to say with a lot of shit happening. I’m just trying to stay positive and hope for the best. Definitely expect a lot of Youtube videos. We’re going to try and do two uploads a week, so we’ll be having a lot of new video content to keep you entertained.