The Suicide Dolls: There’s demons in there

During a particularly dark period earlier this year I asked myself a question I had never asked before: What if I stopped writing?

I had lost my full-time job of seven years and was re-evaluating everything, as you do sometimes when something life-altering happens.

But that question, not to get demotic on you, totally freaked me out, man.

I mean, I write. That's what I do. Of course I'm going to continue to write. I felt a slight pang of guilt that I ever considered it.

But I'm glad I did. It's good to go there sometimes.

I thought about that over a recent coffee and chat at the Bean & Leaf in New London with Brian Albano and Michelle Montavon, guitarist and bassist respectively in the punk-psych-pop combo Suicide Dolls. They are celebrating their 10th year as a band, which includes drummer Matt Covey.

It's also Albano and Montavon's sixth year of not having full-time jobs, having devoted nearly all of that time to playing gigs and recording music.

"It's hard to find a place to work that will let you play a show in New York on a Wednesday at the drop of a hat," Montavon said. "We'd rather do that than spend money on new clothes or something."

But what's really winning about the Suicide Dolls, is that, for the time being anyway, they don't seem particularly jaundiced about life as 30-something underground rock musicians.

In part, that's because 2012 has been a particularly heady year for the group.

In January, the Dolls released its latest album "Prayers in Parking Lots," recorded at the legendary Somerville, Mass., studio Q Division with Justin Pizzoferrato, who's also worked with Dinosaur Jr. and Sonic Youth.

The album also won accolades at this year's Whalie Awards, and several cuts have been getting steady airplay on Boston's college radio stations.

Just recently, the band recorded the Circle Jerks' "When The S*** Hits the Fan" as part of a tribute to the "Repo Man" soundtrack, which includes Frank Black from the Pixies and Mike Watt who played in the legendary '80s band the Minutemen.

The Dolls also recorded songs for the soundtrack to "5 Souls," a sci-fi horror movie that made the film festival circuit in the past year.

And the Dolls, along with several other New London-based bands, are finalists in the Best Rock category in the statewide Grand Band Slam awards

"It's been a good year," Montavon said. "Believe me, we've scratched and clawed."

Through their years on the road they've experienced the niceties of the underground rock network.

"I've found there are two types of bands out there," Albano said. "Bands that sit in towers and bands that cross rivers."

Montavon was a little more direct: "Some are really supportive and others are more like 'I'll kill you.'"

Albano said the group does its best to come down on the supportive and helpful side of things, but with a purpose.

"If you keep your karma clean, you can politely twist arms," Albano said.

Albano and Montavon also are navigating a music industry that is constantly shifting in terms of marketing and taste.

Being a guitar band, they feel a little out of step with the current crop of more keyboard-based groups populating the American underground.

"It's kind of a double-edged sword," Albano said. "We play gigs and people come up afterwards and they say, 'Man, you totally remind us of Dinosaur Jr., the Jesus and Mary Chain and Sonic Youth.' But then we hear from people in the industry that say, 'Well, the problem is that you sound like Dinosaur Jr., the Jesus and Mary Chain and Sonic Youth."

Now that it's been six years of doing the Suicide Dolls full time, Albano and Montavon say they are unsure how long they are going to keep up their frenetic pace.

But leaving music all together isn't likely.

"When you've been doing something a long time, sometimes even if you want to quit there's no way," Albano said. "I can't quit what do I do. It would be easier to make it in music than quit. There's demons in there."

Stephen Chupaska is a writer who lives in downtown New London. Email Steve at schupaska@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @schupaska.

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