Hit & Run Drivers

Sacramento Sister Duo Brings Garage Rock to Eugene

“Gwenny was always better at everything than I was,” Lucy Giles says. She’s half of Sacramento garage rock two-piece Dog Party, and she’s talking good-naturedly about her sister Gwendolyn “Gwenny” Giles, who plays guitar in the band. 

I also have Gwenny on the line. Does she agree with her sister’s assessment of her natural talent? “Yes,” she says, laughing. Ah, siblings. The pair have been playing music since they were preteens, encouraged by their father to pick up guitar and drums. Soon they were writing their own songs, and banging out covers like the Beach Boys classic “Surfin’ USA.” 

Dog Party’s early originals were really angry, Lucy remembers. “I was so young,” she recalls. “I would write about my friends that were mean to me. I’d just start freestyling words. I wasn’t really consciously thinking about what I was saying.” These young tunes were fiery, she says, but also straight-up good songs.

In 2016, Dog Party opened for Green Day. “Our first show was like 3,000 people,” she remembers — intimate, she notes, for Green Day. “We were nervous, but so stoked. The crowd was chanting our name. We were like, ‘What is this? this is so insane!’”

This blending of writing garage-punk ragers with just-right cover choices has continued to this day. Now the duo is touring behind the band’s fifth album Hit & Run, out on trendsetting punk and garage rock record label Burger Records. 

On Hit & Run, there’s the Ramones-y “Bad Dream,” and “In Your Eyes,” and the girl group-style album-track “Hit & Run.” It’s all presented with the wrecking ball immediacy of The White Stripes. After growing up on punk, the Giles sisters have gone deep into old-timey rock ‘n’ roll. The Beatles, and Elvis, but also classic country. “Elvis is the gateway to old rock ’n’ roll stuff,” Lucy says. 

The lyrics in that older stuff are appealing, but also the structure, she explains. “How it was recorded,” she elaborates. “We always record to tape. The process is important to us.” Hit & Run also features a cover of Wanda Jackson’s rockabilly classic “Fujiyama Mama.” The first time she heard Wanda Jackson, Lucy recognized a kindred spirit.

“I just like fell in love,” she says. “The very first time I was listening to another female sing, and I was like ‘Woah, she sounds like me.’ I was stoked. Covering songs isn’t about making them better, it’s more about sharing my love for music.”

Dog Party plays with LA’s Gutter Daisies 8:30 pm Tuesday, Jan. 15, at Old Nick’s; $5, 21-plus.