Trouble Dolls

1994 – Nominee – 4th Annual LA Music Awards

The Trouble Dolls’ roots go back to Kudzu, the cowpunk band formed by singer Cheri Rennert and guitarist Matty Karas when both were attending high school in Huntington Beach, Calif. Three months after their formation, they recorded a demo in the garage studio of reclusive pop genius Emitt Rhodes and sent it to legendary KROQ DJ Rodney Bingenheimer (“Rodney on the ROQ”).Trouble DollsRodney fell in love with the tape, becoming one of Kudzu’s first and biggest supporters. One song from the demo, “Death Valley Girl,” was Rodney’s most-requested song for three weeks running — managing to hold off the Bangles and the reunited Monkees. The song subsequently appeared on the Frontier Records compilation Thangs That Twang.

In 1988, Kudzu toured up and down the West Coast as the opening act for Rank and File. Later that year, following an appearance on MTV’s “The Cutting Edge,” they signed to Restless Records. Their Ray Manzarek-produced debut album, California Scheming, came out in 1989, but few copies made it into stores, due to the financial difficulties Restless was undergoing at the time. However, the album did not escape the watchful eyes of lawyers for United Features Syndicate, which syndicated John Neale’s comic strip “Kudzu.” They promptly issued a cease-and-desist order, effectively putting the last nail in the album’s coffin.

Although Kudzu had in fact taken their name not from the strip, but from the Georgia weed depicted on the cover of R.E.M.’s Murmur, they decided that, rather than fight, they would call it a day. Matty and Cheri moved to New York City. They separated for a time to pursue “real world” careers. At the suggestion of a former schoolmate who offered them work writing and recording music for the Cartoon Network, Matty and Cheri reunited in 1995 to form the Trouble Dolls with guitarist Michael Taylor, a New Jerseyan who was in an early version of Monster Magnet but was unceremoniously fired when he refused to learn any more Hawkwind songs.

For the first two years of the Trouble Dolls’ existence, they were solely a studio group, recording soundtracks for spaghetti-westerns-that-never-were on Matty’s cranky four-track and making up bios about themselves that seamlessly blended fact and fiction (a practice which continues to this day). One of their bargain-basement epics found its way to the BMX Bandits , who covered the Trouble Dolls’ “Love Isn’t for the Lazy” on the B-side of a fan club 45. Another track, “Planet Robin,” found its way onto the soundtrack of the 1996 indie film “Ed’s Next Move”. Still another, “Ice Cream Cow,” reached WFMU DJs Belinda and Hova, who played it on their Saturday morning show “Greasy Kid Stuff.” The song “Something Blue Amazed Me” appeared in the John Walsh romantic comedy “Pipe Dream.”

The Trouble Dolls play their aphasic melange of prepackaged, post-Madonna chanson and bubblegum at New York City clubs such as Luna Lounge, Cake Shop and the Sidewalk Cafe. Their EP, I Don’t Know Anything at All, was released in June 2002 on their own label, La La La Unlimited, and their full-length album “Sticky” followed later in 2003. 2003 also saw the recruitment of musician/actor/midwestern cipher Chris McBurney into the band, after he auditioned for what he mistakenly thought was a gender-neutral staging of “Gabba Gabba Hey.”