Waiting in the line of clammy-handed, trembling fifth graders next to the stage, she clutched her Mini Martin close to her chest and tried not to think about the 300 people she was about to play in front of for a talent show. Anxiously tapping her foot, she hummed the tune to “A Long Time Ago,” the song she wrote earlier that year that she was about to perform. When it was finally her turn, she stiffly shuffled up on stage, the lights blinded her to the faces of the audience. Her fears vanished. She took a deep breath, swept her dark brown bangs away from her eyes and started playing.
Ten years later, graphic communication junior Gwendolyn Giles waited to open for Green Day at the UC Theatre in Berkeley, California. With bright red lipstick and dyed blonde hair, her sister at the drums and her Fender Telecaster Deluxe in hand, she was ready to play another original song, “G Diddly,” in front of 1,200 fans.
Video by Anjana Melvin
Gwendolyn and her sister Lucy Giles make up Dog Party, a band they started together when Gwendolyn was 11 years old and Lucy was nine years old.
“Because we’d started at such a young age, [we were] being categorized as a kid band and an all-girl band,” Gwendolyn said. “Just having those labels is irritating when we get treated differently because we’re females in the music industry or we’re younger.”
Most of their songs are based on life experiences. One of their most popular songs, “Lost Control,” was written while they were on the road in Italy and missing their pug.
As they got older, their songs started to hold more meaning. “Till You’re Mine,” from their latest album released in August is about Lucy’s new relationship. “Round and Round,” written when Gwendolyn left for college, is about living alone for the first time and missing home.
“As much as we want our future to be positive, we’re probably going to experience loss in our lives and songs will come out of that, too,” Gwendolyn said.
Now that they’re older, they’ve lost the “kid vibe,” but still find it difficult to gain respect as women. Despite having toured the U.S. and Europe, they weren’t taken seriously until after touring with Green Day.
“The further we go and the more success we’re having, I feel like people are snapping out of those first assumptions,” Gwendolyn said. “[Having toured with Green Day] helps us prove to people that we are passionate about what we’re doing, but it also seems like we shouldn’t have to prove to them that we’re qualified to play these shows.”
Though Dog Party is still occasionally dismissed as inexperienced girls who just mess around, Gwendolyn acknowledged that she wouldn’t have come this far without the relationships she formed in the past nine years and describes life on the road touring as a phenomenal experience.
Getting mentioned in a magazine or hearing one of their songs on the radio is always satisfying, but the most rewarding moment of her career was when everything came together that day in Berkeley.
With friends and family in the audience, her sister at the drums and a band that she’d looked up to since childhood waiting to go on after her, her younger self couldn’t have imagined a moment like this. She could see the audience now, but she wasn’t nervous. Dog Party was still just a band she and her sister started as children. They were still in it for their love of music.
Playing for Green Day was just a passion that became a dream come true.
Correction: A previous version of this article said that Gwendolyn was nine years old and Lucy was 11 years old when Dog Party started. This has been corrected to say Gwendolyn was 11 years old and Lucy was nine years old when Dog Party started. Gwendolyn Giles was said to be a graphic communication sophomore, this has been corrected to say she is a junior.