Performance is therapy to Julie Story. Often, when her set winds down, she says, she has no memory of it.
The guitarist and lead singer of Doll Baby originally tried theater performance, but it didn’t ring true for her. Music felt more genuine, she decided, because she was singing her own words as honestly as she knew how. She sees performing as a form of meditation, likening it to an out-of-body experience, where she’s there but not there.
She played with the folk band Haints in the Holler for six years before moving to the more raucous Doll Baby.
“There’s nothing holding me back anymore,” she says. “I’m shy and quiet most of the time, but when I get onstage, I want to be loud and sing from deep down below. I have a lot of energy inside of me that needs to get out.”
The band’s melodic sound pulls heavily from ’90s-era alternative rock, with dashes of both punk and pop, and songwriting responsibilities are shared among band members. Her goal in writing lyrics is to be as honest as possible but also to keep the lyrics fairly gender-less, she says: “I try to relate to everyone who’s feeling a little suppressed or frustrated in the world.”
She says she hasn’t felt the struggle that many women musicians have, and that one of the reasons she loves Richmond is for its accepting music scene. But she’s also surrounded herself with supportive people, including her partner Dan Kelly on drums and his brother on guitar, which contributes to her sense of safety in the traditionally male-dominant music world.
Besides Erin Tobey and Julie Doiron, Storey also cites Nick Drake as major inspiration and influence for the haunting character of his music. When Kelly played an early Doll Baby demo for a co-worker, the reaction was that he wasn’t sure he liked “the guy’s voice,” which was, in fact, Storey’s. When Kelly told him it was his girlfriend singing, the guy insisted he needed to go listen to it again.
“I want to get up and rock out playing really loud music,” Storey says in her decidedly low-key speaking voice. “I don’t want people to listen to our music and like it because I’m a woman. I want people to listen and think it’s good because it is good.”
Julie Story performs with Doll Baby on May 10 at Flora on Lombardy Street.