Dum Dum Girls
Interview: Steve Bateman
With each offering clocking in around the two
minute mark, I Will Be is over almost as soon as its begun
leaving behind a smouldering trail of hazy mysticism and filthy bass
lines. Its short and sweet, but theres a definite sting
in the tail. DOT MUSIC
Its anachronistic, fashionable and sometimes
quite beautiful. Its teen music for adults. Its also incredibly
sentimental. NEW YORK TIMES
Some may argue that theres nothing here
the Ramones or Jesus And Mary Chain didnt do decades ago, and
there are obvious similarities, to be sure. However, the decidedly female
energy the Dum Dum Girls bring to the table puts them in their own category,
inserting some welcome softness and subtlety into the genre. NOW
Describing their sound as Blissed Out Buzzsaw, the Dum Dum
Girls are Dee Dee (vocals / guitar), Jules (guitar), Bambi (bass) and
Frankie (drums), who call Southern California home. A review of their
debut record and its energy source, highlighted: A short, fast
punk album littered with elements of 60s pop, the Dum Dum Girls
wear their influences on their sleeves and traces of early girl groups
and punk pioneers can be heard throughout I Will Be. Named after The
Vaselines album Dum Dum and the Iggy Pop song Dum Dum Boys, the Dum
Dum Girls were originally founded as a solo project for lead vocalist
Dee Dee, who along with noted producer Richard Gottehrer, also produced
Speaking to About.com about her musical past, Dee
Dee (who went to school in Germany and sometimes sings in German) revealed:
When I was a very small child, in pre-school and kindergarten,
I used to record things. I don't really know what they were about, but
those must qualify as my beginnings. I played violin in elementary school
and middle school, I sang in choirs and studied voice through college.
So, I had a pretty significant vocal background. When I was 20, I felt
very strongly that I wanted to be in a band, but I wasn't really sure
how to; Id never been in one, I didn't play instruments. For a
long time, I was pretty dependent on other people to write songs I could
sing over. I had boyfriends, and I sang in bands where they wrote the
songs. I picked up the drums, and played the drums for a long while.
But, I only really started to write proper songs the last couple of
years, when I finally picked up the guitar. It took me a while to know
that I could do this myself. I learned the hard and slow way.
Starting in late 2008, Dee Dee then began recording
in her bedroom, alone, going onto release a CDR on her own label Zoo
Music, followed by a 7 and 12 on a couple of small independent
labels in the US. Although the tracks that would make up the Dum Dum
Girls debut album, I Will Be (Sub Pop), as previously mentioned, also
saw Richard Gottehrer (Blondie, The Go-Gos, The Raveonettes) adding
gentle finessing to the final mixes who was at the
top of Dee Dees wish list to do so! With Dee Dee realising that
she would now need a live band, she eventually found her gang one-by-one
and completed the line-up in the summer of 2009. Image-wise, the girls
look is put down to both a love of style and as a guise to help Dee
Dee overcome the stage fright she has suffered from in the past.
Returning to their long player, the Dum Dum Girls
Press Release adds: I Will Be runs just under thirty minutes with
eleven songs; a short tribute to love, loss, fear, fun and the classic
pop form of the 60s girl groups and early punk rockers. Explaining
the albums dark-and-sunny feel, Dee Dee says, Theres
an overdramatic tone, much like a teenagers world, but applied
to the experience of getting older. As an LP that has already
taken pride of place in my record collection, I was fortunate enough
to speak to Dee Dee over the telephone who was a total sweetheart
whilst the Dum Dum Girls were in the UK, about how theyve
effortlessly managed to bring their own brand of vintage bubblegum pop
Lucy: Your band have been quite quiet for the last few months. Are you looking
forward to playing gigs again?
Katie Jane Garside: I think I give very obtuse ans
1.To begin with, Dum Dum Girls songs have lots of catchy pop hooks
and harmonies but which song hooks and harmonies have most stuck
in your head?
Thats kind of been my favourite thing forever, which is
why its in all of my songs! I was a huge Beatles fan as a kid,
and now, I kind of feel like they did it kind of perfect from the beginning.
I definitely try to impart extremely catchy melodies into all of my
songs and then on top of that, to use a lot of harmonies as well. I
love The Supremes and a lot of the girl group stuff although
they werent necessarily writing their own songs but I love
that pop song sensibility (pausing), you know, the songs were written
by professional songwriters and it was like their job to write hits
(laughing)! I mean I dont think about it so clinically, but its
definitely on my mind always when Im writing a song,
just to put in hooks.
2.Famously, Nirvana never ended a song on a fade-out, but do you ever
think about how a track will end / its tempo, or does this happen naturally?
That definitely happens more naturally and after the fact. I write
all of my songs on an acoustic guitar, so you know, for me its
more like, OK, heres the verse, the pre-chorus, the chorus,
heres the bridge and then once I start recording it, then
I can start playing around with it and moving things around, or changing
the tempo or doing a fade-out, stuff like that.
3.Do you prefer to have a deadline to work to, or to be able to complete
music / lyrics as and when you want to?
I dont know. Its kind of that weird thing that happens
with first records versus second records, where you maybe dont
know that youre writing for a record that first year, when youre
compiling songs. So then all of a sudden when the opportunity presents
itself, youre like, Oh sweet, I have 10 songs Ill
write 2 more and then theres a record! It all happens very
naturally you know, and without pressure. Then, you go on tour for a
year and all of a sudden, youre like, Shit! I need to write
a record and record it in the next 2 months (laughing)! For me,
I dont know if I will like how that feels, so I definitely havent
stopped writing songs. You know, its not that I write songs everyday,
but I definitely have compiled at least 8 songs which could be shared
between an EP and the next record. I try to write them as they come,
but sometimes, I do sit down and force it out a bit more, because maybe
a month has gone by and I havent written anything. So sometimes
it comes out really easily and sometimes it needs a bit of prodding.
4.What was the first song that you wrote and were really proud of?
Ive written songs since I was a little kid, but I really
think that when I wrote Catholicked, I was really proud of that one.
I felt like the words were (pausing), some were clever, but they also
had quite a bit of meaning behind them. I was pleased with how the melodies
developed and I thought it was kind of that combination of a straightforward
pop verse, but then with a much more soaring chorus driving the song.
It was just unforgettable really, and it was kind of my first success
at pairing up all these things together; the harmonies etc. So yeah,
I think that was maybe the first song where I was like, OK, I
think Im onto something and I think this is what I want to be
doing and that song received a lot of attention for the small
world that it existed in, so that was validating in that sense as well.
5.Are there any particular lyrics that youve heard, or any
lines of poetry that youve read over the years, that have always
stayed with you?
Um, I cant think of any off-hand right now, but I definitely
read a lot of poetry and I read a lot of collected lyrics of bands that
I love, as inspiration. My husband (Brandon Welchez of Crocodiles) gave
me a collected book of all of Patti Smiths lyrics and shes
one of my biggest inspirations, and if Im ever having a dry spell,
I always read her lyrics. Shes definitely my go to! But poetry
is something that (pausing), if I wasnt writing songs, Id
be writing poems (laughing)! Yeah, for me, its like a big thing
that I do follow. Its funny, at my house, like I said, if Im
having a dry spell, I go to Patti Smith and my husband goes to Nick
Cave. Theyre kind of our go tos (laughing)!
6.In the UK, there is an excellent Sky Arts TV Show called Songbook,
whereby a songwriter talks in-depth about their career / songs, but
is there anybody who you would like to see discuss their songbook?
Let me see here (thinking) Probably Patti Smith, I find
her whole career and her deal, pretty fascinating!
7.What are your memories of the first ever show that you all played
together, and as youve now played shows in the USA, Europe and
the UK, have there been any particularly memorable places for you?
We played a few shows together for CMJ last year in New York,
and we did a tour. But for me, the first time it felt like this was
the beginning of a longer path were on, was probably our first
London show in February at The Old Blue Last. Something about that night
was just magical! You know, we showed up and wed just flown in
we didnt know what to expect and it was a small crowd.
We set up our gear and we met the opening bands, who were so sweet and
they seemed excited to be playing with us, and for us it was like, Wow,
its kind of shocking that anyone even knows who we are really.
The fact that we were at the beginning of a week of shows, all in London,
it was like, I think were going to play to you every show
(laughing)! That seems bizarre, but that night, the club sold
out and I think it was over capacity. Im not sure if youve
been there, but the set-up in that room is pretty long and narrow and
high-ceilinged, but something about it just felt really comfortable
in that space, and I feel like our sound really enveloped the room perfectly.
We had a chance meeting with the band Girls as well, who we were about
to go on a US Tour with and they happened to be in London that night.
Christopher and JR came to the show and we met them, so that was really
fun too and surprising. It was kind of like the perfect night basically
and we played really well, we werent jet-lagged yet (laughing),
so something about that seemed like the beginning of something. The
tour with Girls was also really special and we played New York with
them, which was really amazing we played Webster Hall and it
was huge! So I would say perhaps that gig as well.
8.In relation to this, The JD Set recently invited a selection of
bands to reinterpret classic and influential albums as part of a series
of special shows, but is there a record that you would all like to cover
for a one-off gig?
You mean to perform someone elses? Oh wow (excitedly)! I
would do Im sure a terrible attempt but I would
cover Spiritualized: Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space.
Thats one of my favourite records of all-time! Maybe in the future
9.I Will Be has a very memorable opening and closing track, but do
you have any favourite album intros and outros?
Wow (surprised), you know, I put so much thought into what opened
and closed my record, but thats maybe not something that I think
about that much when Im listening to a record I think I
should (laughs heartily)! So, I dont think I have an answer for
you (laughing) The next time that I listen to a record, Ill
pay special attention!
10.As youre responsible for the artwork on your sleeves, are
you yourself an avid record collector and do you have any favourite
Yeah, I definitely am, but I mean my husband is more so than I
am, so I kind of leave it up to him he has a huge record collection!
I think most recently, we were really excited about all of the Spacemen
11.Each month, NME.COM is giving away a free Radar Mixtape
to download with 20 of the best tracks from emerging new artists / groups.
Do you think this is a good idea?
Yeah, I think thats great! I dont have my finger on
the pulse completely, in terms of whats going on now, just being
so busy with what were doing. So, I appreciate little introductions
like that, where its a band that I might not have heard, had someone
not shown them to me. I know Im not going to like everything,
but Im sure Id like at least one thing.
12.I really love the duet with your husband on Blank Girl, but if
you could sing a duet with anybody else, who would it be and why + are
there any dream collaborations that you would like to see happen?
Oh wow (excitedly), I would love to sing with Iggy Pop! Hes
one of my heroes, so that would be unbelievable! With a dream collaboration
that I would like to see happen, I dont know, Im not sure
that seems like a personal thing for the band you know? I mean
for me, I can say, Id love to duet with Iggy Pop or J Spaceman
or something, but Im sure the band would have to figure
it out for themselves.
13.I read that you use Dee Dee instead of your real name (Kristin
Gundred), as a tribute to your Mum, but what do you think are some of
the coolest rock stars names of all-time?
Iggy Pops pretty much right up there (laughing)! I also
think Dee Dee Ramone and the Spacemen 3 names are pretty good, like
Sonic Boom, and maybe Engelbert Humperdinck (laughing)!
14.What are your biggest hopes for the Dum Dum Girls, and do you
see your sound evolving in the future?
I think that right now, were just looking into this next
year of touring and were going to record an EP and then eventually
another record. Im sure that well evolve slightly, Im
not interested in doing the same thing forever Im kind
of seeking out forward movement and progression!
15.Seeing as your music evokes images of classic Americana, do you
have a favourite diner, and the reason that I ask that is, because lastly,
this is a long-running question for fun, which would you choose out
of chips (french fries) or cream buns (pastries)?
A favourite diner? I actually really enjoy The Brite Spot in Echo
Park, Los Angeles, and out of chips or cream buns, I would go for sweet
(laughing). I like them both, but my preference is with the sweet!
A very special thanks to Dee Dee, to the Dum Dum
Girls Tour Manager Joe, and to Nita @ Goldstar PR, for all of their
time and help.