This weekend, Girl About Town had the opportunity to speak with Dum Dum Girls' Dee Dee after the all-girl group performed live at Swarthmore College in Swarthmore, PA at the college's resident venue: Olde Club. Nestled in amongst the trees, stone-clad residencies, and halls on campus--finding the actual club after dark was no small feat! The show was intimately attended as the crowd seemed to be there more for the laid-back house party atmosphere and the free beer rather than the band itself, but as soon as the Dum Dum Girls urged the crowd forward: dancing broke out like wildfire.
The gig showcased the group's dark and atmospheric garage-sounds with a mixture of new songs from their upcoming album "I Will Be", with their first B-side from the group's Jai La La 7" (a cover of The 'Stones "Playing With Fire") leading off their fiery set. The Dum Dum Girls music and look make us think of black and white 50s B-movies where the girls are all in hot cars out in the desert drag-racing the boys for their pink-slips! Available for sale? Their special pre-release: a black and white cover design of their new LP (out this month on SubPop) on Chicago's "Hozac" records; home to The Mayfair Set, Duchess & The Duke and more... Openers Fluffy Lumbers (a VERY solo Sam) were a bit out of sorts on stage, but otherwise pulled off an...interesting solo set culminating with a bizarre and almost unrecognizable number by The Who. We were glad to be there to catch Dum Dum Girls for an early set but they will also be playing Philadelphia later this week, on April 2nd, 2010 along with The Girls at the latest Making Time venue: Voyeur (1221 St. James Street, Philadelphia). We're expecting another great show; but this one with a lot of heat to generate as well--there is sure to be a big crowd so get your tickets soon if you haven't already!
Girl About Town: As far as the new album: what has been the feeling on how far the band has come and where you see this project going?
Dee Dee: It’s come very far because it started as just a solo recording project that I was doing out of my house. I did that for about a year with just a few small releases. When I signed with SubPop to put out a record, I was ready to make it a live band so it just took a few months to figure out who the lineup would consist of and then we played our first shows together in October at CMJ.
Is the lineup that you have right now solid?
Yeah, it hasn’t really changed that much in my mind. We played, well--the first show was just really premature and I played it because it was Mike Sniper’s [ed.: Woodsist, Captured Tracks, etc.] festival and my EP was the first thing that he put out so it seemed important to be involved in some way; and that was just asking friends so that I could make it [me playing] possible.
I played two or three shows with Jules (the guitarist) and then some friends filling in--and that was just because my husband’s band was on tour with The Raveonettes and I wanted to play a show with that lineup of bands on a bill. But, it was probably only four shows until this lineup. It’s not, you know, set in stone...although I’m assuming that Jules and Bambi are going to be lifelong members, but Frankie...Because she has her own project and she’s been working on that more seriously...it was never supposed to be the permanent solution--she was just the first girl to help me make it live. I can only imagine that at some point, she’s going to need to focus on her band, which we all are really happy for her to do. We have really had a lot of fun playing with her, but she is just so much more than a drummer.
Who do you see as the influences that helped you create your sound and that also help to keep it original?
My references are little more distilled than that just because I think that what really impressed me when I was a kid; what really formed my opinion about what I loved about music was a lot of the stuff that my parents were listening to. You know, they had a lot of doo-wop and vocal groups and I had my mom’s later sixties stuff because they were pretty far apart in age. You know? They were teens from different decades. From The Supremes to Jefferson Airplane, early ‘Stones, Beatles, Creedence....stuff like that. Those were my first loves. And when I was a little bit older and started connecting the dots, and kind of the lineage of rock n’ roll; I was really taken with The Ramones. And I say The Ramones mainly because they weren’t ‘technically’ amazing musicians, and so for me it was inspiring that I could pick up a guitar and write a three-chord song--and you know, a lot of the vocals that Joey Ramone sings; they could be girl-group songs. And I just think ‘oh, shit!’ they were listening to a lot of the same stuff that I was in love with when I was a kid. For me, and because I’m also a singer, it was about combining a real focus on vocal melodies and developing harmonies with the reality of my limited musicianship. I’m a drummer, and that’s my best instrument, besides being able to sing--so the guitar is pretty new to me. I basically just learned what I needed to, to start writing songs. And I’m working on getting better, obviously, but I don’t pretend that the music is where the interest may lie.
What would you say to other women wanting to start a band?
I just know, that for me: I just wanted to be. I wanted to be Grace Slick, I wanted to be Patti Smith, I wanted to be Siouxsie Sioux, and I didn’t understand that the first step towards doing those things was, and is: doing them. It’s not just ‘thinking’ about how cool it would be. A lot of the first attempts that I made in being a musician were within the context of other people’s bands: mainly guys. You know, I didn’t have a ton of female friends growing up, and I don’t know why it didn’t strike me as something that I could do myself. It’s sad that it took me until I was twenty-four to....
That’s still so young...
It’s true, but I....you know, when I was like; when I was twenty, that was when I was like, ‘fuck--you know, I have to do music.’ And then it still took me four years of not knowing whether or not I could do it on my own. It’s really just: pick up a guitar and learn a Beatles’ song, and the minute that you can play a song; that’s the moment that you understand that a song can be really simple and that it’s just a matter of doing it.
For me, I was always drawn to female performers, but to me they always kind of seemed to be....the Soul: the female member of the band. Something about being the only female in the band didn’t hit me: it wasn’t inspiring or direct enough, and it took me seeing all female bands in order for it to actually hit me. If anything, I hope that girls who see our band get that from it. That to me is really important.
When we speak about female artists like early Tina Turner, The Ronettes, and The Supremes, they all had a specific look to their act that went with the style of their music: and your outfits tonight seemed to be inspired in a cohesive way as well. Do you think that your group attempts to also tie your looks and style into the type of music that you are playing?
I can only speak for myself when I say that I definitely wanted to have a cohesive look. For me, that is something that I find appealing--when there’s a visual aspect.
Right, it doesn’t have to be superficial.
Right, and this is something that I struggled with for a while. You know, it’s not ‘vain’ to have a ‘costume’. It’s something that’s been in music forever. Like, if you’re going to call bullshit on us, then you need to call bullshit on a bunch of Legends. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with it, but I think it’s just about the personal choice. For us, we kind of like to get into a group mentality and for me it’s kind of a confidence boosting thing too. I feel like, we go out there; and we’re a unified front, and it really helps me to tap into the attitude that fuels the songs.
Do you feel as though having a ritual like this makes you closer as a group of friends as well?
Yeah, definitely. I mean, we get ready together, and we (laughs) you know, fuck around in the bathroom together as a bunch of girls and it’s really a lot of fun. And for as heavy a look as we have on the stage, we do also try to maintain a focus that’s pretty intense. But we’re all really fun people and we have such a great time doing this--it’s a really new experience for me and I’m having a great time!
For the next little while you will be on the road, and soon you will also be making it to Philadelphia as well. What is your favorite thing about Philadelphia?
Oh, well, I love Philadelphia. I’ve definitely done different versions of Philadelphia. You know, I’ve done the historic stuff, and I’ve hung out with friends and gone to the rival cheesesteak places; it’s just a great city. I definitely don’t love all cities, but I do enjoy Philadelphia--and I truly enjoy, “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.”!
Dum Dum Girls Set List, 3.26.10:
1/ Play With Fire
2/ Hey Sis
4/ I Will Be
5/ Yours Alone
6/ Bhang Bhang, I'm a Burnout
7/ It Only Takes One Night
8/ Rest of Our Lives
Live at Swarthmore College, Olde Club w/ Dum Dum Girls
(live Dum Dum Girls recording thanks to D. O'Toole)