Dum Dum Girls
Thu 3rd Nov, 2011 in Features
With the release of second studio album Only In Dreams FL caught up with Dum Dum Girls frontwoman Dee Dee, who was in Los Angeles doing rehearsals with the band for their upcoming US tour, to discuss the band’s influences, aesthetic and constantly evolving sound.
Hi Dee Dee, how are you?
I’m very well thank you.
Where are you at the moment?
Our tour hasn’t started yet, so we’re still in L.A., in the middle of rehearsals.
I’d like to speak with you about the new record Only In Dreams. The first thing that stood out in comparison to I Will Be was the cleaner production – was that a product of wanting to take the project in a new direction or simply having access to higher quality equipment?
Well, I mean it’s not really a change in direction. It’s just sort of an expansion on our sound and it’s not me recording in my house onto a 4-track or a laptop, you know. It’s a small but very well equipped studio.
The record retains the girl-group harmonies of I Will Be but expands your sound to incorporate more significant surf-pop styles – did that come as a product of your environment in California or a change in your musical tastes?
I think that a lot of it would have to do with [the fact that] I Will Be is the first nine songs I ever wrote. My taste in music remained pretty constant [from] then to now. I’ve just now written many more songs, I’ve spent a year and a half touring them and I think that we’ve just grown up a bit as a band.
I was interested in making a record that wasn’t limited by equipment, and instead it was enhanced by having more access. Something that has always struck me as funny is that utilising noise for noisier effects gets you called ‘lo-fi’, but in reality, for me walking into a studio with good microphones, good pre-amps and mixing boards, all of that, it just creates an even bigger opportunity to incorporate all sorts of different sounds, and to have them very much in appropriate places, not smothering anything, there’s room for anything from nasty distortion to ethereal string and synthesiser parts.
Your music consistently puts melody ahead of style. Is that something that comes as a result of a love for classic artists like The Ronettes?
I think that really just comes out because that is what my strong suit is. I’ve been singing my whole live and I’m a much more nascent songwriter than I am a singer, so when I write songs, it’s for the melody. That’s the intention of the song, so that’s always where my focus is.
The titles of your records are very representative of their content – I Will Be seems very grounded and purposeful while Only In Dreams taps into fantasy and the imagination. Without calling them concept albums, was there an intention of creating each record with a unifying, overarching theme in mind?
That’s the thing – the songs come together and have a similar palette of sounds and so they sound like a record, and thematically they fit together, but it’s kind of happenstance, and stumbling upon what to call them solidifies them as an album, but it didn’t come before.
The combination of I Will Be’s slightly mysterious cover art and the overall retro sound and aesthetic gave off the feel that one had just discovered a lost record from 50 years ago. On the other hand, though Only In Dreams retains some elements of that sound, it feels undeniably contemporary. Was it a conscious creative decision to give the record a more modern feel or did that also come naturally from the more high-end recording process?
I’ve always intended to make modern music. I’m not interested in being any kind of revival band or retro act. I think, as with all rock and roll music, you can’t help but be influenced by what came first and show that through what you do. But I Will Be was very much a product of those first songs, my first attempts at recording, and I think that with where I was, both in what I wanted to hear sonically and what I was comfortable with putting out, because it was my first foray into doing my own thing, there was a bit of intentional anonymity and vagueness. I guess maybe it was some sort of self-preservation.
Was the adoption of onstage personas and singular stage names intended to create distance from your everyday selves, or simply as a tribute to bands like the Ramones who did a similar thing?
It’s not a tribute – I think it happened very naturally. I mean, I can speak for myself – I’m a very private person in my daily life and when I perform, there’s something else that happens and it’s necessary because that’s the attitude that needs to exist for me to be able to perform, and I would assume it’s somewhat similar for the rest of them.
Despite that anonymity, you have a visually recognisable collective identity due to your distinctive on-stage look. Did that come about through a shared love of fashion or a need to distinguish yourselves and create a look that people would instantly associate with the band?
It definitely was an intention to have a very strong aesthetic. I think I just sort of expanded upon my personal aesthetic and I think the girls conformed pretty easily. We’re all very similar. Maybe they didn’t wear so much black before the band, but it wasn’t too tough to solidify our look.