LA’s Dum Dum Girls have just announced a gig in Whelans. Siobhán Kane spoke with founding member Dee Dee earlier this year.
While their band name pays a small homage to Iggy Pop, the Dum Dum Girls are more than active nostalgia. Their first full length on Sub Pop – ‘I Will Be‘ – is a heady mix of terrific harmonies and a sense of what happens when an initially lo-fi band looks towards a more rocky landscape. Maybe it is partly because Dum Dum Girls grew out of an initial solo project and EP of Kristin Gundred (Dee Dee), but the eventual recruitment of Jules, Bambi and Frankie Rose makes everything more accessible somehow; the rhythm section is less cloudy, and the production (co-produced by the great Richard Gottehrer) kind of pinches your face and reminds you that while they might channel the classic girl groups, they are a rock band too. They are fatalistic, romantic, contradictory, strong and sensual – evidenced on tracks like ‘Yours Alone’ and ‘Everybody’s Out’ and they sound just as fascinated by the often perilous mystery of life as they are about their choice of lipstick, Siobhán Kane talks to Dee Dee.
The cover artwork is of your mother which is a lovely homage – both your parents hugely influenced you, didn’t they?
I can credit my parents with my first exposure to ’50’s and ’60’s music, which largely remain my favourite eras. My mother always had oldies radio playing in the kitchen, so I grew up with a constant subliminal stream of perfect songs.
Growing up back then, there seems to be more of an in-depth introduction to music than in some ways there is for children growing up now, as so much is geared towards short-lived satisfaction, rather than complete listening experiences, and records as complete works, what do you think?
I have no idea what it’s like to be experiencing music or pop culture now; I see everything in contrast to how I grew up. I know a lot of younger people than I with impeccable and far-reaching music taste, which is almost shocking, as I felt like I was on a constant and not always rewarding hunt to hear new music as a teen. I hope they don’t top out too early.
What are some of the records that impacted on you most growing up, and do they still resonate with you?
First-wave favourites from my parents collections; Jefferson Airplanes’ ‘Surrealistic Pillow’, Beach Boy’s ‘Pet Sounds’, Beatles’ ‘Rubber Soul’, Shangri-Las’ ‘Leader of the Pack’, plus Ventures, Supremes, Buddy Holly, Elvis, and Sinatra collections. Second-wave favourites; Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind’, Weezer’s first album, Hole’s ‘Live Through This’, Sonic Youth’s ‘Goo’, Lemonheads’ ‘Come On Feel’, and The Ramones’ first album. I still love ’em all.
You mainly produced the record yourself which Sub Pop supported, it seems like the perfect label for you.
They are a perfect fit for me, it’s unbelievable.
Harmonies are such a huge anchor of your record, as well as the fifties and sixties influence, how drawn are you to choirs and that more classical rendering of the voice?
Singing in choirs and studying jazz and classical music were huge components of my childhood. I studied theory and composition in college, and although I write the vocal harmonies essentialy by ear, I can’t downplay the contributing role of my background. My favourite piece of music for years has remained a choral composition by Eric Whitacre.
Working with Richard Gottehrer must have been so interesting, considering you have worked by yourself for a long time, and fully in control, it must have been strange working with someone else, but then easy in another way with him, as he is so sympathetic to your music and you have probably looked up to him for a long time.
I recorded ‘I Will Be’ by myself, Richard came on board afterwards to do post-production and mixing. You are exactly right though, despite my immense respect and near-worship of him, he was so natural and easy to work with. Something about the blend of being a ’60’s hitmaker and ’70’s punk producer.
On that note too, how do you find Los Angeles in terms of music? It is so sprawling in so many ways, not as immediate in a way as New York, but do you think it has its own inherent charm?
I was never involved in LA’s music scene aside from attending shows. Everything I had to contribute was done in my bedroom. Living in a foreign place – I’m from San Francisco, and felt very much alien after moving to southern California – did heavily inspire my songwriting though.
In terms of local bands in Los Angeles, who would you recommend people to listen to?
Nite Jewel, Pearl Harbor, Best Coast, Glasser, black black, and Dunes.
How did your cassette tape Blissed Out come about? It seems like such a lovely throwback to more innocent times.
It was my friend Mario Orduno’s idea. He runs Art Fag Recordings and is an avid collector of all music formats. I remember taping songs off the radio — missing the first few seconds of every song.
Do you write on the road, or do you wait for a longer period of time when you get home to settle into a routine of work?
I have a pretty constant stream of ideas, but sometimes touring is so busy I have to just turn it off til I have some time.
– Siobhán Kane
DUM DUM GIRLS
& special guests
Friday April 1st, 2011
Tickets on sale Friday December 3rd €17.50 (including booking fee) from www.tickets.ie, City Discs, Sound Cellar & Ticketmaster outlets nationwide.
Dum Dum Girls‘ I Will Be is out now on Sub Pop.