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Dum Dum Girls

Dum Dum Girls

Interviewed by
Courtney Sanders
Thursday 15th December, 2011 3:40PM

Dum Dum Girls have have gained a rapid international following for their nostalgic sound and equally as directional dress sense. UnderTheRadar caught up with front woman Dee Dee to discuss their new album, Only in Dreams, the year that was and why bands from California are responsible for some of the most jangly pop around.

Hey Dee Dee, what are you guys up to at the moment?

Well we just got back into New York after our tour so it’s our first morning, so we had breakfast, made some coffee, I was actually rolling a joint when you called so I needed both my hands.

Sweet, how did the tour go?

It was really good, it was a lot of fun and from our perspective, successful.

Where abouts did you guys go?

It was all over the US and then into Canada so it was the West Coast, Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal; the big mid-Western cities and then the East Coast.

So you’ve just released a record Only in Dreams, tell me alittle bit about the writng and recording of that one.

It was songs that I wrote over the course of 2010 and then we recording it in January 2011 so it's definitely very much bookended by a year’s time. It was the first time that the whole band recorded together. Previously it was either me in a small studio or me in my house, so that was a big change to involve the other girls and to do it a little bit more traditionally with a week’s woth of time in a studio, playing predominantly live.

Did you guys have any ideas about what you wanted to do with the album going into the studio?

Yeah I always have very specific, pretty realized ideas of what I want songs in particular to sound like and then the album as a whole. This time the songs are still for the most part simple pop songs and I wanted them to keep that toughness and edge about them, but I also wanted to bring in a little bit more texture in terms of the guitars and just make it a bit more cerebral I guess.

Are there any themes that you were dealing with on the record?

It’s basically about a year of my life which was dominated by my mum being really ill and I was touring a lot, so it’s kind of just about balancing a couple of heavy things within the context of being pretty transient.

For people who aren’t familiar with your musical background, tell me a little bit about when and why you started writing music and how Dum Dum Girls came to be.

From a very early age I felt – not in an ego manaiacal way – I was meant to be a singer or a performer, despite being very very shy; it didn’t add up at that point. I grew up singing and devouring a lot of different kinds of music and I think when I became a teenager I remember I wrote songs in middle school but I didn’t play guitar and I didn’t really play piano; they were sort of a-typical songs. It wasn’t until I finally learned the guitar at 24 that I could write the songs that I’d always intended to write.

And then you formed Dum Dum Girls shortly after that?

Yeah I think only the first two songs I ever wrote didn’t turn into Dum Dum Girls songs; it was pretty immediate.

You guys have a pretty specific aesthetic and sound. What draws you to the nostalgic sound you’re creating?

Um I think like a lot of people when they write music I’m writing the music I would want to listen to myself, so I definitely pull from bands and genres that I enjoy and try to fit them together like a puzzle and have that colour my songs so I draw a lot from the sixties and seventies and at this point I think almost every decade has found its way into the music.

Part of that sound is that really jangly, sixties Californian sound. Is there something about that particular place that brings that out in artists, particularly at the moment? I’m interesting in how this sound is specific to a location…

I donno, it’s hard for me to answer that because I almost feel like I could do what I'm doing anywhere but at the same time I’m very much West Coast – maybe not in stereotypical ways. But I grew up in the Bay Area and listened to a lot of artists from California and a lot of that was what I heard first because my parents had very good taste in music. I can remember hearing The Beach Boys and Jefferson Airplane and Love or something and at least in my head picking out this California sound. I think people want to do that because it’s nice to romanticize the idea of California in a sound. I definitely think it’s in there but I don’t know it’s as all over Dum Dum Girls as other bands.

Tell me about your future plans with the band.

We are about to go to Europe and the UK for a month; three weeks with Dum Dum Girls and then my husband and I are doing an acoustic tour of Italy for a week after that. Then we are going to Australia and New Zealand and that’s at the end of the year and then we’re going to finalise what next year’s plans are but I’m assuming it’s going to involve hopping around the globe.

Does it feel like a surreal couple of years when you start to talk about spending 2012 ‘hopping around the globe’?

It definitely has been. I mean I’ve attempted to do music for probably six or seven years before Dum Dum Girls and I definitely failed for all of that time and so for me it’s really rewarding that the first time I sort of stepped out on my own with no real intention of making it my life was when I finally started getting some amazing opportunities. It’s completely surreal that we get to do this with our lives and I don’t forget that ever; the idea of getting to do this is almost as compelling as the drive to write songs.