This week marks the UK live debut of SoCal’s Dum Dum Girls, the solo project turned all-girl outfit fronted by Kristin Gundred – or Dee Dee as she’d prefer to be known – and “of course!” she’s excited to be hitting our shores, despite an earlier propensity for crippling stage fright. The moniker, which she adopted from the beginning of the Dum Dum Girls journey, is part of a semi-persona created to protect a rather shy individual from the on-display world of musicianship and ever-peering fandom. Her early online presence was marked by a desire to remain anonymous, and the very few pictures that surfaced made sure to obscure some of her face, a romantic, partial aloofness that gave her dreamy, lo-fi-ish punk a coveted, secretive aura.
Along with the bolstering stage name, Dee Dee has utilised that time-honoured tactic of stage dress-up as a way of creating/inducing a more confident onstage presence, and credits a host of strong, boldly-attired female legends such as Siouxsie Sioux and Marianne Faithfull as inspirational music/fashion idols: “I also do vocal warm ups that I learned in high school, drink tons of tea with honey, stretch, and zen out on my eyeliner.”
It’s a funny reference, since Dee Dee turns this cosmetic wand into a microcosmic war weapon in ‘Lines Her Eyes’, a Ronettes-style cut from her debut album I Will Be [review], to be released through legendary label Sub Pop next month. The playfully catty tune about copycat tactics and female rivalries is sorta deceiving since Dee Dee is unabashedly keen on supporting female artists, evident in her switch from solo status to the all-girl band she now tours with. Asked whether this female-centric move was intentional she remarks, “Yeah, absolutely”.
Among the band’s three additional members is ex-Vivian Girl Frankie Rose.“I met her through her old band, Crystal Stilts, and was a fan of hers from her Vivian Girls days,” says Dee Dee. “She’ s definitely a Dum Dum.” Dee Dee’s feminist vibes are backed up by an earlier quote – “I don’t think there will ever be enough women in music” – and she’s got an enthusiastic list of inspiring predecessors ready. “Patti Smith, Grace Slick, Siouxsie Sioux, Mary Weiss, Billie Holiday, Ronnie Spector, Hope Sandoval, Nico, Madonna. Courtney Love was a big deal to me when I was 12,” she remembers.
But unlike the grunge-bred of generation girls who picked up their Fenders in a haze of Live Through This fire, Dee Dee had been playing since a very young age. “I’ve been writing songs since I was a small child. I spent most of my teen years trying to learn the guitar but would become discouraged really quickly. I finally put in the little bit of necessary time to get over that initial muscle memory hump a few years ago.”
The press release for I Will Be describes the album as “a short tribute to love, fun and the classic pop form of the ’60s girl groups and early punk rockers,” a palette directly propelling much of the melodic, surfy garage of LA’s burgeoning lo-fi punk scene. Did Dee Dee’s love of these genres stem from the current movement directly or rather earlier influences? “Yeah, ’60s music in general was the first stuff I heard at a young age that really knocked me over. My mother had a small but perfect record collection of Jefferson Airplane, early Stones and Beatles, and my father had a collection of vocal groups from the late ’50s and early ’60s, girl group favourites Shangri-Las and Ronettes included. I heard the Ramones much later, but it had the same effect.”
Is she comfortable being considered part of the scene that the press attribute her to, or would she rather be seen as an artist unaffiliated with a particular group of bands? “I can see why outsiders lump me in sonically with that scene/sound, and I don’t mind, as long as it doesn’t limit me. I want to do this forever – being so entangled in a specific scene puts an expiration date on you.”
It’s an informed stance, backed up by the classic sounds of I Will Be, an album that pays homage to the best aspects of timeless genres while adding Dee Dee’s own, undeniably fresh originality. From sparkling pop to ’60s melodies and punk panache, the album thrills from end to end, and Dee Dee is still blown-away happy about drafting in legendary songwriter/producer Richard Gottehrer to manage it all; “I made a list of dream-producers, he topped it, and shockingly wanted to work together.”
She’s particularly proud of certain cuts on the LP. “I’m very fond of the ballad, ‘Rest of Our Lives’,” she admits, and it’s easy to see why. Presumably referencing her marriage to Brandon Welchez of Crocodiles, who pops up on the swayingly romantic duet ‘Blank Girl’, it’s a swooningly happy ode to commitment. She’s also happy with the title track, which she calls “a late bloomer favourite of mine.” It’s got a twanging surfabilly sound that owes to the lipstick pickups on her 1960s Silvertone guitar. “It came with the original amp-in-case. I found it on Craigslist after hunting for it a few months. It is really lightweight, which makes it easy to swing around, and has a great sound. It fits my aesthetic too.”
When she’s not touring, Dee Dee leads a rather peaceful, holistic lifestyle. “I play with Bebop (my cat), practice yoga, ride my exercise bike from the 80s, and hang out with my husband when he’s not writing/touring.” It’s a pretty picture of domestic contentment which tallies up with the glowingly fulfilled sunshine bliss of the album. Luckily for London though, Dee Dee has left the yoga mat at home and will be strumming waves of Silvertone magic across London stages right through to next week.
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Get high on reverb harmonies at one or all of the following dates:
26.02.10 The Lexington, London
27.02.10 The Rest Is Noise, Brixton, London
02.03.10 Madame JoJo’s, London
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