In the first part of my interview with Dee Dee from Dum Dum Girls we talked about her husband, Brandon chasing Patti Smith down a street, being misquoted as saying Guns N Roses were an influence and their performance at this year’s Coachella festival.
If you’ve ever been lucky enough to see Dum Dum Girls live, you will more thank likely leave the show a bigger fan than you were beforehand. It isn’t just Dee Dee that has a gorgeous stage presence; each band member during the live shows seems to be lost in their own world. They jolt their bodies at the same time during certain parts of songs, they all leave you wishing you could play an instrument and more importantly they leave you wanting a more. A good band can put on a solid show, but a great band will leave you thinking of ways to get money to catch the next date on their show. There are a few bands I could happily watch perform live for the rest of time; Dum Dum Girls are in that list for sure. I’m just going by their London shows I’ve seen them at, but their fans are really part of what makes a show. If you can ignore the perverse men in the front row taking equally perverse photos, then you’ll have a good time. Personally I feel if we see someone doing this at a show, we should be allowed to stamp on their camera. Anyway, before I get all mad or whatever let’s just carry on with the interview.
Staying with the live shows, I asked Dee Dee what she would want fans to take from their shows; whether it be the first or tenth time they have seen them live. A live performance can make you gain or lose fans, and sometimes people are less forgiving for a poor live performance. Of course if you have seen the band live you will know what to expect and that’s why you keep going back.
“It depends on the depth of the fan, I think. People who have seen us before and enjoy us, and I think get what we do there’s a different exchange going on than maybe say someone who heard a song somewhere and come to see us. It’s always heartbreaking for me, when someone of course tweets at me, ‘What a boring show. They never move!’ There are so many kinds of performance, we’re not that kind of crazy or out there. We’re not The Who or something! I guess I just hope that there’s an understanding of sincerity. I think we try to perform, we try to entertain in our way.”
I did say to Dee Dee if someone wants to see someone dance around or whatever then they should probably go see Beyoncé or someone. I told her it is obvious you can tell that they love what they do, and if you feel the need to really jump about for no reason on stage then maybe you’re over compensating for something. Take Morrissey for example; he can just stand in the centre of the stage and sing for about 70 minutes, and the fans will leave feeling as if they have witnessed something truly life changing. It’s not all about pointless dance routines and stage talk. It is about how you perform the songs, and you really cannot fake that. Coming Down is back in their set, and you can just really feel the meaning of the song come through when Dee Dee performs it. I’m not ashamed to admit I cried, the song means everything to me. I was standing close to the smoke machine too so….But you can really pick up on the sincerity of the performance from them.
Alright so this month, Dee Dee and Brandon are putting out their record as Haunted Hearts. It’s called Initiation and it’s out on Zoo Music (their label.) It is a bloody good record that is entirely different from what they do in their respected bands. Yet they manage to still bring to the record that familiar sound that lured you into Crocodiles and Dum Dum Girls. Their voices together are beautiful. If you’ve listened to the likes of Blank Girl and Merry Christmas Baby (Please Don’t Die) then you will have heard how well their voices sound together. Initiation has a delicate yet debauched sound and will sit nicely amongst any music fan’s collection.
“We wrote the first two songs that came out as singles last year were written much more collaboratively. It was new territory for both of us. I’m really protective when I’m writing songs, and he is a little bit less because him and Charlie work together but it was still the sort of thing like, ‘Can you leave? Can you go somewhere while I figure out if this is good or not.’ And vice versa. And so it took a lot longer with the remainder of the songs. It’s fun to sit and write together, and for me it was a really new thing so it was cool and I think 4 of the songs were written so collaboratively that I can’t remember who did what, so that’s cool. 1 of them was a weird song that I had written as I suppose, for Dum Dum Girls but never really figured out how to translate and so, made so much more sense and felt like it was waiting for this band really, which was Johnny Jupiter. Then the last song, Bring Me Down which I would say, feels more like a Brandon song than a me song. The interesting thing about that song is that, he and I had written almost identical songs, like the instrumentation was the same and so what we ended up doing was his verses stayed, and I think I wrote lyrically an additional verse using his melody and we then adapted the chorus I had written for my version of the song. And for the bridge we sang over each other because both parts worked.”
It meant a lot to have Dee Dee talk about Bring Me Down as it is my favourite off the Haunted Hearts record, I’m a fan of songs that go over 4 minutes and take you into a different world. Their vocals really work well on this song. You’ve got Brandon’s delicate voice (listen to All My Hate And Hexes to get my point) and you’ve got fragility coming through in Dee Dee’s voice. It’s the perfect song to end the record on, and if they tour this record I hope they put this in their set because it is just a joy to listen to, and to have on repeat.
Initiation has a constant spacey feel to it. You feel as if you’re on a Spiritualized kick when you listen to it. As someone who has never touched drugs, this record does feel like a lucid trip that you don’t want to come down from. Music always gives you that pure high that you can’t find in anything else. Your favourite record will always give you that life affirming buzz that you can’t get elsewhere, and I wanted to know what influenced this record as it is unlike Dum Dum Girls and Crocodiles and what feel they were going for when making the record.
“With the first two singles we put out, it was what you would expect. But when we remixed them after we recorded the rest of the album, when we started recording we knew what we wanted to do something different. We knew our references were not going to be guitar music, for the most part. I didn’t play guitar at all; I played synth and he plays guitar, and it’s all drum machine. We wanted to reference, like a lot of the reasons why we love Spacemen 3. And like with Spiritualized, just really lush synth stuff and very groovy bass-lines. You know like, a nod to Motown. Just groovy. I don’t know if it’s trippy weed music or what but, that stuff that really sparkles I think is what we were looking for. We were looking to make dance music that was beautiful, I think. Although I wouldn’t necessary quote me- you can ask him!”
Initiation is a record that you can let your limbs go wild and loose to; it’s got a really freeing feel to it that will make the shyest of dancers jolt and jig in the privacy of their own home.
Zoo Music isn’t just home to their record and Dirty Beaches last release; a few weeks back they put out a record by Denmark’s Gäy. They are teenagers who play like they have just been thrown out of CBGBs for being too young and too wasted. They’ve got a real Television sound going on, and knowing how young they are and how well they play is pretty damn awesome. I wanted to know how they got hold of the band and why (although by listening to them it is fairly obvious) they wanted to work with them.
“They played a show with Crocodiles that no one went to in Copenhagen, and that’s how Brandon knew them. He was obsessed with them, he was like, ‘They’re crazy, they look like murderers!’ The bass player was filming the set on stage. They’ve got Television personalities. They’re great, but I haven’t met them yet. I think they’re really cute and little and Brandon was like, ‘They’re really intense!’ “
Something I’m really interested in is how a band/singer write their songs and how they want their music to be found or heard. When you start off writing something in your cramped room and it then becomes the soundtrack to many people’s lives, is there really a better feeling than that? Dee Dee’s way with words reminds me of how Patti and Shirley Manson write. Careful, simple but extremely effective. You can put Morrissey amongst them also. The best songs are to the point and don’t sugarcoat the ugly feelings we try to hide.
“Usually I have the theme or the chorus; not a catchphrase but the thing that sort of enforces the rest of the song. I usually have that in mind beforehand, and I sit down and I kind of just make something up as I’m writing a verse and once I’ve written the other parts musically, I’ll go back and be more aware of what I’m writing. But it generally just starts kind of free association and I go back to try to refine it. But I do spend a lot of time making sure it is worth being said, at least that’s my intention.”
“If somebody could have a ‘headphone moment’ with a Dum Dum Girls song that would be cool because that’s the kind of fan that I am. You know, having mini life-defining moments while listening to Spiritualized or Brian Eno or something and be like ‘Oh my God! It’s all coming together right now!’ It’s a lofty goal but I hope that sonically it’s enjoyable and I hope that there’s substance that’s observable.”
Towards the end of the interview we talked about having a family feel on tour with regards to the bands they have on tour with them. This tour they have Crocodiles and Vorhees who is also their sound engineer (and was getting changed in the toilets whilst I was interviewing Dee Dee; her shoes are as amazing as her music.) Having that kind of environment on tour, regardless of even how different the support act are makes everything easier. When you see people in the crowd booing a support act or standing looking bored, it’s rude really. We discussed that, that attitude needs to go.
“When you go see a show and it’s cohesive, not necessarily 3 bands that sound the same but there’s a wave to the evening that’s enjoyable and there’s different things highlighted, that to me is how you have a successful show. Not like, ‘Oh my God I’m waiting for the headliner.’ Can we just stop and enjoy the evening. So when I’m trying to find bands to take on tour, there’s always this issue. I just ask bands that I love , and we then figure out if it can work. We just took Blouse on tour in the State, I’ve asked them for years but it never worked out. We just had the best time, and Jules fell in love with their drummer, and they’re still together. It’s everything that could go right on tour went right. It was so lovely. I don’t follow a lot of press, but a lot of the stuff that I did read made note of it being an enjoyable pairing. That we were different but complimentary. The fact that Charlie is such a stunning front-woman, and has this amazing voice and we’re both different in the way we perform but worked. If we take a band on tour, you’ll always see Jules and I out there watching, but on this last tour I saw so many funny photos of us in the wings. Somebody filmed us trying to make Blouse laugh from the side of the stage!”
I ended the conversation telling Dee Dee about a video I saw of Crocodiles online where someone has just filmed her dancing to the band rather than filming the band. Put the camera/phone down, and just enjoy the show!
It was an absolute pleasure to spend a half hour with Dee Dee and just talking about music. She’s got a beautiful spirit that you really pick up on when you talk to her. She makes music that you can truly believe in, and you can’t ask for more than that.