Interview With Dee Dee (Dum Dum Girls) Part 1.

5 05 2014

 

 

Interviewing bands is always going to be a strange thing for me, I can’t really explain why. However I doubt anything is going to top me interviewing Dee Dee from Dum Dum Girls in the toilets at the Scala in London last Thursday. I am greeted with an “I know you” and a smile as I am introduced to her, from others those three words could echo trouble. As in, “Oh shit, what have I done now.” I’m a shy mess at the best of times, but when I am in the presence of musicians I admire, I seem to be alright. I suppose it should be the other way, but it isn’t and I’m totally okay with it.

When I finished my interview I was left with a bunch of questions in my head that I wished I had asked her, but maybe some other time. For now, we’ll stick to our talk in the toilets sharing a little bit of Jameson I bought her.

Like a few bands I listen to and love, Dum Dum Girls are ideal to listen to when it is dark outside. They are a night-time band; a band that after you’ve wasted a sunny day indoors, you just stick on some Dum Dum Girls for the remainder of the evening and fall into the night-time. They recently played Coachella, and I think a few years ago at SXSW Alison Mosshart (The Kills) said playing in the daytime doesn’t really feel right, that their music is made for nighttime. I wanted to know what Dee Dee thought towards playing in uncomfortable and blistering heat and does it change anything about the music.

“It used to be much harder for us to translate to daytime, even to just outside. I think we now we have enough insulation that what we just try to bring it regardless of the setting, but it was difficult. The first weekend was a disaster for a few reasons. Superficially, the weather was a lot hotter so we had full sun on us on the stage and on our gear, so that creates visual problems. Jules’ pedal board, I don’t know if it overheated but it shorted so she lost her guitar in the first song, and it took half the set to figure out what it wasn’t. But I gave her my guitar, and our tech was running back and forth; and it wasn’t at all how I wanted it to go down. But, it was one of those weird things where I wasn’t initially that stoked it was a two weekend thing but we had another chance to redeem ourselves. But the second was much better, the weather was mild and we had no technical difficulties.”

A few weeks ago one of the greatest records ever made (The Stone Roses debut) turned 25; they only made 2 full length records but they have influenced many of the bands that I listen to (including Dum Dum Girls) and are easily one of the best bands from Manchester, and England in general. The laid-back and dreamy sound on their debut record is felt in many records that I own and is in the music I listen to. 25 years is a long time and in that time many bands have emerged that stated that The Stone Roses’ record made them start a band. With this in mind, I asked Dee Dee how she would like Dum Dum Girls to be remembered in 25 years time. However, we just ended up talking about how much we love the band instead.

“I don’t know, I hope it survives. That Stone Roses is in my Top 10 for sure. That record reminds me of the first time we came to England, I was doing a ton of promo, and this isn’t a cool story! But I was doing the promo and somebody asked me what my favourite record was, and at the time I was on a massive Stone Roses kick, which is probably my second kick that I had with them because I’m kind of cyclical like that. And I said the first Stone Roses record, and I guess because I have a super Californian accent, when I read the interview later it said (and she does a hilariously exaggerated Californian accent at this point!) ‘The first Guns N Roses record!’ And that’s 100% opposite direction, but I wear a leather jacket so nobody noticed, but it was funny.”

 

 

From an influential band to a woman who kick-started a love for music in so many. Last year, Dee Dee and her husband Brandon (Crocodiles) met Patti Smith in New York. If you’ve seen the photo, you’ll have seen the sheer joy in their faces. Patti has a beautiful child-like glow about her that just transpires into those who meet her. Pretty cool that Brandon is wearing a Patti shirt too. Meeting your heroes always stays with you, and afterwards everything just seems like a daze for days on end. I’ve read a few times where Dee Dee has named Patti as one of her main influences, and is possibly one of the main reasons she makes music. I wanted to know what it was like for her to meet Patti. I’m fairly sure she was a lot cooler than I was and didn’t cry at the sight of her.

“It probably happens to her all the time, poor woman. But we were at a vegan restaurant called Souen which is, I believe in the neighborhood she lives in. And we were meeting Sandy and her boyfriend, and they were really late because they had accidentally gone to the other location of the restaurant so, Brandon and I were killing time and we see her (Patti) walk by and we were like ‘Oh my God!’ so we run outside, or we start to! We get up from our table, and we realise she is about to come into the restaurant so we quickly abandon that and sit back down like children. And the hostess saw what we did and assumed she was who we were waiting for and so tried to seat her with us! And we were like ‘Oh no no! We’re just fans! We just wanted to say hi!’ She was really complimentary and really sweet. And Brandon happened to be wearing a Patti Smith t-shirt, and she said something like, ‘Oh I wish I was wearing a shirt with your face on!’ And so she went to sit down. We then all sat down and said, ‘We HAVE to get a picture.’ And she gets up to leave whilst Brandon is in the restroom, and Sandy gets up and runs out, kind of on Brandon’s behalf to see where she goes and runs back in. And by that time Brandon has come out, and we’re like ‘She left! What do we do?!’ And without stopping Brandon jets out of the restaurant and sprints down the walk, so then I’m chasing him and Sandy is chasing me, and then Brandon says ‘Wait I should stop, this is creepy!’ So we slowly mosey up and totally interrupt whatever normal day she is trying to have, and Sandy selflessly takes a photo of us with her. I recently saw her perform for the first time, although it wasn’t a standard Patti Smith show. It was poetry tribute night that she did. I was still blown away by that. And I think we may be playing a festival with her in New York, not necessarily on the same day but I’ll be there for sure.”

As someone who is fixated on lyrics and the thought process behind them, and I guess this all comes from my love for the likes of Lou Reed, Patti and Morrissey- I had to ask Dee Dee what lyric or song of hers she is the most proud of. She has written some of the most beautiful and haunting lyrics I’ve heard in a long time. The words to Coming Down will always break yet comfort me. Rest Of Our Lives is one of the most gorgeous love songs I’ve ever heard, and more recently- Trouble Is My Name is a song that really gets to you. Her way with words is gentle and the way she sings them really does reinforce the importance of them.

“I don’t know. I guess I have hard time with being that objective about things. I never feel like I write as good as I should. Especially when you have a bar you know, I’m an open Patti Smith worshipper. I go back and I read lyrics or poems of writers that I love, just to keep me in that no filler. There’s a time and a place for your Ramones and your Beatles-esque. When you can articulate something in a simple yet beautiful, compelling way – it is so moving, and she’s (Patti) a classic example. Rowland S Howard, he’s another person who I became obsessed with, his Teenage Snuff Film album. I started listening to it closely and just being massively blown away with how well written it was. End Of Daze I felt there were a few moments I was proud of. I’m in a rare spot where I don’t hate the record that I’m promoting. Not that I hate my records, but sometimes you get too close but I really enjoy playing the new record, and on the last tour it was really fun. I’m pretty proud of it.”

Her somewhat shyness towards just how talented she is, is what makes you love the music she makes and more importantly makes you believe in it. Before Dee Dee started Dum Dum Girls, she was in Grand Ole Party where she sang and played the drums. I’m always in awe of those who can sing and drum at the same time. I’m fairly sure I’d never be able to do it. I’d probably think the drumstick was the mic and use the mic as a drumstick. I guess there’s a frustrated drummer brewing inside of me, with the urge to always tap away at a surface with anything that looks like it can make any noise. So I took this opportunity to ask Dee Dee which is more difficult out of singing and drumming, and also singing and playing the guitar.

“It’s awkward but it is easy. It’s just mechanical. It was physically harder (playing the drums) but I was probably in better shape from it. But when I played the first Dum Dum Girls show, I was too nervous to play guitar so I just sang. So for me, playing the guitar was a lot harder because I was much more a novice at it. Now I’m pretty comfortable with it. But now I put the guitar down more and sing, so I get to do that again!”

Anyone who goes to their live shows now will see Dee Dee move around more on stage without a guitar in her hands; and the way she moves on stage is like a wild cat on the prowl. Offstage, she is nothing like that- but the passion for music is still there. She, and the rest of Dum Dum Girls are a delight to see perform live, and to see the songs really come to life. I was going to type up the whole interview in one go, but I’m doing it in a couple of parts.

The next part of my interview will include things about Zoo Music, how they signed the brilliant Gäy to the label, what she wants fans to take from their live shows/records, how Haunted Hearts record Initiation was written, what influenced it and how Dee Dee goes about writing songs.

 





DUM DUM GIRLS/CROCODILES. Scala. 1st May 2014.

3 05 2014

 

Live music is a powerful thing; seeing your two favourite bands live on the same night is truly something else. You don’t always think it will happen, but when it does you immediately feel part of something. And as an unsure and uncomfortable 27-year-old, I can safely say that music makes me feel part of something. I’m not sure what, but it’s just me and some music. I guess it’s not really anything at all, but we cling onto what we have because we’ve been without for so long.

Before the show I interviewed Dee Dee in the toilets backstage and we shared some whiskey. I’ll write it up over the weekend, when I feel like I am able to do so. It’s one thing to have a quick photo with a band you admire but it goes beyond words when you get to talk to them for half an hour about their music, Patti Smith amongst other things. I’ve spent part of today wishing I had asked Dee Dee some other things, but maybe next time. Who knows.

Both bands are very dear to me, and to finally see them live together was a beautiful experience. Crocodiles set was just Charlie and Brandon, just like how they first started. I never got to see them live as a duo, so this was really special. What did it for me was Jet Boy Jet Girl, a cover song originally done by Elton Motello. The song oozes sexual decadence and sinister wit, themes which sometimes flow through songs by Crocodiles. A brilliant cover and sounds even better live. They even played one of my favourites from Sleep Forever; Hollow  Hollow Eyes. Their shows as a duo is equally as passionate and as bold as it is with a full band, and for me it was a pleasure to witness live as I fell in love with their sound back in 2009 when they were still performing as a duo. It was honestly like falling in love with your favourite band all over again. I’m fairly sure I could have worded it better, but if you were there and you love them as much as I do- then you’ll know exactly what I mean.

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Watching Charles play the guitar is totally mesmerising, he just makes you wish you could hold a guitar and play it in the most brutal way possible. Throw Brandon’s haunting voice in there, and you’ve got a solid duo that have a sound that towers over the mundane shit you are exposed to. Crocodiles music really comes to life when you see them live. They are quite simply, a band you’ve got to see live. Brandon and Charlie make you want to find a like-minded individual and make your own noise; it’s never too late. Remember that. It’s so good to see both of them lose themselves in the music; Charles throws his guitar about and Brandon gloriously flails his limbs on stage. I just love their sound.

photo 1*My photo but not my hand.

I don’t know where to begin when writing about Dum Dum Girls, but they take to the stage and open with the gripping Mine Tonight. End Of Daze was (and of course still is) a truly beautiful EP. An EP that makes you want more and more from the band, but is also the perfect way to follow-up on previous releases. The setlist from their Scala show was nothing short of perfect; from the enthusiasm that echoes throughout Bedroom Eyes to the sheer romanticism flowing through Rest Of Our Lives. What I adore about Dum Dums is that when you see them live, you really do witness a band that love what they do, and of course, they love each other. The thing Dee Dee wanted the crowd to take from this show (and the rest of the tour) is love. Love for each other, for their fans and for what they do. As you watch them on stage each of them fall into the music in their own way. Malia moves freely on the stage with the bass, Sandy beats the shit out of the drums and leaves you in awe of how someone can play like that, Andrew sways at the back in an angelic fashion (and has beautiful hair), Jules smiles at the crowd as she sees those who are really feeling the songs and Dee Dee prowls the stage like a wild cat. Each of them lure you in with their sheer passion for what they do. If you don’t love what you do, then don’t do it.

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Like Crocodiles, Dum Dums are a band I would (and won’t) ever grow tired of seeing live. The way the songs come to life on stage is enough to make you have a little cry. I’m not ashamed to admit I got teary eyed during Are You Okay (it’s the “I’m reckless at night, I’m sorry for days”line that really hits me in the heart) and of course, the last song of the night Coming Down does something to me that not many songs do. Anyone who has heard this song knows which part exactly that does something to them. As soon as Dee Dee hits that high note, you feel weak but also a wave of strength hits you. Coming Down is a song I turn to when everything just seems askew, and to finally witness it live and to sing it back to the band is a gorgeous experience. If you’re going to do a review of a show, you might as well put your all into it. I really don’t get why you wouldn’t. I wish I had the money to have gone to more than one show, because they really are one of the strongest bands I have seen live. To see them lose themselves in the music and to bring it all to life is nothing short of inspirational.

photo 1(1)*Again, not my hands!

One thing I have noticed (okay so I’ve only seen them twice) is that those who attend a Dum Dums show make for a lovely crowd. There is no dickish or loutish behaviour. People are there for the most important thing; the music and the love for it.

photo 3(1)