Four ladies and fuzz
Lo-fi girl rock reaches zenith with Dum Dum Girls
Sacramento, CA 95816
What started as a simple home-recording project for Kristin Gundred, a.k.a. Dee Dee, back in 2008 is now a full-fledged all-ladies project, Dum Dum Girls: punk influences cradled in the arms of ’60s girl-group style, all nestled next to a lo-fi sound that bands like Vivian Girls helped make popular.
It didn’t take long for Dum Dum Girls to see their name all over every major online music-news outlet, and the band was signed to Sub Pop Records as of last summer.
Gundred had formerly fronted the punk group Grand Ole Party, and even toured with Rilo Kiley as a backup vocalist. Try asking her about any of her past work, however, and the answer you’re likely to get is “No comment,” despite the band’s moderate success supporting the aforementioned Rilo Kiley and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and a spot at Coachella. (Gundred actually deleted my original question regarding past bands and collaborations from her e-mail reply.)
But now is what matters: Dum Dum Girls’ debut full length, I Will Be, is loaded with talent. The band already features drummer Frankie Rose, who had previously worked with Vivian Girls and Crystal Stilts.
In addition, they enlisted Richard Gottehrer, who famously co-wrote the song “I Want Candy” and “My Boyfriend’s Back,” to produce the album. He’s also worked with Blondie and the Go-Go’s, and more recently with the Raveonettes (a band that shares a remarkably similar sound). The record also features a guest guitar spot from Nick Zinner of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs on the track “Yours Alone.”
“[Richard Gottehrer] has the perfect background for working with me,” explained Dee Dee; she sent e-mail responses while vacationing in France. “[He is] a pop songwriter who produced punk. He has amazing stories, but I’ll know more after his birthday party this week.”
Despite Frankie Rose’s presence in the band, Dum Dum Girls sound is not exactly the same as Vivian Girls. It seems that many people, particularly in the music-blog world, think that all indie-girl bands sound exactly the same. The mistake is understandable; both Vivian and Dum Dum girls have a lo-fi, garage-rock vibe featuring fuzzed-out guitars. Both feature all women. Both have a fashion sense that skews ’70s punk.
But there are two key differences: first, Dee Dee’s sultry and dominatingly feminine vocals; second, her Phil Spector songwriting style, as opposed to Vivian Girls more punk, three-chord approach.
Though Dee Dee has enlisted a full band—the aforementioned Rose on drums (who replaced original drummer Sandra Vu), and friends Jules and Bambi on guitar and bass, respectively—she began the project recording everything herself and has continued with a similar process on her major-label debut. So, in a sense, there really is only one Dum Dum Girl—until the touring begins. Dee Dee describes her live sound as “even bigger [than the album], vocals especially.”
The band just finished touring in Europe, and currently Dee Dee is relaxing before heading back to the states to begin a tour with her husband, Brandon Welchez, who fronts Crocodiles (who’ll play this Tuesday in Sacto with Dum Dum Girls and Chelsea Wolfe) and whose vocals can be heard on the I Will Be track “Blank Girl.”
“We’ve never toured together before, and I don’t know when we’ll get the chance to again,” Dee Dee said. “It’s so hard to coordinate.”
The name for the band—it has a sort of the Lone Rangers from Airheads quality, since Dee Dee is the only member most people know about—takes root from a number of influences, according to Sub Pop’s website, including the Vaselines’ album Dum-Dum and Iggy Pop’s song “Dum Dum Boys.”