A brief history of Dum Dum Girls and their fearless leader, Dee Dee.
Act I (2010): The Dum Dum Girls help popularize the throwback girl-group sound, along with acts like Vivian Girls and Best Coast. They do this with a nostalgic nod to both California pop and the black leather early-punk.
Act II (2011): The mother of founding member/lead singer Dee Dee (you may know her as the woman on the cover of the I Will Be ) passes away, ushering in the darker sounds that carry Only in Dreams and earn it critical acclaim.
Act III (2012): Dee Dee moves to N.Y. and — wait, WTF? New York? Really?
We caught up with Dee Dee prior to rejoining her L.A.-based bandmates for upcoming shows at the Echoplex tonight and the Getty Center tomorrow, Saturday, May 19. We spoke on geography, existential lit., cat shit and what the move might mean for Act (and album) III.
So you left us and moved to New York, huh?
I did — about a year ago. Truth be told, I haven't been here most of the year, so it still feels pretty new…. I've always wanted to live in New York and always romanticized the idea of it, and I've found it's pretty much exactly what I hoped it would be.
Your sound — on the first record especially — has certain pop associations that are tied to California. Do you think the move will change that?
I don't think I ever really considered it at any point. Obviously, the environment affects how you write, what you write about, the color of the songs — but I don't know if it was as big a factor as people like to think…. I suppose when I start putting out music that I've written here, I'll read about whether or not it sounds like New York or California [laughs]…. What really influences me the most are the things I'm reading and the things I'm listening to. So that could be anywhere, in any city.
So, what are you reading and listening to?
I've been listening to a lot more shoegaze in the last couple of months. For me, that comes when I travel. I get very into specific sounds when traveling. I listen to a lot of Krautrock too. It's not that it's soothing, but there's something about that kind of music that's easy to get lost in and pass time with.
[Intermission: “Hold on. My cat's kinda being a bitch. He likes to take shits on things in my room — go, go, go…. Where were we?”]
You were talking about music and books.
Right. I think what I have in my suitcase now is House of Incest, The Lost Weekend. I just started re-reading The Stranger in bed last night…. I've always been a very big reader. I'm more of a social person now, but not by much. So that's how I would keep myself company as a kid. I've always found a lot of solace in books…. I read a lot of poetry, now more than ever.
Only in Dreams was obviously a super-personal record. Did you approach its writing, maybe, as something akin to poetry?
Yeah, there was a similar release to it…. There was just no room for anything in my head — and that had to go somewhere. It's funny because it's really the opposite of the first record…. I just mastered a new EP that will be out soon-ish, and to me that feels like the nail on the coffin and the door from out of that misery house. I feel a great sense of relief knowing that what I write about from now on isn't going to be so chained to a very specific era of my life. And that to me is great because, God — can I not write about [my mother's death] anymore, please?! [Laughs.]
You say, “nail on the coffin.” Do you mean a final word on that theme, or the first departure from it?
It's both. It's the transition…. However cliché it may sound, [the EP] really sounds like the end of that dark period and the ushering in of something a little clearer.
To go back to New York — is the city that clearing space for you? You've mentioned your shyness. Does the city let you open up and heal in a way?
That shyness has just matured into a nice social awkward anxiety. [Laughs.] It's really good though. I get to spend a lot of time on my own. I'm cheesy enough to go outside a little bit stoned and walk around and think, “This is just awesome….” I mean, I have friends here, but I'm a true loner at heart, so I just go out and do things on my own and that makes a lot more sense here. New York's so big though, so it also makes you lonely at the same time. But what are you going to do? You have to live somewhere.