Interview: Dum Dum Girls

In 2009, it became apparent that Brooklyn was the official hotbed of left-field American indie-rock. Bands like Animal Collective, Grizzly Bear, The Antlers and Dirty Projectors all released landmark albums which firmly established the borough as the most exciting musical hub in the US, if not the world. However, with bands such as Warpaint and Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti releasing phenomenal breakthrough albums last year on big indie labels, and Girls releasing a serious contender for Best Album of 2012 already, in the form of Father, Son, Holy Ghost, is the indie-rock onus shifting from East coast to West?

We caught up with Kristen Gundred (AKA Dee Dee Penny), front lady of Californian indie-pop group Dum Dum Girls, to discuss whether she identifies her band with the current booming LA indie scene as well as to chat about the release of their new album, Only In Dreams, released towards the end of this month.

One Note Forever: Good afternoon Dee Dee! Firstly, delving into the history of Dum Dum Girls, it began as a solo project of yours which has since blossomed over the years into a four-piece, how did the other girls come to being on board?
Dee Dee Penny: It started purely as a recording project, documenting some of the first songs I’d written and figuring out how I wanted them to sound, mainly recorded on an acoustic guitar and by a strange chain of event I managed to land a record deal. So basically, having spent the last ten years failing at music, I decided that the opportunity had to be taken and for it to progress effectively it didn’t seem right to maintain it as a solo recording project.

OMB: So how does that compare now between working on your own and working as a band?
DDP: It’s great. Not a lot has changed; it’s now a case of more being added to it. I still write very much in the same way as before and put out songs which sound quite similar to the first record and early demos, but now there are more steps; teaching it to the girls and being a bit more collaborative in general.

OMB: So had you played with other bands before?
DDP: I’ve played in lots of bands. They were never my bands though, I was always playing somebody else’s songs, playing drums or whatever. It took my all that time, eight or nine years, to realise that all the frustration, dissatisfaction and compromise came from not playing with the right people.

OMB: A bit of a blessing that you find these guys in the end then?
DDP: Yeah, it was a really liberating moment to play everything that I liked and doing my own thing. Having those guys being so receptive and positive about the songs was really flattering and encouraging, especially towards the beginning.

OMB: So the new album, Only In Dreams, is out towards the end of the month. What can the fans expect to be different compared to the debut, I Will Be?
DDP: I would hope that people have listened to the EP which sort of closes the gap between the two as it’s quite a big leap between the two LP’s sonically, the first record was more punky whereas the new album is much poppier. But, my songs all sound like my songs to me on an acoustic guitar. But, who knows, maybe I’ll slip in a fifth chord.

OMB: That extra chord can certainly go a long way!
DDP: Yeah I’ve just learnt some bar chords! I guess what I’m trying to say is that we’re a full band now and the record certainly reflects that. I think we sound like we’ve grown up.

OMB: You clearly take a lot of love and care with your lyrics as well, what’s been the driving lyrical influence for the new songs?
DDP: The great divide between what you have and what you want and there are many different ways how that can play out. That one significant thing that you wish you had but you don’t, only in your dreams are they attainable.

OMB: On your last EP, Get Me High, you covered The Smiths song ‘There Is A Light That Never Goes Out’ and on your new single, ‘Bedroom Eyes’, there was something of the Johnny Marr about those opening guitar bars. Has Morrissey had a big effect on you as a songwriter, ever felt compelled to write songs about how evil KFC is?
DDP: Oh wow! That’s a compliment! Johnny Marr is such a great guitarist and I’m a huge Smiths and Morrissey fan.

OMB: I almost don’t trust anyone who isn’t.
DDP: Yeah, it’s pretty weird when you meet them. They are such a big source for inspiration but I think I’ll leave the politics to them.

OMB: It seems that LA is producing some really great indie bands at the moment, are there any undiscovered LA gems that we need to know about?
DDP: Well, I don’t live in LA anymore so I’m not terribly aligned with any of the city scenes, but I love a lot of bands from the area. I don’t know if you remember Mika Miko who were like to “ying” to No Age’s “yang”. But the two sisters from Mika Miko are now in a band called Bleached.

OMB: So you say you don’t really identify yourself with the LA music scene, is there any particular scene you think you do fit into?
DDP: People like to affiliate us with the California sound, but when I started I didn’t have a band, I didn’t play shows with a home-grown band in that regard. We played our first show in New York. I align us with bands who I want to go on tour with, my favourite bands, my husband’s band. I guess it’s kind of rootless in that respect. There are bands in San Diego who I love, bands in London I love, bands in New York who I love. It’s specific to the band, not the city.

OMB: So aside from the upcoming album release tour, any other big plans on the horizon?
DDP: I assume we’ll spend the spring on tour and when probably try and, although it can be bit of a crapshoot, we’d love to come and play some summer festivals in the UK.

Only In Dreams is released on 26th September courtesy of Sup Pop and will tour the UK this November including dates in Manchester, Newcastle, Leeds, Wrexham and London.