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Interview: Dum Dum Girls

Jasmine Phull chats to vocalist Dee-Dee about stage fright, her up-coming solo EP and audience stare-offs.

Jayne Robinson

Date published: 6th Aug 2010

Finally it seems like the girls are out in force, taking over the lofi boys club that has riddled our airwaves for more time then we’d care to mention.

Dum Dum Girls is LA quartet, Dee-Dee (vocals, guitar), Jules (guitar), Bambi (bass, vocals) and Sandy Vu (drums). It’s a harmony driven ensemble that have been pitted (by the media) against its contemporaries (see: Vivian Girls, Best Coast) due to the small yet undeniable fact that they are indeed all ladies.

Dum Dum Girls’ attitude comes straight out of 70s and 80s girl punk aesthetic, while their songs are sprinkled with bubblegum grit and one sturdy wallop. Unlike the Vivian Girls they include a l’il more of the sweet, where lyricist Dee Dee (ne Kristen Gundred) revels in her love of vocal harmony - something she may have picked up from childhood hero Mariah Carey.

Initially starting as a solo project by Gundred, Dum Dum Girls until recently stood atop a four-track EP that championed her love for the Ronettes, yet it was her catchy-as-hell melodies that got Sub Pop tracking her down on Myspace. It wasn’t until 2010, after the label’s March release of debut 'I Will Be', that the three joining members were called upon. When asked whether Dum Dum Girls is now a collective, Gundred hesitates, though confirms all four girls will be appearing on the second album. With no room for guitar solos, the songs are short and snappy; a track will command your attention and before you know it, it’s over. Dum Dum Girls are sweet and feminine yet have got the guts to leave you on a quick high. We talk to Dee Dee about stage fright, her up-coming solo EP and audience stare-offs.

You started in 2008 but didn’t bring out your debut until March this year. Was that a conscious decision?

You can’t really decide those things. There’s so much involved when you sign with a label. If I had put out the record out myself it could have come out in 2008, but because I was I was with Sub Pop it took longer. Though for me it was important that it came out at the right time.

How did your relationship with Sub Pop records happen?

They must have got a 7-inch through the record collector. I got a random email saying: You + Sub Pop = Fun? It was really surreal.

Was the album already finished before you signed with Sub Pop?

No. It was a collection of songs that I wrote between 2008 and 2010. I had a probably eight done then wrote a few more and was finally done by October 2010.

Your songs are on average quite short. Is that something you set out to do?

I don’t feel like I write songs that have room for guitar solos or instrumental parts because those aren’t the elements that are driving the songs. They are very vocally driven.

You were into Mariah Carey when you were younger. Do you see that at all influencing the Dum Dum Girls?

(Laughs).  Not so directly. She was on the list of singers whose style I tried to emulate when I was a child. Maybe I credit her somewhat for how my singing style turned out... but not a whole lot.

You started off as a solo artist and now are joined by a band. Will the second album feature all members' contributions?

That will be the second album thing.

Is Dum Dum Girls a collective?

Kind of. We still haven’t had time to figure it out. I’m still writing songs but I think that the way that they will be orchestrated in the future will be more collaborative.

You were in the choir at school? Was it something you were initially pushed into or was it your own decision?

I’ve known since I was 4 or 5 years old that I wanted to be a singer. I got pushed into playing the violin but ended up just sticking with singing.

What do you see when you’re performing on stage in front of a crowd?

Generally I try to stay really focussed. I always look for people that are into it, but it’s pretty important not to be dependant on it cause sometimes you have a pretty non-responsive crowd.

So you can see the people in the crowd?

Definitely. I make eye contact with people all the time!

So you’re not an elusive live artist?

I would probably be on the not very interactive side, but I definitely like to engage people: It’s more like a staring contest.

It’s been said that your stage dress-up is a way of creating a more confident onstage presence. How much truth is there to that?

It’s how you secure a cohesive look. It’s a whole package deal. I wanted to carry on that tradition of memorable aesthetics.

You played 1234 Festival at the weekend, you’re playing Cargo tonight. How are the UK audiences compared to the US?

We typically have a similar experience here as we do in the US. You have the kids that are really into it and you have your very reserved people but for me it’s cool that people show up. Obviously it’s a lot more fun when the audience goes off.

In terms of the second album: being with a label such as Sub Pop, are there any pressures on time?

Not at all. They’re pretty much open to whatever you want. I told them I had some new songs and they encourage me to record an EP. 

Interview by: Jasmine Phull