There’s really only one question that needs to be asked when talking about Los Angeles pop-punkers Dum Dum Girls. And, to me, that’s: How can you not like Dee Dee (aka Kristin Gundred) and her merry band of lady tricksters? I mean, really? A uniformly stylish, sassy, all-girl group that rocks it like they talk it, is influenced by the best that came before them and is fronted by an intelligent, confident, beautiful bandleader who has a knack for churning out jagged little pop nuggets of goodness? What the hell is not to like?
Not to mention that Dee Dee just happens to be married to Brandon Welchez of Crocodiles, one of San Diego’s very best musical exports at the moment. The Dum Dums also just dropped their second full-length, Only in Dreams, on Tuesday, and the album is a more complete and well-put-together effort than anything the band has done yet. Dum Dum Girls kick off their tour to support the new record with a two-night stand at the Casbah on Friday and Saturday, and as an added bonus for all of us who wouldn’t miss it, Crocodiles and a bunch of other like-minded musical hipsters will be in tow. I recently spoke with Dee Dee, who was with the band rehearsing in Los Angeles, about it all.
Scott McDonald: So you’re kicking off the tour in San Diego.
Dee Dee: Yes. It’s partially because my band lives in L.A., so our gear lives in L.A. It’s partially because I live in New York, so it’s convenient for it to end in New York. And then it has a lot to do with being on tour with Crocodiles, who are still essentially based out of San Diego at this point. For them, it’s a hometown show. We’ve never been a San Diego band in that sense, because we didn’t cut our teeth playing hometown shows there. But, obviously, I spent a lot of years in San Diego, and it feels nice to start there. I love the Casbah. I love [owner] Tim [Mays]. And we’re excited to start there for a lot of reasons, but we’ve been away for so long that it’ll be extra nice to see old friends.
SM: Last time we spoke, you were moving to San Francisco, and now you’ve completely flipped coasts.
DD: Brandon and I have always wanted to move to New York. It’s just such an intense move to make — physically moving your stuff across the country, as well as financially; it’s just so much harder to find a place. It’s always been so daunting to think about. You look at Craigslist and it’s “Listings With a Realtor” and “Listings Without a Realtor.” It’s kind of like, “Holy s—, this is complicated!” But San Francisco didn’t feel right. We both felt like we needed a fresh start, and we fell into a perfect place in New York. It was stress-free. We jumped on it, packed everything up and drove over.
SM: How are you liking it?
DD: I love it, but I am definitely a true West Coast girl. Maybe not for the obvious cliché reasons, but I am. It’s where I feel at home. San Francisco was my Mecca as a teenager, I went to school in Santa Cruz, and I just love California and those middle areas where you have the water and the mountains. That’s my paradise. But at the same time, I’ve always heavily romanticized New York. And every time I go there, I convince myself that I can feel it in the air. And whether or not that’s psychosomatic, I do feel an energy there that I love. We wanted to move to the city, and we were lucky enough to find an apartment on the Upper East Side that’s very Woody Allen. It’s very anonymous. It’s like a retreat. And it’s ideal to have that to go home to. You can tap into the crazy quite easily anywhere, but to have that to go home to is something that I value a lot.
SM: The new album just came out. What motivated the process this time?
DD: We always just strive to write really good pop songs. But I was listening to the Cure a lot, and that may not come out sonically so much as the songwriting from their earlier singles. It’s just absolute perfection. I was looking to make a record that had both pure, distilled pop songs but also expanded on our sound. And the fact that the girls were involved — and we did it as a live band — was very important as well. I always want each record to sound different and sound like a progression. Personally, that’s something very important.
SM: Enjoying the full-on group thing better than doing it all alone?
DD: We’ve been so busy and toured so much that we really became each other’s everything, and that finds its way into the music. For me to see how a song progressed from my demo-ed home recordings to a song we play together live every night, and to know it happened organically, to me, that was proof right there that it was of value to open up to more collaboration. While I still may be writing the songs, there is a lot of magic that can happen when you leave room for other people to show you what they can do.
SM: Please excuse the term, but this seems like your “slickest” record.
DD: Oh, definitely. It’s our slickest record. But if you’re going on a scale from 1 to 10, starting with the first things we put out, then it doesn’t have to be all that slick to make it that way. For me, it was a really great experience to have a professional level of equipment, fidelity and values. It actually allowed me to play more around with sound, the use of noise and effects.
SM: It really conjures up the Pretenders to me in a lot of ways.
DD: I love the Pretenders. They’re not a band I listen to on a regular basis, but Chrissie Hynde just has one of those standout voices, so any comparison there I take as a compliment. But, ultimately, my hope is to have my own version of that.
SM: Are you already working on the next thing?
DD: I’m always writing songs. But I’m not someone like Sune [Rose Wagner of the Raveonettes, who once again, along with Richard Gottehrer, produced the new album]. He’s such a prolific songwriter, but he has a certain “sound” worked out before he starts an album. I love that, and, to me, that’s really, really interesting. But I don’t work like that. It becomes self-evident after writing the songs, or I have ideas of where I want to make changes. But there should be an EP of what were going to be B-sides from this record coming out. We’ll see.
SM: Has to be pretty awesome to get to spend so much time with the hubby.
DD: I’m so happy. We get to spend the remainder of the year, and January, together. It’s just so far and few between to have so much time off, or so much time on together, that we’re really excited about it. Also, something that both bands value is the curation of an entire evening of music. These are our friends and bands we respect. It’s going to be a night that really reflects us, and that’s something we enjoy as fans, as well. I like going to a show that’s seamless, related and contextualized. Not only is it going to be good for us on this side of it, I think these shows will be good all the way around. It’s going to be a really good night of music.
First published by NBC San Diego on September 30, 2011