In the past two years, California's Dum Dum Girls has transformed from a one-woman home-recording project into an indie-rock contender. After several well-received independent releases, the band stepped up to join Sub Pop in 2010. The resulting album, I Will Be, was full of dark pop hooks and seemed to be somewhat of a continuation of the guitar-and-drum-machine dynamics of the earlier indie releases. However, Dum Dum Girls' new release, the He Gets Me High EP, marks a sea change. Once again co-produced by the legendary Richard Gottehrer (responsible for classic albums by Blondie and the Go-Go's), its four songs — including an amped-up cover of the Smiths' "There Is a Light That Never Goes Out" — simply brim with hooks and confidence.
And if He Gets Me High sounds like a transitional record, that's the way Dum Dum Girls lead singer/songwriter Dee Dee envisioned it. "I consider it a halfway point between the fuzzy home recordings and making a pop album," she says via phone while preparing for the band's first headlining tour. "Everything we've been working up to, I feel like it's finally culminating."
B-Sides: You played in St. Louis with your prior band, Grand Ole Party. Do you have any memories of the experience?
Dee Dee: I believe it was raining. I think I got a haircut and then got really upset because it rained. [Laughs] But I'm looking forward to visiting again this tour.
The first thing I noticed, hearing the new songs, was how much fuller the sound was. Was the approach different going into this batch?
I still demo songs the same way. I Will Be was essentially a polished version of my demos. I could have easily put out the songs from He Gets Me High in that same way, and they would have sounded similar. But I'm very aware that I've maxed out, at a certain point, what I'm capable of doing by myself. So for the EP, I went for the full studio experience. We tracked everything real quickly over three or four days. But it was different in terms of production values because we were using mics and amplifiers and an actual bass instead of a guitar pre-amped to sound bassy. There was a lot more control over the raw sound we captured. The mixing was pretty drastically different from what I'm able to do on my own with my laptop or four-track. I was really happy to take that trip because I didn't want to put out anything else that sounded like I Will Be.
You produced with Richard Gottehrer again, correct?
Yes, and we also brought in Sune [Rose Wagner] from the Raveonettes. They're best friends and a really interesting team. Richard obviously has the ideal past experience for someone like me, who reveres that golden era of songwriting but also embraces early rock & roll and the pop/punk stuff like the Ramones. He's had his finger in all of that. But Sune helped solidify that it would also have a lot of teeth. He has ultimate control and knowledge of how to assign an abrasive sound into something beautiful.
You've toured with the Vaselines. Given that they were part of the inspiration for your name, that must have been a thrill.
Yeah! We had to cancel the majority of that tour, but the shows we were able to play with them were phenomenal. It was a trip to see and hear the songs. They still sounded like what you'd expect. They were cool people to meet. Now I just need to play with Iggy Pop and Talk Talk, and the whole name thing will be complete!
Is that the case for your bandmates as well? What do you listen to in the van?
We definitely have different things that we bring to the sound, but we have the same basic core of what we consider great music. Bambi, our bass player, she's a huge Dolly Parton/Linda Ronstadt fan, that style of female country-rock. I bring in a lot of weird dream-pop '80s British stuff. Sandy is totally into all varieties of psych. And Jules was a riot grrrl. It all works really well together.