Dum Dum Girls

Dum Dum Girls (Lauren Dukoff photo)

Reverb-drenched recordings are a hallmark of the modern indie rock sound. The Dum Dum Girls are no exception, but unlike so many of their peers, they truly own their production style, in a focused, non-arbitrary way — like they spent more time studying Phil Spector’s output than to anything that’s come out of Brooklyn in the past decade. And with good reason. Front woman Kristen “Dee Dee” Gundred is the brains behind the project. When the band began, it was just her, alone in her bedroom, writing songs. Growing up in California, she was a ‘60s garage rock kind of girl whose parents raised her on acts like The Supremes, Sinatra, The Beach Boys and the Ronettes. Take the songwriting and pop sensibilities from that classic ‘60s era, and then add some proto punk/punk/new wave flavors that nod to Ramones, Patti Smith, Mazzy Star and The Smiths (they do an endearing cover of “There is a Light That Never Goes Out”), and you’ll get an approximation of the Dum Dum Girls sound.

“I’m a bit of a hermit, so in lieu of going out or being social in any capacity I would just get stoned and drink a lot of coffee and write and demo songs,” Dee Dee says. “I was playing in other bands and I had a job, and this is what I’d do when I got home from work. It was without much intention and it took quite a while for me to show it to anybody. And then there was a weird thing where someone in New York heard it, and then someone in Chicago heard it, and then all of a sudden I had two seven inches. It was strange and exciting for someone who had tried to play music in that way for so many years unsuccessfully, to have that experience right off the bat the first time I had done everything for myself.”

Despite the stone-faced stage persona that totally conjures visions of the girls that danced behind Robert Palmer in the “Simply Irresistible” video, Dee Dee is chatty, warm and personable on the phone.

“When you start something, it’s untouched and it has nothing to do with anybody with yourself,” she says. “Fast forward three years, and there’s so much else going on in addition to still wanting to be the person that writes and records songs. There’s so much other shit, it can get a little overwhelming, and I think it’s crucial to figure out how to navigate away from the business side of things and just hold on to why you started what you started.”

There’s no acting when it comes to Dee Dee’s music. It’s all very real. And that’s a major part of her appeal: Unapologetic honesty. Lyrically, last year’s release Only In Dreams dealt with intensely personal topics, like her mother’s recent death and the pain of geographical separation from her husband, another touring musician (Brandon Welchez of Crocodiles).

In contrast to the dark times that inspired the record, however, she’s also stumbled upon some extraordinary good musical karma, signing to Sub Pop records for one, whose catalog includes some of her musical heroes like, well, Nirvana of course, but also smaller bands like Dead Moon. And the Vaselines.

“We eventually toured with them, and now we’re friends,” she says. “It’s kind of a trip considering I basically named my band after one of their albums.”

Following an unlikely series of events prompted by an article in SPIN magazine, Dee Dee also got to connect with another of her heroes, Ronnie Spector, who dropped by the studio during mixing of Only In Dreams.

“She was fantastic,” says Dee Dee. “She has a classic air about her, but she’s also so enthusiastic still. If anything, I feel like there’s a lack of emotion in a lot of people who play music these days. It was refreshing to meet someone that was still really enthusiastic.”

The Dum Dum Girls show at The Space this Friday will roughly coincide with the release of a new EP that Dee Dee thinks will bookend the “all-consuming-ness” of the crazy period of her life, as she puts the finishing touches on the last batch of songs from that era, clearing the way for new inspiration and greener pastures.


 

The Dum Dum Girls

w/ Widowspeak. Thu., Feb. 9, 8 p.m. $15. The Space, 295 Treadwell Ave., Hamden. (203) 288-6400. thespace.tk, manicproductions.org.

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