December 27th, 2011
DUM DUM GIRLS: Letting Go
Interview by Krissi Weiss
Getting ready to tour an album internationally can create a lot of apprehension for any band but no more than for lead Dum Dum Girl, Kristen Gundred. The Dum Dum Girls released their sophomore album, 'Only In Dreams', this year in quick succession after their EP, 'He Only Gets Me High'. The songs on 'Only In Dreams' came from an extremely personal place for Gundred with the album acting as a diary of sorts, documenting her experiences in 2010. Despite the success of Dum Dum Girls' debut album, 'I Will Be', and a growing and devoted international audience, Gundred found herself in a hectic touring schedule away from her husband (Brandon Welchez of noise-pop band, Crocodiles) and her mother who had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. 2010 turned out to be the last year of her mother’s life and Gundred is still emotional about the fact she spent so much of it away from her loved ones.
“I was listening to a lot of The Cure and it was the worst year of my life so that contributed greatly to what I was writing,” Gundred explains with a voice that is still swamped in sadness. “I was dealing with personal things but also having to travel and do a lot of work for the band. With my mother’s diagnosis, well, that experience was within the context of touring a lot and working really hard. It was a rough and very much disconnected year, which is pretty well represented on the album. There is a strong sense of being at a distance from where I wanted to be.”
Produced by Richard Gottehrer (Blondie, The Go-Go’s and also the Dum Dum Girls debut) and Sune Rose Wagner of The Raveonettes, 'Only In Dreams' was always going to be a darker album, with less of an adolescent feel than 'I Will Be'. These two producers were charged with the responsibility of taking Gundred’s heartbroken songs and giving them that Dum Dum Girls edge. While the album has been criticised by some as not being as “fun” as the debut, how could it have been? In an age where artist authenticity is in demand, 'Only In Dreams' is an extremely authentic account of artistic confession and emotional experiences.
Gundred explains that the recording process was a challenging time for her and that it is only recently that she has felt like she has started to deal with her mother’s death. “I did not cope or process what was going on very well at all,” she explains. “We recorded the album two months after my mother had passed away and I was in a lot of shock. As much as I felt I put in a lot of sincere emotion into the recording process, I wouldn’t go so far as to say I was debilitated from it. There were a few songs that I had a lot of trouble recording because I remember when I wrote certain songs. A song like 'Coming Down', which is literally about taking a lot of drugs to dull things, well, playing that song recreates that emotion that I was going through. A song like 'Hold Your Hand' I wrote virtually immediately after finding out about my mother and I can remember those emotions so vividly. We are in the process of preparing to tour the album and if playing the shows will be a problem, well that’s something that I am not really sure about.”
It has been hard for Gundred to know exactly what to focus on this year. With 'Only In Dreams' recorded in January, the band had to leave that project behind to begin their tour of the EP. “It was a little strange because we recorded this album prior to the EP’s release,” she says. “So we did this album and then I spent a month in New York mixing it and then we had to go on tour for the EP. We re-mastered the album three times with different mixes trying to get it right. We then took a hiatus over the summer, partially intentionally and partially by accident, so then we had to come back to the songs on this album, which was a little strange. The timing of recording, releasing and touring can be peculiar.”
I ask Gundred whether her parents were happy with the achievements she has made as an artist. Being a touring musician is not normally on the top of most parents’ career wish list for their children but Gundred says that her mother was extremely proud of her. “I’ve been doing this for a long time so they are both happy that I am getting somewhere and they gave up, years ago, thinking that I would move onto something else,” she continues.
With earlier attempts as a musician proving to be far less successful than Dum Dum Girls (most notably as drummer and singer for Grand Ole Party), Gundred seems to have finally found her musical home as Dee Dee. She claims that the songs on 'I Will Be' were essentially the first collection of songs she had written entirely and that this project is the first time she has taken control of a project. “I’ve been trying to do this forever, basically, and this is the first time I have ever made it this far,” she says with relief. “The people I play music with are the ideal group for what we do, it’s a pretty rewarding experience compared to other projects I have been in. I am extremely grateful that we’re getting to do this and, at least at this point, this is what I do and I don’t have to work another job.”
The success of a band’s sophomore album will usually determine whether they will continue or fade into oblivion and so far, it seems that Dum Dum Girls will be around for a long time yet. Gundred has proved that despite massive adversity, she is able to create music and stay focussed as an artist. I finish up our chat by asking why she feels this project has been the one to succeed beyond the ultra-underground scene. “I don’t know,” she says fading off for a moment. “I’m sure timing has a lot to do with it. Not from an egotistical standpoint, but this is the first project that I have been involved in that is entirely mine and I have a very strong drive to do well with this. This band is everything to me and I am compelled to do this. I can’t not do this.”
This article was originally published in Rave Magazine http://www.ravemagazine.com.au/