The Dum Dum Girls have been receiving critical acclaim and dazzling audiences with a unique low-fi, indie-pop sound since the group’s formation in 2008.
See what all the fuss is about on Saturday, Nov. 15, when the Dum Dum Girls will bring their stage show to Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace.
The Dum Dum Girls began in Los Angeles as a DIY recording project by frontwoman Dee Dee Penny (aka Kristin Welchez). In 2010, the Dum Dum Girls put out a debut album, I Will Be. It wasn’t long before Sub Pop Records discovered the band and re-released the album, which had initially been put out by HoZac Records. Pitchfork gave the album an incredible 8.2/10 rating.
The follow-up album, Only in Dreams, was also a critical success. Too True, released earlier this year, features the hit single “Are You Okay?” which was offered by Starbucks as a free download—exposing the band to a wider audience.
During a recent phone interview from New York, Dee Dee Penny discussed her musical upbringing.
“I grew up in a super-musical household,” Dee Dee said. “I sang a lot as a kid; I played the violin in elementary and middle school. I switched over to choir in high school, and I did choir and studied music while I was in college. I also kind of dabbled with other instruments.”
She said she was a late bloomer when it came to playing the guitar. “It wasn’t until 2008 that I sat down and seriously learned how to play the guitar. I had sort of been flirting with it, very badly, for about 10 years.”
Dee Dee cites one artist who rubbed off on her in a big way.
“I remember when I heard Patti Smith for the first time,” Dee Dee said. “I can’t remember if I was 16 or 17, but for whatever reason—not because I felt like I could do what she was doing—it pierced through that feeling that (playing music) was something I couldn’t do.”
“Are You Okay?” was a song Dee Dee initially wrote for Ronnie Spector, but producer Richard Gottehrer convinced her to keep the song for herself. As a songwriter, Dee Dee Penny is able to convey deep emotions, and there is a poetic side to almost all of her songs.
“Oddly enough, I just gave a songwriting workshop,” Dee Dee said. “Prior to my workshop, Bob Mould from Hüsker Dü gave one, and I caught the tail end of it. He was talking about how when he’s writing, it’s called ‘through writing,’ where he just sits down, and it’s a stream of consciousness on top of some sort of pop structure. While I wouldn’t say I do the same thing, it definitely comes from a place that’s a little more visceral and subconscious. I usually have some sort of topic in mind, and I have the chorus line, the chorus melody—and I just let that be the seed.”
Oh, there’s one other element to her songwriting process.
“I get stoned. That’s probably how I get started,” Dee Dee said with a laugh.
Music isn’t the only thing about the Dum Dum Girls that’s drawn attention; the band is also known for the members’ stage attire: They wear revealing sheer tops during live performances. I asked whether she feels there’s a double standard when it comes to male and female performers going nude or wearing revealing clothing.
“I wasn’t motivated by anything other than just feeling like dressing like that,” Dee Dee said. “I felt it was appropriate for the headspace and attitude. It was kind of a phase, but I think I’ve always been a bit of a late bloomer. I think I arrived at a moment where I had a moment of self-awareness I hadn’t had before.”
While she’s penned three critically acclaimed albums, Dee Dee admits she feels a bit of pressure when writing new material.
“I don’t ever stop writing. Sometimes, during the heavy tour scheduling, I won’t write songs for awhile,” Dee Dee said. “It’s impossible to not be aware of expectation, potential criticisms or enthusiasms, but I think it’s ultimately very dangerous to let that be a factor in what it is you’re doing creatively.”
The Dum Dum Girls will perform with Ex Cops and Roses at 9 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 15, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Tickets are $15. For tickets or more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit pappyandharriets.com.