Dum Dum Girls Go All Gothic Shoegaze On New Single

Dum Dum Girls were already your favorite purveyors of addictive girl-group bubblegum jangle, but their newest track, from the just-announced album Too True, out in January, signals a move into darker, starker territory. The guitars in “Lost Boys and Girls Club” don’t bounce and boomerang—they plod and swirl with a thrilling, irresistible gravity while the bass carves out massive ice caves of reverb.

Pure gothic shoegaze right here. It also comes with a suitably creepy music video directed by Cody Critcheloe, courtesy of H&M, which is bankrolling a series of audio-visual collaborations between artists from around the world. It certainly lives up to songwriter Dee Dee Penny’s sense of “sparkling haze.”

Of her latest work, she’s said: “Do you hear Suede? Siouxie? Cold-wave Patti? Madonna? Cure? Velvet and Paisley Undergrounds? Stone Roses?” We sure do, and we’re desperately thirsty for more.


Leader Of The Pack: SISU Emerges From Dum Dum Girls’ Shadows

You may have seen Sandra Vu around before, as one of Dum Dum Girls’ black-clad 60s devotees. Now, she’s stepped out from behind the drumkit to lead her own band, SISU. The quartet recently released its debut album Blood Tears, a collection of dark, slyly twisted dream-pop gems. Loaded with New Order-inspired basslines, sparkling electronic flourishes, and reverb used as punctuation instead of a mask, it may be one of 2013’s best-kept secrets.

After hitting the road with Dirty Beaches, SISU will be playing a series of shows at NYC’s CMJ Music Marathon. I caught up with Sandra to talk songwriting and coming out of her shell.
So you got pretty experimental on this record, yeah?
This record, it’s partially experimental, but when you get down to it, I consider it a pop record. But since my singing isn’t very conventional, I think it sounds a little bit offbeat.
You worked with a lot of different recording techniques.
Yeah, we did it all ourselves. In that way, it was kind of experimental, because I don’t technically know if everything I’m doing is correct, I’m just kind of winging it half the time. I have friends who record and things like that, my friend Lars Stalfors mixed the record, and he’s a pro. So it’s kind of half and half winging it and professional, I guess.
Was experimenting with different sounds part of what helped you develop your own voice with this?
Yeah, totally. I don’t really have much of a structure for writing or recording or anything, so some of these songs start out with a drumbeat on a table or something like that. I don’t sit down with an acoustic guitar and record structure. It is verse/chorus/verse in a lot of ways, it is almost completely [like that], but I like to take that pop structure and make it kind of weird sounding. When I wrote it, I didn’t even set out to write a record or put it together as a record, so I was really just writing it for myself and experimenting and learning how to use the laptop to record.
What did you learn from the writing process?
I learned that the more I think about it, the less productive I am. So really, in general, I embrace my naïveté in the whole thing, because it’s more freeing that way. Once I start to sit down and think, "Oh, I’m going to write a record, and these are the songs that are going to be on the record"–which is kind of what I’m going through now–it’s a little more challenging, because now I have a little more pressure to make something cohesive. But I didn’t really think of it on this record, I just wrote songs for myself and recorded them and put them together.
Obviously, you get something different from that then you did previously with Dum Dum Girls.
Yes, completely. With Dum Dum Girls, Dee Dee writes the songs and works with producers to do the records, so it’s more of a touring outfit when it comes to the rest of the bandmates. We don’t have any creative input, really, except in the live show.
Did striking out on your own seem daunting at first?
Yes, it did. I’ve probably been [drumming] the most out of all the instruments that I play, even professionally, so I was much more comfortable with it. I don’t get nervous at shows. Singing up front is completely different. I’m standing up, no one’s blocking me ever. It’s definitely daunting, but it’s fun.
What helps you get over that?
Doing it a lot. We played so many shows this year, it’ll be around 60 shows for me. It’s probably not a lot for a touring band, but for me and for my project, it’s insane. I can’t believe I’ve done that many shows on my own. But that really helps, doing it over and over again. Practice makes perfect.
What was your biggest challenge in making this record?
It’s kind of funny, it was probably more challenging after the completion of the record to get it out, because of my schedule with Dum Dum Girls. I was so busy. The typical lead for press time is like six months and it just was really difficult, because Dum Dum’s schedule was also up in the air a lot of the time as well. Other than that, creatively, it was recording myself singing. As I was recording it, I was just getting over playing my songs for other people. It was a new thing. I’m over it now, I obviously have put it out there, but it’s the same way that performing them live is a little bit scary. But I’m doing these little steps and getting more comfortable with it.

What song on the record are you the most proud of?
I think probably my favorite song is "Electronic." It’s probably the most experimental one too, I guess. And that’s probably a good example of no structure leading to a song, the structure of the song is just one keyboard sound that’s played throughout the whole thing. I’m pretty proud of that, I don’t even know where it came from, but it just happened. And I love the bassline. So that’s one that I love, I’m pretty proud of that.
Did you find yourself doing that a lot, just surprising yourself with what you could do?
Yes, yes. Honestly, when I had these demos just starting, I don’t know really if I would have pursued it on my own, but I was pushed by my bandmate, Ryan. He really encouraged me to pursue it, saying, "These songs are great, you should record them and just do something with it." We had played in a previous band together, we have this rhythm section bond. He’s like my older brother, too, we’re really close. So it did surprise me, I was like, "Really? These are good? I don’t know." I mean, I obviously believe in them now. As a drummer, you don’t really expect people to take you seriously as a songwriter, maybe.
Bringing your band together must have really inspired you as well.
I was really surprised, honestly. It sounds so insecure and humble or something, but going from just being a drummer and supporting other people writing songs, I guess I didn’t really see myself in that position as a leader, where other people  support me. So really initially, it was really brave. I was surprised, but I still sometimes don’t believe that these people are helping me do this. It’s really great, yeah.
So it was difficult for you to see yourself as a leader at first?
Yeah, definitely. I had to learn a lot in that regard, because it’s not all about writing the songs, it’s about corralling a group together and making it a positive experience for everyone where it’s fun. And especially because I have experience as a drummer, I’ve been on the other end where sometimes it’s not the greatest. I just try to make up for that.
As a fellow Asian-American, it’s great that you and Dirty Beaches are doing this tour. I love that.
I love it, too. Alex (Dirty Beaches) himself is really inspiring to me. Because honestly, maybe that was one of the hurdles. Not only was I a drummer starting to write songs, a lot of people do that, but I didn’t know if people would really embrace a leading Asian-American frontwoman.
That’s not Karen O.
That’s true, she is, I guess she’s half, or something, right? She’s a big one.
You do get fixated on representation.
Oh, for sure. It’s always been part of me growing up, and I think that really did feed into my insecurity, like "I don’t know, will people get behind this?" And even when it comes to press photos, I’m the one that’s like, "Oh, should we have the other band members in it, because maybe people will be less scared to like it if there’s white people in the picture?" It’s a really weird thing to think about. I grew up being obsessed over the racial makeup of the room I walked into, things like that. I mean, I try not to, I’m not racist or anything. But definitely, in a positive way, that’s why I look up to Dirty Beaches, it’s like, "Wow, he’s doing this, it’s so cool."
Honestly, though, I want to say that so much of it is in my head, because my experience of it has been nothing but positive. I don’t really get called out for being Asian or anything like that. That’s been nice, and it’s been refreshing that people are open to it. So I think we’re in good shape, people are just listening to the music.

Dum Dum Girls Follow ‘Only In Dreams’ With Dreamy New EP

A flurry of fuzzy guitars, catchy choruses and luminous, high-ceiling vocals made Dum Dum Girls’ Only In Dreams one of the most irresistible albums of 2011, and now, they’ve followed it up with some new stuff for you on a similarly dreamy EP. End of Daze features five songs, including a lovely new-ish single, “Lord Knows" and closer "Season In Hell," which feels a bit #RememberThe80s but in the best way possible. (Speaking of #RememberThe80s, the EP also features a cover of Scottish new wave group Strawberry Switchblade’s 1983 single, "Trees and Flowers.") 

End of Daze will be released on September 25, but the EP is available for a stream for you right now via Stereogum and Sub Pop’s SoundCloud. Have a listen to the whole thing below.

BlackBook Tracks #12: Acts To See at Fashion’s Night Out NYC

It’s Fashion’s Night Out, which for some people, might be the best day of the year (just call it Treat Yo Self 2012). Special deals, limited edition gear, and complimentary drinks and snacks abound. If you’re in NYC, here are some options for music to see around town.

Theophilus London – “Last Name London”

Check out the ever-stylish rapper/Cole Haan collaborator at the Gramercy Park Hotel.


Azealia Banks – “1991”

If you weren’t lucky enough to catch her at Spin’s Fashion Week party last night, Yung Rapunxel will be appearing at the MAC store in Soho, presumably to support their new lipstick collaboration.


Icona Pop – “Sun Goes Down”

Rising Swedish duo Icona Pop will be bringing their non-stop energy to no less than four appearances tonight. They’ll be DJing at Helmut Lang in Soho, AllSaints in the Meatpacking District, and Mister H at the Mondrian Soho, as well as fitting in a live performance for Urban Outfitters.


Poolside – “Only Everything”

Dreams take flight in the new video for Poolside’s single “Only Everything,” their latest slice of chilled-out disco. Catch up on BlackBook’s Q&A with the LA-based duo and check them out tonight at 8 at Moods of Norway in Soho.


St. Vincent – “Champagne Year”

Sweet-voiced songwriter St. Vincent always has great style, so it’s no surprise that Rag & Bone are bringing her to their party. Here’s her song “Champagne Year” for a champagne night.


Frankie Rose – “Know Me”

The veteran member of Vivian Girls/Dum Dum Girls will take her darker solo project to Theory in the Meatpacking District.


Chairlift – “I Belong In Your Arms” (Japanese Version)

Synth-pop darlings Chairlift will be performing at Prada’s party in Soho. This is also sure to be a popular one.


Haim – “Forever”

LA rockers Haim have been working their way up for years, and they’re now undeniably buzzworthy. They’ll be playing at Topshop tonight.


Wild Belle – “Keep You”

Sibling duo Wild Belle will be bringing their dark pop sound to Mulberry in Soho. If you don’t get to see them tonight, you can always try to see their session at Le Baron next week.


POP ETC – “Live It Up”

The reinvented Morning Benders will be lending their weirdo R&B vibes to Morgane Le Fay’s event in Soho.

Frankie Rose Goes ‘Night Swim’-ming

Brooklyn’s Frankie Rose has been a member of blog bands like Crystal Stilts, Vivian Girls, and Dum Dum Girls, all of whom have reached some kind of greater popularity. No longer content to play the glue after a cycle of departing those bands for the next thing, she’s set to strike out on her own with a 2012 debut solo album called Interstellar. Today, she released a new song called "Night Swim," which you can listen to after the jump.

Just like her old bands, it’s all kinds of shoegaze-y and poppy and upbeat. But there’s a more cleaned up sound, suggesting this thing might rocket out of the Brooklyn pigeon hole and into the vaunted indie mainstream, right next to Best Coast and Wavves at the Urban Outfitters register. Lest that that seem like a cynical fate, you should remember that having money and discounted jeans is pretty great. Interstellar comes out in February on Slumberland Records, so keep an ear out.

October Album Reviews: My Brightest Diamond, Ryan Adams, Dum Dum Girls

My Brightest Diamond, All Things Will Unwind (Asthmatic Kitty) The third album from Detroit-based singer-songwriter Shara Worden, who performs under the name My Brightest Diamond, is a brilliant, sparking jewel of a release that calls to mind the work of Joanna Newsom, Sarah Slean, and St. Vincent. It’s at times devastatingly minimalist (“She Does Not Brave the War”) and at others poetically nonsensical (“Ding Dang” shares the same flair for bombastic verbosity that appears in Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky”), but All Things Will Unwind is undeniably a heartbreaking work of staggering genius. On “Escape Route,” Worden warbles, “It takes a lifetime to learn how to love.” With this album, it only takes a listen. —Nick Haramis

Class Actress, Rapprocher (Carpark) Performing under the moniker Class Actress, Elizabeth Harper’s latest album, Rapprocher, sounds a bit like what would happen if Dave Gahan, Oscar Wilde, and Madonna curled up together in the corner of a dark bar for some heartbreak-fueled debauchery. The follow-up to her 2010 EP, The Journal of Ardency, Rapprocher is an 11-song odyssey about the tumultuousness of the heart. It’s a lovelorn tale that’s dark and weary, with just enough synth to make it danceable. Lyrical sadness is skillfully applied to the disco beats and feel-good melodies scattered throughout the album. On “Bienvenue,” she channels Raymond Carver, repeating, “This is the way we talk when we talk about love,” making for a surprisingly poppy anthem. Although each song quickens the pulse, tracks like “Prove Me Wrong” fall on the downbeat side of dark electro, ideal for sinking into said shadowy bar corners. —Hillary Weston

Ryan Adams, Ashes & Fire (PAX-AM/Capitol) Ryan Adams has come full circle. The folk-inflected rock balladeer’s newest album, Ashes & Fire, is a return to the stripped-down sounds we fell in love with on Heartbreaker—and to the Ryan Adams solo show, thank heavens—but with the added bonus of some newfound artistic calm. It’s a relaxed affair produced by Glyn Johns (a legend in his own right) and features guests like Norah Jones and Benmont Tench. Adams’ formidable gifts as a storyteller are back to the fore—“I don’t remember, were we wild and young?” asks “Lucky Now”—as the songs settle in the chest and tug at the heart. Closing track “I Love You But I Don’t Know What To Say” conjures a chilly, forlorn romanticism—essentially, the perfect fall album. —HW

Dum Dum Girls, Only in Dreams (Sub Pop) All-girl foursomes—musical ones, anyway—seem to flourish in the California sun. From Warpaint to the Like, the left-coast double-x set is churning out daunting albums faster than you can say “matching beehives.” The latest comes courtesy of gothette rockers Dum Dum Girls—Sandy, Bambi, lead singer Dee Dee, and Jules—whose second album, Only in Dreams, represents a well-executed step toward aural maturity. The blankets of cotton-ball distortion that smothered their first effort, I Will Be, linger in the form of Jesus and Mary Chain–indebted reverb, but the lyrics are no longer lost, which is a very good thing, as Dee Dee has a lot to work through, including the recent death of her mother and frequent, tour-induced separation from her husband, Brandon Welchez of Crocodiles. “Coming Down” is as melodramatic, lonely, and gorgeous a ballad as you’re likely to hear this side of the Shangri-Las. —Megan Conway

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Hysterical (Self-released) Forget that summer fling you had with what’s-his-face and jump into fall with Clap Your Hands Say Yeah’s new album, Hysterical, an eerily perfect, reliably electrifying soundtrack to the changing of seasons. Putting rumors to rest that CYHSY broke up after the release of 2007’s Some Loud Thunder, the Brooklyn-based collective is back with a vengeance on their third studio album, reassuring us all that they’re here to stay. The bad news first: tracks like “Idiot” and “Same Mistake” will make you rethink some of those not-so-brilliant choices you’ve probably made in life. Now for the good news: they’ll also give you the courage to talk to the new kid on campus. —Lorenna Gomez-Sanchez

Bonnie “Prince” Billy & The Phantom Family Halo, The Mindeater (Knitting Factory) The auspicious meeting of freak-folk artists Bonnie “Prince” Billy and the Phantom Family Halo’s Dominic Cipolla has produced a weirdly engaging four-track EP that reminds us that the American south is still a vital place for modern pop. With a talent bordering on magical, the duo tweaks the twangy guitars and plaintive lyrics of their shared hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, to produce tracks that are at once powerful, haunting, and catchy. A remake of the Everly Brothers’ classic “I Wonder If I Care As Much” showcases their polish and range, but it’s cuts like the title track that show just how much feeling six strings and a pair of vocal chords can convey. —Victor Ozols

Dntel Life is Full of Possibilities, (Sub Pop) With his third studio album, Life is Full of Possibilities, Dntel’s James Tamborello (The Postal Service, Figurine) invites listeners to buckle up for an electronic-heavy, indie rock–infused, 10-track roller-coaster ride with driving drum machines and hypnotic keyboards. On “Anywhere Anyone,” guest vocalist Mia Doi Todd asks, “How can you love me if you don’t love yourself?” (This is the slow, steady incline part of the ride where you’re forced to confront your fears.) “Suddenly is Sooner than You Think,” however, is a subtly percussive free-fall back to reality—and, much like the rest of the album, a critique of harried contemporary existence. Life is definitely full of possibilities, including the possibility that this is Dntel’s best offering yet. —LGS