Dum Dum Girls frontwoman Kristin “Dee Dee” Gundred has simple goals.
“As corny as it sounds, it’s my dream to do this and only this,” she says of making music. “To contribute and do something worthwhile.”
Corny or not, for Gundred and her all-girl California garage-pop band, the dream is coming true. Since Dum Dum Girls’ debut, “I Will Be,” which arrived as an initial pressing on HoZac in July 2010, the band has signed to indie powerhouse Sub Pop, rereleased “I Will Be” (through Sub Pop) and cut the EP “He Gets Me High” (Sub Pop). Now, Dum Dum Girls return with their second full-length, “Only in Dreams.” Co-produced by legendary songwriter/producer Richard Gottehrer and the Raveonettes’ Sune Rose Wagner, the album arrives on Sub Pop Sept. 27.
Recorded at Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme’s Pink Duck studio, “Only in Dreams” puts a new gloss on the band’s signature lo-fi sound and showcases the group’s evolution. It’s also the act’s first release to feature tracking by the full band — Jules (guitar), Bambi (bass) and Sandy (drums), in addition to Gundred.
“As much as I love writing songs and recording [on my own], that can always remain a hobby,” says Gundred, who recorded “I Will Be” by herself. “But having a band and touring is the reality of what Dum Dum Girls [have become]. I wanted a record that reflected that.”
Gottehrer, whose influence on Dum Dum Girls has grown since he first mixed “I Will Be,” says that polishing the group’s surf-tinged melodies and showcasing Gundred as a songwriter have been the most important elements in evolving the band’s sound.
“This album was a conscious attempt to show people what [Gundred] can really do,” says Gottehrer, who’s known for his work with bands that feature strong frontwomen like the Go-Go’s and Blondie.
Not that “Only in Dreams” leaves the quartet’s scratchy four-track aesthetic in the dust-that sound is too essential.
“Those early recordings were pretty rough, but that’s kind of my world, that DIY sort of music,” says Dean Hudson, who came across Gundred’s project as an obscure Myspace profile several years ago and now serves as the band’s A&R rep at Sub Pop. “I don’t often hear the production as being grating if it’s a four-track recording-I like that stuff.”
And therein lies the new challenge for Dum Dum Girls — will smoothing out the band’s rough edges alienate its original fan base?
“You [have] to maintain that aesthetic that people loved, but present it in a more universal, palatable way, so that a wider audience can appreciate it,” Gottehrer says. “If you keep doing lo-fi [productions], you maintain your audience. You might grow a bit, but you never reach your potential.”
For her part, Gundred isn’t worried about moving the band’s sound forward. “[On] some of my favorite records — be it Patti Smith or Elvis or David Bowie — the lyrics are generally understandable, the vocals are high, but that doesn’t make it a slick commercial record,” she says. “As I’m more comfortable being a frontperson, I’m more comfortable being louder in the mix.”
Though “I Will Be” sold only 16,000 copies (according to Nielsen SoundScan), the team is confident the response to the more pop-oriented “Dreams” will reflect the group’s growth.
“There’s some folks who are always going to like bands [only] when they’re small, and that’s fine, but we want [Dum Dum Girls] to grow,” Hudson says. “We get everything in front of as many people as we possibly can.”
Gottehrer, too, sees a bright future for the band.
“I look at Dee Dee as a potential Chrissie Hynde,” he says, referencing the Pretenders’ legendary frontwoman. “[Hynde] was a singer in the pop world but was credible in the rock’n’roll world, too. This record demonstrates… that Dum Dum Girls are indeed career artists.”