If you think that punk rock and ’60s girl groups are mutually exclusive, you haven’t heard the Dum Dum Girls. The group, which was started in 2008 as a solo project by frontwoman Dee Dee, initially got together in order to perform at last year’s CMJ Music Marathon. But in their very first practice, things instantly clicked. “Right after that short little tour we all got Dum Dum tattoos on our middle fingers, and even if we never did anything else it would have helped solidify that memory,” Dee Dee says via cell phone from the Oakland airport at the very un-rock-star hour of 7:30 a.m.
Now Dee Dee and her fellow Dum Dums, guitarist Jules, bassist Bambi, and drummer Frankie Rose, have released their Sub Pop debut, I Will Be. “Sonically, I like the way old records from the ’60s and ’70s sound,” Dee Dee says of the album. “I wanted the energy of a punk band coupled with all the vocal aspects of the girl-group stuff,” she continues. “I’m a big choir nerd, so I have a lot of fun figuring out the vocal harmonies. And then the music can remain kind of rudimentary because it’s not really the focal point for me.” The band’s mission statement can be encapsulated in the fact that their two most popular covers are GG Allin’s “Don’t Talk to Me” and the Rolling Stones’ “Play With Fire.” “I love the early Stones songs and production, and I love the energy of early GG Allin and that early punk stuff, so they’re both representative of big influences,” Dee Dee says.
Aside from her Dum Dum Girls tattoo, Dee Dee also sports a Johnny Cash tribute on her right triceps, a dove on her right biceps, her husband’s name with an anchor plus her grandmother’s name and a heart on her left arm, and the initial of a friend who passed away on her inner arm. The majority of them were done by Dewayne Norton of Tower Tattoo in San Diego. “Almost all of the tattoos I’ve gotten have been in remembrance of people who have passed away,” Dee Dee responds when asked about the commemorative nature of her ink. “It’s a double reminder to keep them in my thoughts, and to be aware of the fact that I’m still around and not take that for granted.”
When asked about her next tattoos, Dee Dee admits the future isn’t quite as bright as her band’s—yet. “I don’t have any intention of accumulating that many tattoos or designing a sleeve, but I’m sure I’ll get more,” she says. “I kind of like keeping them out of sight—but I’ve got a lot of arm space left, so we’ll see.”