Amanda and Brian, November 7, 2005

 

Written & Photos by: Jason Perlman

 

When the Dresden Dolls started taking shape, did you picture the band as a touring band or more of a Las Vegas-style show playing the same venue night after night?
Brian: No, I think we both definitely saw the band growing into this kind of career that we're working in now. Absolutely, we didn't just want to be stuck around Boston or working in a nightclub seven nights-a-week kind of thing. We both wanted to get out on the road and get our music out there. We wanted to be touring musicians since we were little kids.

There is an obvious action and reaction from the fans around this band to get caught up in the atmosphere of the show. Are you ever concerned the peripheral aspects of The Dresden Dolls will overshadow the music of the band?
Amanda: Yeah, I mean one of the things that is very dangerous about the fans is that we would be very pigeon holed and a lot of our fans do take the cue from us and dress up in vintage clothes and dress up in this that and the other thing. But that certainly is not what the band is about. We're a rock band and we have cabaret influences and actually a lot of different influences. But the scope of the kind of fans we have is the most inspiring of all because there are a lot of older people, a lot of younger people, like teeny tiny kids love songs like Half Jack and Girl Anachronism. I think there's a cross section of older people, especially people that have been music fans all of their lives who sort have given up. We get e-mails all the time from older people saying, "I've sort of gave up, like I stopped listening to the radio, nothing was coming through for me, nothing was coming by that I was even remotely interested in so, I just stopped looking for new music and very occasionally something will come along and you guys are that band." We get a lot of feedback like that which is really so exciting to think that a 7-year old kid and someone that is 52-years old can listen to the same song and connect with it. That's one of the greatest things about music.

On the site, you have a video where you dress up like Sonny and Cher and sing I Got You, Babe, then striptease, dress like Britney Spears and sing Hit Me Baby. Where the hell did that come from?
Brian: The idea was generally brought up from laughing and joking around in the car when we've been driving for far too many hours and we're reaching the point of delirium and we're like (laughing) wouldn't it be funny to dress like Sonny and Cher and then we can dress like Brittany Spears and then we can do a striptease.

Amanda: One of the beautiful things about this band and I think one of the things that is like essential as to how we do what we do and also one of the reasons it is great to be a duo is that we'll get these sort of random impulses to do shit like that but also musically when it comes down to what counts when we're working on a song, just like that. We'll allow each other to follow those impulses and ideas instead of feeling that we have to strictly stay in one genre or stick with one sound or look one way or this, that or the other thing. That's one of the reasons that Brian and I were so insanely lucky to find each other is because we try really hard not to censor each other too much. You know, you need to do a little bit here and a little bit there, we reign each other in but I think we give each other a lot of freedom. Brian just doesn't like the fast songs that I write and he doesn't just like the slow songs. He finds something to play in everything and the same thing is true the other way around.

Brian: We just have a good time and remember to not take ourselves too seriously and that's what keeps it fun and interesting is being able to lay your guard down and saying Who gives a Fuck, let's just go play and have some fun. Amanda is definitely good at doing that.

I have seen the term "punk burlesque" more than once to describe your band. Does it bother you that the term "band" or "musician" is not normally used to describe the Dresden Dolls? But the more peripheral activites are what people are gravitating to?
Amanda: No, because I know how the world works. I mean journalists, music fans, radio programmers, radio listeners , everyone wants to call something something and that's just the way the world works. Nirvana came along and they had to call it something so someone came up with grunge and punk came along and they needed something to call it so they called it punk, that's just the way the world works so it's nothing to get upset down.

Brian: Yeah, but it's also cool that they're acknowledging a certain part of what we do to because we definitely make a concerted effort to make our concerts more enjoyable in that sense that the fans are invited to come and perform and dress up and add to it. It's nice to see those people sort of being included in that to and when they're not just referencing us as a band. It's nice to acknowledge everyone else who's making a part of what we're doing as well.

Gogol Bordello is headed out on the Warped Tour. You are heading out with Nine Inch Nails. How do you feel about theatrical musicians and bands making a comeback? Almost like Kiss of the 70s, where the performance was as important as the music; if not more so in some cases.
Amanda: It's incredible. It's what always turned me on about music. I've never been the sort of person who goes to a show and sit in the back row and close my eyes for the sonic experience. I always wanted the visual experience and the theater of it and the fantasy of it and that doesn't mean that it has to be KISS. It could be a band like The Cure, or even like the Red Hot Chili Peppers or a band that you go to the show and feel like your part of this world. You can't put a name on it and you don't know what it is or why it's there but it's something that you can feel. I think that it's so important in an age when music is getting so homogenized and rock shows are getting so boring. People go to shows kind of expecting to be un-phased. Basically, I mean people go to rock shows in Boston all the time never really expecting anything to happen. You show up at a show, the band gets up on stage, you get a beer, you chat with your friends, you watch the band, you sort of make some comments about what other bands they sound like and the next band comes on and it just doesn't feel like anything's happening. And the band is just as much to blame as the audience because the band sort of, like it sort of became cool to not care about that and to pretend that your not an entertainer and that your just like everyone else out there in the audience up there, playing your guitar and staring at your shoes. There are certain kinds of music and there are certain songwriters that are amazing enough to get away with that but the majority of them aren't.

Touching more on that, are you influenced by songwriters who can stare at their shoes and have almost perfect songs, someone like Tom Petty for instance.
Brian: Yeah, that's something that adds to the character of the song writing and what we do live as well. We have an appreciation for the theatrical flair of some of the big arena rock shows but we also have a great appreciation for the germy lyrical side and sort of more intimate side that a singer/songwriter can do at an open mic night. Being able to draw on all of those influences and incorporate it into different varying degrees through out a song is what keeps it interesting for us.

How much do you think you provide those on the fringe to open themselves up and in doing so, how afraid are you of what may happen?
Amanda: Yeah, it's like anything else. Like having a child, you can give birth to it but you can't control it. That's sort of what it's like with the fans, but I've got to say it's beautiful to watch. It's beautiful to watch people also coming out of their shells and wanting to be involved and not really knowing how; experimenting. There's a girl at the show last night who was part of the brigade which is what we call folks who just show up and do this stuff, and she came up to me after the show and she said you wouldn't believe it but I was the most shy person before this, never talked to anyone, rarely went out to shows and when I did I was just sort of a wall flower and would just stand there and watch. Now she's coming to our shows, performing living statues and handing out little pieces of art that she made and it's just, it's an invitation more than band date. It's like saying, "We're going to show up at a club but if you have anything to bring to the table, c'mon and bring it because the club belongs to us for the night." We can do whatever the fuck we want and we want to give you guys some space so if you got anything to do bring it, it might suck, we might hate, it might be fantastic and people might be really entertained but the idea is the freedom to do it.