Dressy Bessy Gets Gussied Up

Your band is named after a dress-up doll from the ’70s. Did you own a Dressy Bessy?


You’d be hard-pressed to find a review of Dressy Bessy that doesn’t use at least one of the following words: bubblegum, pink, sugar, fuzzy. Their latest self-titled Kindercore release is like a dreamy AM radio feed. Playback St. Louis caught up with frontwoman Tammy Ealom on the road, somewhere between Chattanooga and Knoxville, to discuss guitar schematics, the Japanese, and playing college cafeterias.

Usually when a band’s been around a few years and puts out a self-titled release, critics tend to think it’s a declaration of maturity or a major breakthrough. Then again, maybe they couldn’t think up a name. Why is Dressy Bessy’s new album self-titled?

I didn’t come up with anything. I had so many things written down, like a full notebook. One day, “Oh, that sounds clever” and then, you know, we get back and we think, “No.” Most of the titles that we came up with were lyrical or song titles, and I didn’t want to single any song out as the title track. So we just didn’t name it.

How do you and [guitarist] John Hill get those fuzzy guitar sounds?

I use a Sovtek Big Muff pedal, and that’s it. I use a 65 Hagstrom guitar, a Swedish guitar which rocks through a MusicMan ’65 with a 212 cabinet. John uses a Danelectro distortion pedal as well as an XR overdrive pedal, and he also has a 212, a Silvertone cabinet.

About your influences—

I never think about it, so I have to anytime somebody asks me that. At the time when I first picked up the guitar, I was real heavy into going back and picking up ’60s pop records, but I grew up as a teenager loving Prince, who, more and more, I’m realizing has been a huge influence on me. Stuff like that, like pop-soul from the mid ’80s and late ’70s.

When did you start playing guitar?

About eight years ago. I started out being a lead singer in a band, and I realized that wasn’t working out for me because I wanted to write my own songs. It was a group of five and everybody was putting in—there was no band leader, so everyone’s kinda doing their own thing, and nobody would say, “I think that doesn’t fit.” I had to work the melody around whatever space was left over. So I figured I better pick up an instrument and work out the melodies first and have everything come around and supplement and reinforce that.

Your band is named after a dress-up doll from the ’70s. Did you own a Dressy Bessy?

Yeah, I did. She was my favorite. We were going to be put on a show schedule and we didn’t have a name yet; you know, we were pretty ambitious there. John and I were on a vacation somewhere…we’re thrift store junkies, and we’re kinda wandering around, and I came across a pristine 1970s version of her, and I was like, “Oh my God, that’s it! Perfect! That’ll work!”

Do people ever call you Bessy?

Always. Absolutely. It’s kind of funny.

Do you write the songs?

All of them, yeah. I spend many, many hours. It usually takes place when John’s on tour. It’s kind of sappy and pathetic, I guess, but when he’s on tour with the Apples, I hole up and become a recluse with a couple cartons of cigarettes, a couple gallons of coffee, and a four-track.

Looking on the Internet for some background information, I found a lot of Japanese Web sites. You’ve toured in Japan, correct?

We went once. Actually, it wasn’t even a tour. It was a showcase for our label, called Philter. Our first album, Pink Hearts, was licensed in Japan to this small label; I’m not sure how many total releases they put out, but there’s several American bands on there, and they brought us all over to play this showcase, one huge show, half-hour set apiece. They put us up in a hotel; we did a bunch of press each day. It went really well. We’ve been dying to go back ever since.

You’re on tour right now. Have you been playing a lot of small venues?

Yeah, we’re playing a lot of small towns we’ve never played. Like last night we played in Chattanooga, which was amazing. We’re finding a lot of kids are starting to promote shows and stuff. It’s harder for bands like us to get into bigger venues or, I don’t know, the lack of venues. So there’s a trend of kids—I say “kids,” but, you know, early 20s—scoping out bars in their towns and working out a deal with club owners to start booking shows, and there’s an audience for it. We’ve played everything on this tour. At UCLA, we played the food court area on campus. We had to walk up a couple ramps and elevators and stairs; we get there, and there’s a pizza stand, a burger stand, a salad bar, and a stage. It ended up being a great show, so you never know when you come in.

What are your plans for the near future?

We’re just going to try to keep it on the road until we’re completely exhausted and crawling on our knees back home, then, I suppose, start working on the next one. We’re hoping to get a support tour coming up in the spring, someone who draws more than we do, but we’re not sure who with. Probably someone who’ll like us. We’re pretty optimistic.

Dressy Bessy plays with Maxtone Four at the Way Out Club on Saturday, November 15.

Web: http://www.dressybessy.com

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