This year marks the 20th anniversary since Colorado’s most beloved power pop outfit first put plectrum to steel, and Elephant 6 frontwoman Tammy Ealom has only gotten better with age. The inimitable quartet’s first release in 7 years, Kingsized (YepRoc Records), blends everything that was always right with Dressy Bessy’s fuzz-pop winsomeness with just enough maturity and confidence to make an argument for being the best outing yet. They kicked off their supporting tour last month to sold out crowds in Ft. Collins at the Surfside and the Hi-Dive in Denver, before hitting the road in a 26-city jaunt that lands them at SXSW in Austin on March 17. Here, Tammy takes a few moments to chat from the road about making videos, changing lineups and what she’s been doing with her time off.
French Davis: What have you been up to the last seven years? Why so much time off?
Tammy Ealom: Well, you know living in Denver, hanging around the house… Five years ago today my dad passed away and it’s probably taken all this time for my family to adjust to that. Doing some traveling. I got a puppy four years ago who become the center of our universe. Living.
Honestly, I never really considered it a hiatus — I’ve been writing … a few songs here and there. Our last album dropped in 2008 in the fall during the election and we were out touring in the thick of that shit. We’ve always been DIY, and that whole thing deflated our sails a bit with the crash — we came back after 6 weeks on the road, not making money and we couldn’t afford to go back out — just like everyone else, we were affected by the economy. I came home wasn’t ready to let that album die… we weren’t able to go back out and really get it out of our system. So I came home and made stop motion videos for the whole thing. It was good to kind of step back and take time.
FD: Talk about the writing process for this album? Where did these songs come from?
TE: A couple were written a few years ago … a few didn’t fit in to this album. Ten or so came out right away — Thematically, I guess I do write things that clump together — at the time I didn’t notice it; now I can look back and see it. It’s not intentional. My songs always come from some sort of conflict that I have going on within my life — relationships with someone. It’s my way of getting things off my chest. For several years after the last albums there was a negative energy hanging over us. I didn’t know what it was, and came to find out it was our original bass player. He left a year and a half ago — lot of these songs say goodbye — I found out later he was unhappy for years and just never left. I understand now he put a lot into it and didn’t want to just walk away. But when he left, it opened us up for collaboration with a lot of other musicians, which we never did before — I got Jimmi Nasi (I’m a Boy), Eric Allen from the Apples In Stereo, we know Peter Buck (R.E.M), so we got him on 12-string, Scott McCaughey (The Young Fresh Fellows / The Minus 5) played organ, Rebecca Cole (Wild Flag / The Minders) — it just opened up this freedom to let other people in.
FD: What’s different now about how you approach composition from the way you did it almost 20 years ago?
TE: It’s exactly the same. It hasn’t changed at all — I plug in my Casio keyboard, dial up a 4/4 beat and fucking go. We’re not trying to change our sound or anything — it’s what we do, what we’ve always done; I just feel like we’ve gotten better at it. The live band is the tightest it’s ever been. Jeff Fuller is touring with us on bass. He’s from Colorado Springs, and is an old friend of mine. He fits right in, everyone’s in 100 percent digging the songs and rocking out. The energy — that one bad apple —you gotta figure it out. But everything happens for a reason. This wouldn’t have been what it is now, without going through what we did. What’s the AC/DC quote? “Long way to the top if you wanna walk in roll…”
FD: What do you wish you knew when you started out that you know now?
TE: I probably should have started working out way earlier in my life instead of waiting until I was in my late 30s.
FD: You’re two weeks into your tour now. Have the fans come flocking back as hoped after your hiatus?
TE: It’s been amazing. Our die-hard fans have been waiting patiently, and they’re super stoked, flocking to the shows. I mean, people are already singing the words to the new songs. Which is awesome. Plus, its helps me to remember the songs too, so that’s really helpful.
Dressy Bessy’s new album, Kingsized, is available for purchase at Yep Roc Records: bit.ly/DressyBessyNewAlbum. For more information, check out dressybessy.com