Interview & Photos by Rachel Lim
Dressy Bessy is an indie rock band from Denver, Colorado that enjoys being indie in all
that the word encompasses. I had a chance to sit down and chat with lead singer and
songwriter, Tammy Ealom, before their show in Pittsburgh, PA.
So this is your eighth album?
I think this is our seventh… proper album. There’s a release that came out in 2002 called
Little Music that was all singles. It’s album length, so you could count that as an eighth,
but this is our seventh. Pink Hearts Yellow Moons, SoundGoRound, Dressy Bessy,
Electrified, Holler and Stomp, KINGSIZED, Fast Faster Disaster… yeah, that’s seven.
How would you say the sound has changed over the course of seven albums?
Well, so the first two albums were recorded at a home studio on tape. The follwing two we
went fancy, you know, recording studios, and these current two albums, including KINGSIZED from three years ago and Fast Faster Disaster which is the newest one, we went back and recorded at home again. And we’ve gotten better equipment to record with, and we’ve learned how to kind of use the equipment too, and that’s affected the sound. It’s closer to how we want to sound. We’re getting better and better at that, and I think that’s part of the addiction of making records, for us too. It’s just… the next one’s going to sound even better, you know? I think that after playing so long, we’re better musicians, more confident musicians, and that comes with time. That also lends to how it sounds too.
How would you describe your sound? Obviously you’re an indie band.
Yeah. Indie as in we do it ourselves. Independent as in the original meaning of indie. I
don’t know… It’s just… It’s just rock and roll. I always say that. It doesn’t have to be
perfect or too slick. It’s organically just rock and roll. And with recording at home too, we
tend to… I tend to pile on the overdubs, meaning, like, we don’t have a keyboard player
in our band but this keyboard line has to be in the song. So I’ve been kind of calling it
clutter-punk as well because I tend to clutter up the songs with overdubs that are… the
next record, I’m going to try not to do that as much, but you just end up with “ohhhh this
could sound cool” as you add and add. You gotta stop at some point, or you expand
your band to eight people and it’s like. Well okay… But it’s interesting because our live
show, I think the songs come off better live, maybe because a lot of these overdubs that
I’m talking about, we kind of have to disperse them throughout our parts with the four
instruments with the two guitars, bass, and drums, and so it’s clarified. It’s just organic rock and roll. We don’t try to go in and try to compose a masterpiece record. It’s better live, so come to the shows!
Who would you consider to be some of your major musical inspirations?
My goodness, um… Well definitely from when I was a teenager… Prince for sure. And I
grew up with a dad who was a teenager in the 60’s, and so he was way into the Beatles
and so my dad was a Beatles fan, and my mom was a Rolling Stones fan, so I came up
with that type of rock and roll. So later when I started to start the band, I went back, and
when I was a kid, I was mortified when my dad would bust out 60’s records with my
friends over. I was SO embarrassed, you know, it’s just so weird. I was just that kind of
kid. When I decided to learn how to play guitar, I went back and grabbed all of his records, you know, The Monkees, The Hollies, and of course The Beatles… And just before I started
playing guitar, I was really into the music at the time - Hole, and Pavement, and Nirvana
of course, and all that. So that kind of came in and mixed with the 60’s, and I think that’s
where Dressy Bessy comes from.
Do you do most of the song writing yourself?
I do all the song writing myself, yeah.
So I read somewhere that you’re also a photographer?
I am! Yeah! I fancy myself a photographer. I do all of our brand promo stuff, and I do
portraits for friends and stuff. I shot fashion for a living for a lot of years, but just local
level there in Colorado. But it was money, and it was fun, and I enjoy it. I really just love
styling people and take awesome photos and make them look good.
How did you decide to change into doing music? Or is that something you always
Well, I didn’t really change. I joined a band in 1994. A friend of mine – I had never sang
before – a friend of mine just said “Yeah, we need a singer. You should try out.” So I did
because “okay, whatever”. I was young, and they hired me, and it was super fun! I was
in the band for like a year, and we had ~40 songs or something, and it was a band:
guitar, bass, keyboard, drummer, singer, and they would write the music and give it to
me, and I would write the melody and the lyrics. It just worked out, but it got to the point
where I just wasn’t super happy with the musical input. That’s when I decided to learn
guitar and write my own songs. I’m happy I did. It’s everything to me… I live and
breathe our music.
Where do you see yourself going in the future with Dressy Bessy?
Just continue doing what we do. It’s been… our last record came out three years ago.
Before that, there was an eight year gap between records. It wasn’t that we were taking
a break or anything, we were still doing things… We recorded some digital singles in
that time frame, did some touring… There just wasn’t an album. My dad got sick and
passed away in 2011, and that kind of threw a wrench in everything. It just throws everything out of whack, and I wasn’t inspired by his death at all to write music. Some people are
inspired by death. I wasn’t. I just… needed to get with my family and make sure
everyone was okay. So now it’s kind of like we’re a new thing. We have a new bass player now. Our original bass player (Rob Greene) passed away a year and a half ago. He had quit the band in 2014 and moved back to New York; he’s from Staten Island, and one morning he just didn't wake up. So that inspired the song Mon Chéri. It’s actually a song for him, off of our album. He would have LOVED the song, I mean, that’s for him. This album is really just inspired by the current climate of politics and society. I turned fifty in December, and that was a big milestone too. Just looking at my life; “What have I done? Where am I going to go?” I don’t know. We’re just going to keep doing it. I’m excited to start the next one.