I first met Dum Dum Girls/ SISU guitarist Jules Medeiros at a Grammys after party where sequin-clad industry groupies spilled about trying to keep their fake eyelashes on and faker boyfriends turned on.
In the middle of the encircling chaos was Jules, standing with Franki (Chan, the IHC guy, you know this). Franki had told me about her before; they dated 14,382 years ago in Bellingham, Washington, but had remained good friends and DJ associates ever since. Cool, and collected, she was mercifully devoid of both glitter and hair extensions. She immediately endeared me to her by regaling me with tales of how a venue in my hometown of Denver was the worst place she ever played, and that’s how I instantly knew I wanted to talk to her in an empty cafe where we ordered nothing but water then publish our conversation on the internet. So, that’s exactly what I did.
We talked about murderous girl bands, motorcycles, furniture, what it’s like to balance the trajectories of two extremely successful musical projects at the same time, and how she became known as “The Corrupter.” Look out for new stuff from both Dum Dum and SISU in the very new future.
You and Franki have a hilarious history … Yeah! I had gone down to visit my sister in Seattle and then, was coming back up on the bus and he was on the bus too. He drew a comic, a picture of me on the bus, and gave it to me me at my going away party. I was gone for the year and I came back and he had befriended my roommates, so then we we all just started hanging out. By that point he had started throwing shows. Then we started dating!
Ooo. Are you allowed to tell the cocaine story? Ha! We were just out one night, at series of shows like most likely. His roommate had introduced me to this guy that was doing cocaine and I was it doing it kind of though the night, as you do. Mind you, this was 16 years ago … I was like, 21 or something. Franki came up to me and was like, “What’s up? Why do you keep disappearing? What’s going on?” And I was like, “Oh I’m doing this thing? (pointing to cocaine) Do you want to?”
He was like, “No! I don’t want any part of this!” Then he made a big scene and I think took off all of his clothes in the middle of the street and was like, “I don’t want you ever doing drugs,” [laughs] and made a big, big scene about it, which was pretty dramatic and hilarious.
He took off his clothes to illustrate the point? Yeah!
As if you would be like, “Okay, now that your pants are off I swear I’ll get clean?” By the end of the night we ended up at that guy’s house and there was a giant table full of cocaine that he had made into this giant question mark in the middle of the table.
That’s cerebral. It was so weird. That was his introduction to it. Now he’s dubbed me “The Corrupter.”
Did you guys ever play music together? How did you get into music? No, we actually never did. I grew up playing piano when I was little and I got a guitar when I was in high school. I was really shy about it. Dum Dum Girls was actually the first band that I was a part of. Dee Dee (Dum Dum Girls singer) played with her husband and Mike Sniper from Captured Tracks and Frankie Rose played drums with us to begin with. The first show I ever played was Dum Dum’s second show at Woodsist Fest.
Not bad for your first time … I heard you and Dee Dee have a funny “How did you meet story.” What was the audition process like? Her husband was in a band with a really good friend of mine. He had borrowed one of my Silvertones to record part of his album, so he knew I had guitars. That happened to be the guitar that Chris and Dee Dee really wanted. Some nights we’d all end up playing music and singing. That was it.
Our first audition, Dee Dee came to my house. We started setting up everything, but then realized we didn’t have a certain plug or adapter for her microphone thing. We couldn’t play! So we ended up just going to the beach and sitting on the cliffs and talking about Bikini Kill and bands and stuff in general. By the end of that she was like, “Oh yeah. I think this is going to work out.” She never even heard me play at all.
What was it like the first time when you actually played together? It was really easy. We played in my living room and had these like, quiet punk practices. It was just us, living room, usually a microphone through a tiny amp. My Silvertone guitar has as an amp in case set-up, so I play through that and we’d just kind of quietly sing. The first couple songs, I mean, they were pretty simple as far as their structure, just like two-three chords.
How did SISU happen? It was one of those things where we were touring all the time and Sandy (Dum Dum Girls drummer) got some offers to play some shows in New York. We were ending our tour kind of around there, so she was like “You want to just play, like a couple shows? You can just learn some keyboard parts and sing backups.” So I just practiced some and then it worked out. Obviously Sandy and I have the same schedule, so anytime that we were on tour we’d just kind of throw a couple SISU shows on the end of them. We did a little European tour where we threw some shows before a Dum Dum Girls Tour. We flew out a little early and then kind of did our own DIY tour through. London, Paris and then through Spain, just taking trains and carrying big suitcases through the train system.
What was that like? I can’t believe we actually did it. It was pretty amazing. We had this huge rolling suitcase. It took two of us to carry it up and down the train things and then backpacks … There were times where we were like really struggling.
Did you have perfectly toned biceps? By the end we were so strong.
What stage are both of these projects in right now? Both in recording stage right now. I just heard a couple of SISU tracks this morning and they sound really good.
What’s it like balancing both bands, because you’re both active, you’re both recording, probably will have to tour at some point? Easy, actually! Dum Dum Girls takes priority just because we’re actively touring, but it’s pretty easy since we have the same schedule.
I’ve read that you were kind of inspired by the Shangri-Las, who I love because they’re so dark and fatalistic and in every song somebody dies. Yes!
They kill somebody in every song, which is hilarious because they’re these good girls who were bad-asses. What do you think about that? How a lot of the time, to be dark, women have to be cute first? They have to put themselves into this adorable, approachable exterior to portray some deeper, more sinister message, because if you come out and you’re just straight creepy and awesome it doesn’t always pack the same punch? It can be really off-putting. I think for a woman you usually have to come off as being somewhat cute and approachable, especially if you have something to say. I think that just goes back to how our society it is. Girls have to be good to look at and then maybe we’ll listen to what they have to say. But yeah, Shangri-Las are a really interesting example, especially from the time period where they came out of. That is absolutely the case.
Have you had any experiences like that in your own career? I mean, we’re always sort of criticized or applauded for looking the way we look. There’s always a comment about, “Oh, why did they have to wear short skirts?” Or, “Why do they have to dress like the way they dress?” But if we didn’t dress like that, they’d be like, “Well why are they not dressing cuter?” We decide to look like this to look like this. We’re not especially trying to be super-sexy. It’s a little bit darker. But no matter what we do, we could wear paper bags over our heads, and it would be the same thing. There’d be a comment about that as well.
On that note, if you could punch anybody in the face, who would it be? Oh my gosh. I’m a pacifist, I would never … [laughs]
If you could passively aggressively destroy … Passively aggressively? Ah. Vladimir Putin. I think I’d punch him right in the face.
So I know that you love furniture. Mm-hmm. I studied furniture design in school. That’s what my degree is in.
Can you show me your favorite furniture? The furniture designers that I love are mostly the mid-century modern standards: Charles and Ray Eames, Arne Jacobsen, George Nelson, Herman Miller…. I also really like the work of Verner Panton and Eero Saarinen and Isamu Noguchi. Not to mention the architecture team, Ushida Findlay. Oh, and Richard Neutra… Ahhh…there are just too many to mention. Basically, I am inspired by minimal, often organic and somewhat surreal design.
You do set design too. Did you get to help design any Dum Dum Girls or SISU stage? Yeah! For the tour that Dum Dum did with Blouse, I made this giant neon blue heart shaped thing. It was kind of a massive production to build. I had to build one here and then on the last day of tour at Coachella, it broke into pieces. The stage crew just ripped it down … I don’t even know … and broke it into many pieces. It made it through our whole US tour and then the last show at Coachella, these guys just manhandle it and take it apart and trash it.
I’ve always wanted to have sort of 60’s, Shangri-La-esque platforms on stage too. Like different sized and leveled platforms that light up. I think that would be really cool.
What is your most masculine quality and what is your most feminine quality? I guess my low voice is pretty masculine. I sound straight up like a man. Is it a female quality to work on motorcycles? Because I think so.
You work on motorcycles? I do. I ride a motorcycle and I fix it myself.
How did you learn how to do that? YouTube. And I got the manual. I bought the original 1969 manual for my motorcycle.
What do you ride? It’s a Honda CB160 1969. It’s pretty cute. It’s the kind that people make into café racers often. I’m not really doing that. I put drop bars on it but for the most part it’s just … pretty all original. The rest of it’s all original.
When you’re stressed do you ride into the sunset, occasionally splitting lanes because LA? Yes. It’s great. I used to ride it a lot. I was living in San Diego and I used to ride it a lot more, because the neighborhoods around my house, there are a lot of canyon roads I could take. It was very safe there. I knew the streets really well and wasn’t as crazy. Here the streets are just torn up and … People are insane.
That’s a great answer for what’s you’re most feminine quality. It kind of goes back to like biker gangs type Shangi-Las. Actually, our first video, the “Jail La La” video, there’s like a funny motorcycle scene where Dee Dee and I are riding a motorcycle and that’s my motorcycle that’s in it … it’s hilarious because it’s obviously cut out green screen but it looks really good.