Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Patrick Stolley
One of the only things that I can still recall from a college magazine writing course that I took in 2001, other than my professor coming to class on the morning of Sept. 11 sobbing before anyone else I knew recognized that there was anything to be somber about, was that, as writers, you're allowed maybe one or two exclamation points for the entirety of your professional writing career. That's it, so you'd better make them good, no squandering. One wasn't supposed to waste them on such trifling matters as describing the magnificence of an ice cream cone or the immaculate cut of a summer lawn. We could have all probably used our entire allotment on that particular day that I remember of the crying teacher. The written word, however, is one thing, spoken words and the actions associated with the spoken word are allowed their own parameters. Verbally, an ice cream cone can be amazing! And a lawn can be beautiful! Dressy Bessy lead singer and songwriter Tammy Ealom would make a lousy writer of the printed word, only because she would be an outlawing, brazenly refusing to adhere to the two exclamation points and you're out rules of the quill. Her life and the mind as it's whirring and purring is the human equivalent to the band Chik Chik Chik (!!!).
She's presumably got a soft spot in her heart for Panic! At The Disco, Volcano, I'm Still Excited!!! and !Forward, Russia! and maybe very little for Sigur Ros and Low. The muscles inside her and the words, thoughts and actions they make are made up of hummingbird wings and moped motors, busily buzzing. There can be no apostrophes, commas or colons within 50-feet of her at all times, nothing that can break her stride or impede the hyperactivity and fire that comes packaged in every song on every album that the Colorado band's released since it formed in 1996 and began putting them out on the sorely missed Kindercore Records. There's a dash of overzealousness in some of her songs, ones that pounce and just rattle the mattresses with unnecessary jumping up and down, or so you'd think, until given a chance to get intimate with the lyrics over cocktails. Sure, there's some of the smiley exuberance that comes pre-packaged with cheerleader outfits and pom poms, but it's really there as a slam on those girls for sporting some 'tude.
There are missiles being fired all over the place on Electrifed, the 2005 release on Transdreamer Records that the group hopes to follow up later this fall, and when the lead finally finds targets, it's obvious that most of the rioting wasn't friendly, but personal. There are blatant songs that address a sorry situation with the band's former drummer, who left the band in 2004. Ealom is unafraid of telling the world how ticked off she was at the time. She shows no remorse for all of the females she shoots down for their petty jealousies and super-sized egos. A Dressy Bessy song isn't one without three very important components. First, above and beyond the other two requirements, it must actively enable or invite rump shaking. Ealom is about many more things – fashion, a good smoke and exclamation points (see above) – but she is as staunch of a supporter in the field of cutting rugs as any other. She shook her ass with Chuck Berry's wife in St. Louis when Bessy was personally asked to open for the maestro at The Duck Room. So Chuck's duck walking and carrying on as if he's got the shakes – the octogenarian, crown prince of the Lou and one of the first inductees into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio, still has moves that can marvel – and Ealom's cranking it right out there in front. Second, it must rely on straight-up, fuck 'em all moxie that you get studying the bad guys in old-time Westerns or watching Kate Hepburn own her leading men. There's a distinct sassiness in Ealom that shakes your paint, and while it may appear to be playful in nature – the elements of sweet swigging 60's and 70's pop melodies will do that – it will bitch slap you right across the face should you ever cross it. Thirdly, they absolutely must give off a glow of older climes. It must feel transported from the cream-colored pages of old Life magazines or Saturday Evening Posts if they'd made those magazines for the kids as they do Alternative Press today. She's of a vintage blueprint and when she brings guitarist John Hill (also of The Apples In Stereo), drummer Craig Gilbert and bassist Rob Greene into the folds, they make a sound that's aged and cured, but sweaty so you know it's alive.
*The Daytrotter interview:*
*When you were here, you'd just played St. Louis the night before -- basically planned your tour around that show -- where you opened for Chuck Berry? How was that night again? What was it like having his judging, rock and roll icon eyes glaring at you from the side of the stage? Most nerve-wracking night of your life?*
Tammy Ealom: Oh man, that was the greatest show ever! We were all nervous (more excited than anything) as shit that day! The club was packed with Chuck-obsessed fans from all over the world who embraced us very kindly. We ROCKED it! I didn't actually see Chuck until after we played, apparently he was sitting stage left for the latter part of our set. This WAS quite nerve-wracking for John, who couldn't feel his fingers. Chuck's set was amazing, duck walk and all .... I danced my ass off! During his show there was a woman dancing in the front row, so I joined her and we danced our asses off. Come to find out later, she was his wife! After the show, he hung around for fan photos. Knowing he was, ahem, a fan of women in the past, I attempted to sit on his lap during our group photo. He abruptly pushed me back (my first thought was that he had arthritis or something) citing that his wife was present and wouldn't appreciate it ~ ha! I then realized he was * Chuck Berry* and that this was probably his way of letting me know HE was the boss! Quite a cool cat, that guy! His son, who played guitar in his band, was totally into us. He mentioned Dressy Bessy at least six times from the stage, very cool! (great guitar player too).
*You've been in like every thrift store and vintage clothing store in the country right? Doesn't John have a master list of addresses and phone numbers for Salvation Armies and Goodwills with him at all times?*
TE: Yeah, he does have a list on his palm pilot! We try to stop when there's time ... not always much of that. With eBay the shops are picked pretty clean nowadays anyway.
*What was the first article of second-hand clothing that you bought? Do you remember where you were?*
TE: My dad has been a record collector all my life, In high school I'd hide in the backseat (mortified) when he'd make Goodwill stops. If only I knew then what I know now, think of all the great dirt cheap 60's attire adorning the racks back then.
*Tammy, when I wrote a cover story about you for Playback St. Louis a few years back, I believe my editor told me that your mother wrote and said that she framed it and put it up on her wall. Is this true? Does your mother keep a scrapbook of your exploits?*
TE: Oh yeah, she frames everything! I always make sure she gets a few of everything DB for her collection. She's got stuff I don't even have anymore.
*What are you going to do when John's out gallivanting with the Apples for the next couple of months?*
TE: Record. Record. Record. If this snow we've gotten in Denver ever goes away, I'd like to get outside & climb a mountain or something.
*Do you write best when you're mad or pissed off?*
TE: Yeah, in the past for sure! Lately I've been happy ~ getting good stuff out of that too.
*Your fashion sense is widely known as impeccable, but do you ever just wear basketball shorts or sweatpants around the house? Now, John's just a T-shirt and jeans fella, right?*
TE: I like to wear my PJ's around the house, especially in the winter (long johns and a fuzzy hooded robe). FYI: John has just as many dress shirts as I do.
*What's been the hardest part about music for you?*
TE: Touring can be tough, 23 hours waiting around and riding in a van with a group of stinky dudes is worth the one hour of bliss that comes from rocking socks.
*What do you enjoy talking most about, music or fashion?*
TE: Both I guess, they sort of go hand-in-hand for me. I'd much rather talk tights than gear though - blech!
*Is the next Dressy Bessy album underway?*
TE: Oh yeah! Working everyday, we've gone back to the basement for this next one (meaning we are tracking at home)! Super excited about it! We're looking at a fall/winter 2007 release.
*In "Who'd Stop The Rain?", does a man take off his arm?*
TE: God, I hope not! That song is about a whiney drummer!
*What was the first song you danced/and or rocked out to?*
TE: The first must have been a Beatles song. I grew up with rock & roll in the house. My very first album purchase was Michael Jackson's Off the Wall! Great stuff for roller-skating & Double Dutch! I was part of a crew called the Double Dutch Bunch. We threw down some mean jump rope back in the day!