The Dresden Dolls

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The Dresden Dolls

The Dresden Dolls on Open Source at WGBH studio 1 [Brendan Greeley ] (all studio photos in our Flickr set)

We’re trying something new. A live band in our studio, playing songs and talking. The band is The Dresden Dolls, a self-described Brechtian-rock cabaret duo with a flare for the melodramatic. The band is comprised of Boston natives Amanda Palmer singing and pounding her heart out on a big Kurtzweil keyboard, and Brian Viglione behind the drums. Their music has a kind of literary fury to it, and their fan base culls from the subcultures of goth and indie rock. As far as contemporary underground music goes, the Dolls are pretty unique.

The band first came to our attention after Amanda penned a song called “Christopher Lydon.” (Lyrics here) It focuses on Chris, then the host of The Connection, as a kind of love interest. Believe me, it’s weirder for us than it is for you.

Listen to The Dresden Dolls’ “Christopher Lydon”

So the Dolls will be on our show and they’ll play some songs and we’ll talk. But what, dear listeners, should we talk to them about? And who else should we invite on to talk with them? We’d like to hear from their fans, about why they love this band so much, and from people who love cabaret or contemporary music, and anyone else with ideas of how to structure this show and make it feel Open Source.

Update, 9/26/05, 4:33 pm

Here’s a question from blogger and Dresden Dolls fan Jaime Nichols of Crazy Janeski.

I’m so glad you’re featuring the Dresden Dolls – they really are incredible, and one of the best shows I’ve seen in a long time.

I guess I’d love to know more about their collaboration. I understand Amanda is the main songwriter, but I’d love to know more about their process of working together, both in writing, and preparing their show. I think what struck me hardest about them is the depth of the way they almost seemed like a male/female mobius strip of the same performative entity, and there is an incredible give and take between them when they play that’s so strikingly sexy and inspired. Amanda leads the the verbal charge, but Brian punctuates her every word with such a brilliant blend of sensitivity and raw power. They are each, by turns, humble and dominating, focal point and support. I really, really loved their performance.

I’m not sure that makes a damned bit of sense, but it was seriously beautiful and also fascinating.

Jaime Nichols
Update, 9/28/05, 4:23 pm

Check out the Dresden Doll’s blog. They’re in the studio right now recording their second album, and at the moment Amanda is writing extensively about it. And about how she’s not a hippie.

Update, 10/5/05, 4:48 pm

Here are some more great questions from passionate Dolls fan Brandon Cirillo of Oxford, Ohio. Brandon blogs at Once More, With Feeling, and apparently, we made his day.

I’m really curious as to whether you have any kind of pre-show ritual. Are there certain things you like to do before going live? Any sort of dancing, singing, drinking done? I’m sure when I see you guys in Columbus it would add that much more to the show haha. Do you like to take a peek at the audience before going up? Do you ever wander around the venue beforehand and randomly talk to people that are waiting to listen to you? What is your relationship like with other bands you perform with…beit the headliner if you are opener, or with the openers when you are headlining?

One more thing I’m fairly curious…how do you feel now that you’re getting more popular? I’m not going to lie, I get kind of disappointed when I tell people that I’m listening to The Dresden Dolls, and they actually recognize you guys or have heard you on the radio. Maybe that’s silly, of course I wish upon you the greatest of success, but there’s so much more sexiness and mystery listening to a group that other people haven’t really heard of. I can’t get the joy of spreading your music if other people have already heard it and are familiar with it! But this is all just for selfish reasons…I am curious though as to whether becoming TOO popular might be a concern for you…for some people it seems to be.

Brandon Cirillo, in an email to OS

Also: thanks again to Chris Williams for recommending Steve Gisslebrecht as a possible guest for this show. Based on Chris’s recommendation, Steve will join us on the show to talk about the 35 separate Dresden Dolls shows he’s seen and what makes the band so special. He’s giving up going to the Haruki Murakami lecture at MIT to be with us, so we really appreciate it!

Update, 10/6/05, 6:04 pm
The Dresden Dolls

The Dresden Dolls before the show, outside Studio 1 at WGBH [Robin Amer]

We’re putting all of the pictures we take tonight in our Flickr stream, so feel free to do with them what you will.



Comments

47 thoughts on “The Dresden Dolls

  1. Excellent! I don’t have any useful suggestions at this point for additional guests, but this is splendid. I have always wondered if you had heard or what you thought of “your song.”

  2. I’d like to know Amanda and Brian’s thoughts on the (de)evolution of cabaret as “high art.” The Dresden Dolls are carrying on in the tradition of Kurt Weil and company, but their music (most unfortunately) will never be as popular as Weil’s during his hayday — despite the fact that they have very “catchy” tunes much like “Mack the Knife.” Besides the establishment of music categories, what has changed in the public appreciation of “art music” to generate such a dwindling audience?

  3. Comment and Question for Amanda…

    I had read about these guys.. errr.. gurl and guy in an issue of New England Performer but had never seen them, until I was lucky enough to see them open for NIN in Boston. I found them wonderfully refreshing and very sexy.. Amanda, Will you marry me? OK maybe that’s too soon… how about dinner? Coffee? OK how about we share candy out of one of those gumball machines outside of the supermarket? On a more serious note… (although that last stuff was serious if your answer was yes… except to the marriage thing.. hell I don’t even know you, you could be a crazy chick.. but wait I dig that.) anyway.. I can’t wait to see you guys again, and I would love to get together and write with you.. Though my band is not the same vein musically.. lyrically we are pretty much in the smae mind set. Thanks for listening…

  4. I’d love to know more about Amanda and Brian’s collaboration. I understand Amanda is the main songwriter, but I’d love to know more about their process of working together, both in writing, and preparing their show.

    I think what struck me hardest about them is the depth of the way they almost seemed like a male/female mobius strip of the same performative entity, and there is an incredible give and take between them when they play that’s so strikingly sexy and inspired. Amanda leads the the verbal charge, but Brian punctuates her every word with such a brilliant blend of sensitivity and thunder. They are each, by turns, humble and dominating, focal point and support. I really, really loved their performance, and I’d love to know what they do to create that, and how they think of it.

    I’m not sure that makes a damned bit of sense, but it was seriously beautiful and also fascinating.

    Good luck with your show! I can’t wait to hear it.

  5. I myself have never heard the Dolls, but there’s a guy named Steve Gisselbrecht you should try to get on the show. I’ve also never met Steve, but he’s a familiar face at Boston-area rock clubs. He frequently goes to *four or five* shows a week, and he writes a review of each one for his website. It doesn’t look like a blog, but that’s what it amounts to. Anyway, it’s quite a little treasure trove, and Steve happens to be a huge Dresden Dolls fan. He’s seen 26 of their shows since 2003, all reviewed on his site!

    http://www.apocalypse.org/pub/u/steve/

    March 27, 2003:

    First up tonight were the Dresden Dolls, and the reason we came. Yes, we love this band, and we see them every chance we get. As a result, I’ve become a real connoisseur of their performances. There are “Amanda nights,” where she just grabs your attention and doesn’t let go; “Brian nights,” where he’s so on fire that he actually manages to seize focus while sharing the stage with one of the world’s most dynamic performers, and even “chemistry nights,” where it’s the interaction between them that’s the star of the show. Last night was both a Brian night and an Amanda night.

    June 5, 2005:

    The Dresden Dolls are shooting their very first live DVD today, a huge, elaborate production, and they have invited their fans to be the audience for the show, for free if you replied fast enough. And glory be, I replied fast enough! I show up just before doors are scheduled to open at 6:30 (with almost 200 vanilla cups; I’m not the dressing up type, but I wanted to do my part to make it a festive day, so I’m handing out fine homemade chocolate at the show) to find that the entire block is blacked out…

    Eventually, though, all obstacles fall away and we are allowed inside, only three hours or so behind schedule. The club is beautifully decorated with live flowers and Christmas lights on the walls. And while I certainly wouldn’t wish the difficulties they’ve had on them, not ALL of the fans toughed it out for three hours, and it’s kind of nice being able to move in the club. The evening’s events start with the Dolls being interviewed onstage by Christopher Lydon! He (or, rather, an obsessive crush on him) is the subject of one of Amanda’s songs, and they play flirtatiously with that fact while also doing a fairly interesting interview…

    The set is mostly stuff from their album and covers, presumably since this DVD will be released before the next album is and they don’t want to leak any of the songs out too soon. But that’s fine; I love these songs, and some of them (“Gravity,” “Bad Habit”) are fierce rockers that I haven’t heard them play in a while. And, of course, they perform “Christopher Lydon,” which is beautiful and has one of my favorite musical jokes in the coda….

  6. Hi Chris Williams-

    wow, what a great lead. I’m absolutely going to check out Steve’s site and give him a call. As I work on this show I’m looking for people who have insight into the Dolls and who can help with context (how they fit into contemporary music/culture etc.) Sounds like this guy might be able to do both.

  7. Question for the Dolls:

    Reading recent diary blogs from Amanda (Brian is still characteristically quiet!) one gets the impression that some of the excitement and energy has been depleted;

    “plus the fact that I felt weird about all the songs we were about to record they all seem too impersonal, and why are we up here at Major Label’s expense in the bajillion-dollar studio….is it necessary? do we need to be here?”

    In view of this, I ask: Is the longevity of any recording artist safer if the artist takes back control, and learns to be self-sufficient? Publishing, producing, distribution? Does it all boil down ultimately to the fiscal solution and benefit of major backing, or are there longer term gains, creatively and productively for going it alone?

  8. Someone needs to ask this: Amanda, how could you take Christopher back when he dashed your heart while on The Connection? Will there be a new song “Reuinited in OpenSource?”

  9. Another listener question from Mark Matteson:

    Could you kindly ask Amanda & Brian if, having opened a tour for a music industry heavyweight this year, they would consider doing it again…for anyone short of Bowie, anyway?

    And, just because i always have to ask: is “St. James Infirmary” still on their to-do list?

  10. can you please tell amanda that morgan and lindsay love her so much and brian that when we went to their show he touched our hands and we almost cryed! we love you guys so much… i listen to you everyday…and the weekends are like…morgan& lindsay& the dresden dolls!!!!!!!!! and you should have a show near RVA… the best band ever!

  11. I have a question for Brian &/or Amanda…

    When did you first realize you were musicians/artists? Was it a cosmic revelation or has it been omnipresent, in your veins since birth? Do you think some people are born artists? What has been the biggest glory and anguish that has gone along with this for you?

    much much love to you,

    -Sara

  12. PLEASE READ THIS ON THE AIR PLEASE PLEASE PLEAES PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE IT WILL BE MY DREAM IN THE WORLD!!!! MORGAN AND LINDSAY LOVE YOU AMANDA AND BRIAN YOUR SHOWS ARE SOOOOO GREAT WE LOVE YOU! YOU ARE OUR FAVORITE BAND EVER!!!!!! BRIAN WHEN YOU TOUCHED OUR HAND AT ONE OF UR SHOWS WE ALMOST CRYED!!!!!!!

  13. YOUR SONGS ARE GREAT THE LYRICS ARE GREAT AND ARENT JUST SONGS THEY HAVING MEANINGS THAT ARE JUST SO GREAT AND I LOVE THEM!!!1 MORGAN AND LINDSAY LOVE THE DRESDEN DOLLS MORE THAN ANYTHINGH PLEASE READ THIS ON THE AIR!! BRIAN WE LOVE YOU AMANDA WE LOVE YOU…BRIAN WHEN YOU TOUCHED OUR HAND WE ALMOST CRYED!!!!!! MWAH MWAH

  14. PLEASE SAY MORGAN AND LINDSAY LOVE THE DRESDEN DOLLS ONTHE AIR PLEASE PLEASE WE WANT TO CALL BUT WE CANT PLEASE

  15. Hey there,

    I’m wondering what’s going on with The Dresden Dolls sheet music book that’s coming out “soon”.

    Being a self-taught Kurzweil playing pianist myself, I look forward to seeing accurate transcriptions of the music. Many books that come out end up being really pathetic with only a vocal line and then a couple notes and that’s it.

    I’m hoping the book would be more than that, as anything less than Amanda’s own arrangements would be disappointing.

    Thanks,

    Alex

  16. MORAGN AND LINDSAY LOVE YOU SO MUCH MORE THAN ANY BAND YOU ARE THE GREATEST BAND EVER AND YOUR SONGS ARE THE BEST YOUR SHOW WAS SO GREAT *FRONT ROW!*…PLEASE SAY THIS ON AIR! WE LOVE YOU…BRIAN YOU TOUCHED OUR HANDS AND WE ALMOST CRYED…CALL US OBSESSED FANS BUT WELL YA THAT WOULD COVER IT…MWAH MWAH

  17. MORGAN AND LINDSAY LOVE YOU SO MUCH YOU ARE THE GREATEST BAND EVER IN THE WORLD MWAH MWAH MWAH PLEASE SAY THIS ON THE AIR

  18. MORGAN AND LINDSAY LOVE YOU SO MUCH YOU ARE THE GREATEST BAND EVER IN THE WORLD MWAH MWAH MWAH PLEASE SAY THIS ON THE AIR PLEASE

  19. MORGAN AND LINDSAY LOVE YOU SO MUCH YOU ARE THE GREATEST BAND EVER IN THE WORLD MWAH MWAH MWAH PLEASE SAY THIS ON THE AIR PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE

  20. Was wondering who had what bad habbit that inspired the song Bad Habbit and if the DVD would be able to be purchased at KC show.

  21. amanda came up with bad habit im pretty sure cuz she would bite or pick at her nails and stuff thats whats their talking about

  22. How do you guys manage to always be so cool and make such beautiful music?

    I’ve gotten all my friends into your music and we all love you so much. :]

  23. THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! MORGAN…ME…IS NOW CRYING…HAHA THANK YOU SOOOOOOOOOOOOO MUCH

  24. This radio broadcast has definately made my night!

    What feelings do you have towards your fan base and the whole atmosphere of your show as opposed to the atmosphere you would find at most any other rock show? Personally, I feel such an amazing emotional connection between your music and myself, as does most every other fan I’ve talked to. You guys never give off this vibe that you’ve bought into the whole rock and roll idea that being up on the stage creates this barrier between the audience. The connection is just ABSOLUTELY amazing.

    I’ll be brigading the Providence show! Can’t wait to see you guys. Dylan (the little coin-operated boy!) says hi. :)

    ~Jillian

  25. I love how you guysare so succesful with everything and yet at the same tie so in touch with the fans at the same time, and don’t let your success get to your head. I was in a band for a couple years and the thing that ruined it was something known as “lead singer syndrome”! =-O you guys definitely both seem just as involved and represented in this band, and it’s a good thing, because you both produce such wonderful music!

  26. I love how you guys are so succesful with everything and yet at the same time so in touch with the fans at the same time, and don’t let your success get to your head. I was in a band for a couple years and the thing that ruined it was something known as “lead singer syndrome”! =-O you guys definitely both seem just as involved and represented in this band, and it’s a good thing, because you both produce such wonderful music!

  27. The Love and respect that the Dresden Dolls have for each other and their music is inspiring to say the least. I’m so glad that you chose this amazing/talented/intriguing/sexy band for your show! Thank you so much for giving us yet another chance to “get intimiate” with this band so many people rightfully adore and Love. And thank you to the Dresden Dolls for the beautiful music and talent that you have brought to the world…it does not go unnoticed. I can’t wait to see you again in Columbus. Once again, thank you so much.

  28. getting crushed over the head with a pianno followed by a set of drums still in play is one of the best reasons to leave the radio on in my Sleep. Even though I have never heard or even heard of these… Dolls (other than the China ones bombed in Germany) I’m on the case and very inspired by the hate mail found on their web site. Tomorrow when I awake again I’ll figure out what to do about their worldwind tour not including my area of the west coast…yet!

    kick it, poke it, hit it… rocket with eighty eight keys and a percussive overdrive

  29. In under an hour you most definetly have made a big fan out of me. To be honest when I saw that that was the topic for the night, I was braced for a bunch of ass kissing to some band that was from the eighties or something and had outlived their usefulness. I wasn’t even going to listen but I did and regret even thinking of not.

    Thank you

  30. Thank you for introducing me to such an incredible band! I’d heard “Coin Operated Boy” before but knew very little about the Dresden Dolls. When they broke into “Girl Anachronism” on your show I was in awe, I blurted out “Wow!” to nobody in particular and listed in amazement at the power that this duo churned out.

    What a cool, cool band.

  31. i’d like to thank all of y’all for commenting and listening.

    christopher lydon gives good interview, the best we’ve had yet!

    of course…

    anyway, i’d like to address this question, since it piqued my interest…..:

    “I’d like to know Amanda and Brian’s thoughts on the (de)evolution of cabaret as “high art.â€? The Dresden Dolls are carrying on in the tradition of Kurt Weil and company, but their music (most unfortunately) will never be as popular as Weil’s during his hayday — despite the fact that they have very “catchyâ€? tunes much like “Mack the Knife.â€? Besides the establishment of music categories, what has changed in the public appreciation of “art musicâ€? to generate such a dwindling audience?

    this is a double-edged sword. pop music back in weill’s day meant something very different than it does now. i would like to fantasize that we can indeed achieve a mainstream kind of recognition (while not comprimising the offbeat style that comes to us naturally) simply because the songs turn people on. one thing that’s been very heartening is that our band really is sort of genre-less, and so all sorts of people listen in without feeling they need to belong to a pre-ordained clique of listenership. this is not the case for certain brands of indie music, which don’t have as much pop appeal. we have fans that over 65 and under 5. this is good, and rare for a band nowadays. part of the problem is that “art music” has become very self-concious of itself and does tend to alienate it’s own audience. since ours in a very un-self-conscious music (or atr least, begins that way), i think we manage to avoid that trap….

  32. well after the fact, but my head popped at one of your shows last year. brava! bravo! Best show i’d seen since either Sonic Youth or Orchestra Ibrahim Ferrer (which I am sure i misspelled).

    I think brian is probably the best drummer I have seen live, and if you haven’t heard their rendition of “War Pigs”, you haven’t lived a full life.

    Please keep it up, you two are magic.

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