B-Sides considers campaign songs and talks costumes with Dressy Bessy

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B-Sides considers campaign songs and talks costumes with Dressy Bessy

The idea of using pop songs as campaign themes makes sense. Ever since Bill Clinton famously commissioned Fleetwood Mac's "Don't Stop" for his presidential bid, various candidates have dabbled with repurposing pop songs. With such clear choices this year, it seems fitting that the current presidential contenders might also appropriate music to help define their political personas.

For Obama, "Changes" by David Bowie seems perfect. Hell, that's all we hear the guy talk about — change you can believe in, change is needed, change for the vending machine, etc. Instead, he's tapped Aretha Franklin's "Think," which, with its ominous warning, "Think about what you're trying to do to me," might give the impression he wasn't really ready to run after all. On the other hand, for all those who thought they'd never see an African-American run for president, Blondie's "Dreaming" might prove inspirational. Granted, some people are saying they don't know all that much about him, so asking the Eagles for permission to use "New Kid in Town" could be a good idea. That is, unless Sarah Palin claims it first. We hear she's leaning toward Helen Reddy's "I Am Woman," with its line "Hear me roar." But if she doesn't change that standard stump speech of hers, it will morph into "I am woman, hear me bore."

John McCain's choices seem all too obvious. "Old Man" by Neil Young is a clear contender, although using John Hiatt's "Same Old Man" from his recent album of the same name would be one way to affirm he's a gruff, no-nonsense kinda guy. When he received Daddy Yankee's endorsement, he might have had the option of using Daddy's ditty "Gasolina," but probably backed off, fearing a backlash in response to surging fuel costs. On the other hand, the Democrats' charge that he'd give us four more years of Bush might make the Four Tops' "Same Old Song" more relevant. That allegation clearly pisses the guy off, so to curb his raging crankiness, the Republicans could slip the Ramones' "I Wanna Be Sedated" into the mix. He could also emphasize the fact that this isn't even his first presidential bid — which gives cause to borrow the Boss' "Born to Run." (Except that Springsteen has endorsed Obama.)

Still, given the country's financial crisis, the best bet for both candidates might be any song that deals with dollars. Take "Money" by Pink Floyd; it not only reflects the cash crunch but it also purveys a psychedelic scenario. And judging from the way things are going in this country, there's not all that much difference between what's real and surreal anyway.
— Lee Zimmerman

Hollerback Girls
Dressy Bessy came of age in a golden era of American indie-pop music, rubbing elbows with bands on the Kindercore label and with the groups orbiting the Elephant 6 constellation. But the Denver band's brassy style, built on equal parts girl-group pomp and schoolyard sass, has outlasted most of its contemporaries. B-Sides spoke with singer and guitarist Tammy Ealom about the band's continuing evolution, the release of the recent Holler and Stomp and the importance of drumbeats in pop music.

B-Sides: Dressy Bessy plays in St. Louis on Halloween night. Can we expect costumes?

Tammy Ealom: We're thinking about it, but no one has any costume ideas yet. We need to get on that.

It seems like you enjoy playing dress-up most days of the year anyway.

I love clothes — I gotta find something that's totally out of character for the show. I've been collecting vintage clothing from the '60s and '70s for years and selling it on and off. The band just gave me an excuse to wear them.

You had St. Louis personality Beatle Bob pen the liner notes to Holler and Stomp. How did you hook up with him?

He's been supportive from the beginning. He introduced us once at the Way Out Club and he almost brought me to tears — he left me speechless. I could barely sing the first song. We've kept in contact over the years, and since we had kind of a different approach to this record, we asked him to write something.

What was different about the approach to this record?

After wrapping up touring with Electrified, I just wanted a break from the whole thing, so for me that means sitting down and writing. There was no pressure to record the next album — so I could sit down and obsessively bring songs together, just for me. I built the drumbeats first. I've had trouble with communicating with drummers in the past – we're on our fourth — and I wanted to sit down and have control over that and see what comes. I didn't play the kit but I recorded one drum at a time. The beats were there from the start. I've always been beat-based – I think they're the heartbeat of any song.

Dressy Bessy has outlived most of the bands in the Kindercore and Elephant 6 scenes. What is the secret to your longevity?

I think it's passion and drive. For me, it's what I do. I could not imagine not touring and putting out songs. I'm not doing it to become a rock star; I'm doing it to getting something out inside of me.

Do you feel aligned with any one scene or movement these days?

We used to be associated with the twee sound, which is not what we are. We're definitely a hard-rocking rock band. I think a lot of lazy reviews haven't helped get that across. We're sweet and cute, but we'll rock your freaking ass off.
— Christian Schaeffer

9 p.m. Friday, October 31. Blueberry Hill's Duck Room, 6504 Delmar Boulevard, University City. $10. 314-727-4444.

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