Following an eight-year break, the indie rockers in Denver's Dressy Bessy returned at the beginning of 2016 with a new album, Kingsized, and proceeded to pick up where they’d left off: touring the country and working hard.
A year later, the enthusiasm and energy hasn’t waned. Indeed, singer/guitarist Tammy Ealom is looking to be inspired by the negativity surrounding the recent election and write some blinding new songs. We spoke to Ealom as the band prepared for its show at the hi-dive this Saturday.
Westword: You put out Kingsized at the start of 2016. How did the year go besides that?
Tammy Ealom: It was great. We traveled the entire country twice and a little bit more. Had some great shows and made some new friends, as is the life of a traveling rock band.
You took quite a long break. Did it take any time to get back into the stride or was it just like riding a bike?
It is, as far as performing and getting back on tour. It was like, ‘Ah, this is it, I’m home again.’ I enjoy it. It’s grueling and brutal, I go through allergies and exhaustion, but at the end of the day, the show is where I get my energy. I’m actually suffering from allergies right now.
You’ve said that some of your original reasons for the break were financial — the collapse of the economy back in 2008…
Some of it, yeah. A side note: This last New Year’s Eve was my twentieth doing Dressy Bessy. I had my very first show as Dressy Bessy on New Year's of 1996. Anyway, at that point in 2008, we had been doing it forten years and it was time to step back. In 2011, my dad was diagnosed with and died from liver cancer within two months. We were gearing up to start up again, and then that happened and it set us back a little bit. For me, I’m constantly writing songs and working on imagery and artwork for the band, so I’ve never really taken a break anyway, even when I don’t have an album to put forth. It didn’t feel like a break, but then you look back and it’s eight years gone. It flew by. The political climate as it is, it’s just the right time to do this again now.
Meaning, with the Trump presidency forthcoming, now’s a time to make strong statements?
Yeah, definitely. I’ve been home for a month or so, and with the current state of the world, I’ve become inspired again, and there's another album on the way.
You took a break for eight years, which almost coincided with the period of time that Barack Obama has been in power. Is it fair to say that, when you feel comfortable, you don’t feel it necessary to write music?
Exactly. I personally love him as our president, and I did feel comfortable living life. Isn’t that something? It felt wonderful to live under his administration. Phew, we can breathe a little bit here. I’m not one to sit down and say, ‘Okay, we need to write songs now.’ I let it come to me. When it comes, then it’s a big relief. If I have some sort of turmoil, whether it’s personal, political or whatever, it just needs to come out at some point. And maybe I was feeling more comfortable during those years. I just had to breathe for a little bit. It wasn’t conscious. It was just like, ‘Oh, wow.’
A year on, have you been happy with the response to Kingsized?
I thought it was great. We had no expectations going in. There is a rebuilding that happens after a long break. You can’t expect to be active and go crazy: build, build, build. We took an eight-year break, and in that time, a lot of our fans have gone on and started families, and they aren’t really paying attention to what’s going on with bands like us. So there was a lot of rebuilding. It’s all just a matter of getting out, working your ass off and spreading the word. And it’s happening. This is a setup for the next album, and that’s how we’ve always done it. We’ve never put an album out and thought, ‘This is it, we’re gonna be huge. We’re gonna get a big break.’ We don’t expect that. For John [Hill, guitar] and I, it’s just what we do. Like I said, it was great. We traveled around the country a couple of times this year. We got in with a bunch of young DIY groups. It was amazing. I can’t wait to get back out.
What were your standout shows of 2016?
We did a short run with the Pylon Reenactment Society, which is Vanessa Hay from Pylon, a band that disbanded in the early ’90s. Vanessa has got a backup band doing Pylon songs. She’s one of my all-time heroes as far as vocals and melody. Just full-on, in your face.
What can we expect from your set at the hi-dive this weekend?
Just the usual balls-to-the-wall, I suppose. The spewing of guts. With Kingsized, a lot of the songs do have political undertones with what was going on with the race to the presidency. Now, all the songs still have the same sort of message, but it’s a little bit of a different vibe. With “Lady Liberty,” for example, we were saying, ‘Liberty needs to prevail here,’ and now we all know what the outcome is. It’s different. The songs take on a whole new meaning, which is exciting.
Have you started thinking about the next record?
We’ve got songs. We record in our home studio. Usually how it works is our drummer, Craig [Gilbert] will come over and we’ll work out the drum part, then track the drums and guitar — the basics. We’ve got some touring coming up in March, but probably in February we’ll start doing some basic tracking. I’m thinking probably an album next year, realistically.
And what do you have planned for the rest of 2017?
I’m not even sure. I know we’re going to the Northwest in March, and then in April we’ll be doing the middle of the country. We’ll just see what happens. We don’t have a master plan or anything. We take it as it comes, and that might be the only way to do it, for sanity’s sake.
Dressy Bessy, with Wheelchair Sports Camp and SPELLS, 9 p.m. Saturday, January 7, at the hi-dive, 7 South Broadway, Denver; 303-733-0230.