Transitions aren’t easy. For some, change comes easy and they slide into the new routine, for others it’s a bit more difficult to adjust. Sandy Vu of the Los Angeles-based band Dum Dum Girls falls somewhere between the former and latter. Vu, who entered the scene as the drummer for Dee Dee Penny’s all-female project steps out from behind the drum set on a new venture of her own, SISU. Where she was a moving part in the Dum Dum Girls, Vu is free to creatively express herself with the new band, moving about from on instrument to another and crafting a sound that is wholly hers. The transition hasn’t been an easy one though. As anyone with a lot on their plate can attest to, starting a new band while in another is no easy task. I caught up with Sandy, who plays The Empty Bottle in Chicago tomorrow night, as she was just getting out on tour with Dirty Beaches in support of her upcoming album, Blood Tears, out on Mono Prism September 17th.
Jake: Tell me a bit about the tour and opening for Dirty Beaches.
Sandy: We have been super excited to play with Dirty Beaches, I met him about two years ago now when Dum Dum Girls did a tour with him and it’s just going to be special because we’re all family at this point. Their tout manager is our good friend and stuff so it’s kind of like a big reunion party.
Jake: What was the transition like coming from the Dum Dum Girls?
Sandy: The Dum Dum Girls have been in town rehearsing and learning the new songs for the new record and we’re doing rehearsals for the tour for SISU, so if I didn’t have anything else to do and I just had to go to these rehearsals it wouldn’t be that bad but my days are just stacked with things I needed to do to get ready for the tour. Switching gears is not hard, it’s maybe a little bit stressful learning a lot of new material in a short amount of time. Going from Dum Dum Girls to SISU, in itself, isn’t that big of a deal to me.
Jake: Do you ever find yourself at a Dum Dum Girls rehearsal accidentally playing a SISU song?
Sandy: No (laughs), I think it occupies two totally different areas of my brain to just play drums compared to leading the band so it feels so different. In Dum Dum Girls it’s like I kind of turn off my brain a little bit. That band is set up so I just learn all of the songs and just play them (laughs).
Jake: Was SISU seen as an opportunity to move into that leadership role, or try something different in a band dynamic?
Sandy: Before Dum Dum Girls and SISU, I was in a band that was kind of in between. It was collaborative and everyone had more at stake with the band because it was a situation where I wasn’t just playing drums, I was involved in the songwriting but that comes with its own issues. So after that band ended and I joined Dum Dum Girls it was really refreshing to not have to worry about hurting other people’s feelings or egos or things like that. It was really clear cut, this is Dee Dee’s band and these are her songs, this is easy to turn off my brain. But with SISU it was just, after having my brain turned off for Dum Dum Girls, it made it necessary for me to have something that was my thing too, I guess. It didn’t really happen in that order. I started writing songs for SISU before I joined Dum Dum Girls and maybe that made it ok for me to be in Dum Dum Girls, I already had something of my own that was just me.
Jake: You mentioned SISU and Dum Dum Girls occupying different parts of your brain, can you elaborate on that?
Sandy: I can’t remember which side of the brain is which, the left side or the right but the math side of the brain is the drumming and really methodical, kind of systematic, it’s really clear cut. The other side is like the writing and all the creative side, I guess.
Jake: Word, so tell me about this new album, Blood Tears.
Sandy: The record is called Blood Tears and I recorded it mostly on my own with my bandmate Ryan who engineered and co-produced the album. I started the songs out as demos and, with Ryan, turned them into kind of more legit productions I guess. But they all started as bedroom projects I guess you would say. As a result they are all very personal songs and I think when I started writing them I didn’t know I was actually going to pursue something and put it out and do something but I guess as time went on it seemed like ‘why not?’ I was encouraged a lot by my bandmate Ryan-we played ina band together previously and after that were kind of lost in a way having put all of our eggs in that basket and having it end and stop the train.
Jake: Well the train is moving for you now, how excited are you to have your own material out to the world soon?
Sandy: Oh, yeah definitely. It’s like a difference maybe as a writer you write for publications so it’s like the difference between that and writing your own piece. There’s a lot more at stake for me personally which makes it a lot more . . . scary. There’s no one else that’s responsible, it’s me and it’s personal. I have to be unapologetic about it, it’s me and that’s it which honestly really freaks me out but its also that much more rewarding, I’m not hiding behind anyone or anything. I’m very excited.