Amanda Palmer, the piano-banging, sweet-one-minute-screaming-the-next singer of two-piece cabaret punks the Dresden Dolls, is fading, she says. She’s been on the road in the US and Europe for months, but hasn’t stopped to catch her breath in the past three years.
A trip to Australia will be the last big thing for a while for her and drummer band-mate Brian Viglione, Palmer says.
It’s been a big year for the Dresden Dolls, a band who really do put both the alt and the rock in alt-rock. They’ve toured the world, released a great debut album (with singles Girl Anachronism and Coin-Operated Boy), had their first sell-out shows, told their life stories online at www.dresdendolls.com and generally caused a stir.
At any given concert they’re likely to dress in 1920s drag (or drag in general), with white-faced sad clown expressions. You expect Viglione to start tap dancing or perform a bad mime at any moment, and Palmer to take her clothes off. But despite their seeming lack of commercial consciousness, the Dresden Dolls are starting to become a big rock thing. Palmer stresses they haven’t just come out of nowhere.
It’s not as if we woke up one day and all of a sudden we’re getting all of this notoriety, she says.
We gained a really big local following and then got some attention nationally. We’ve had a lot of time to adjust to the temperatures, if you know what I mean. It’s very exciting but it’s not all that overwhelming.
Make that incredibly exciting, Palmer says.
Like Jack and Meg White from the White Stripes, the Dresden Dolls make two instruments and a voice sound like a full band. And like the White Stripes, their two-person set-up raises questions about in-band dynamics. Are they fucking? Are they married? Do they hate each other? Does it matter? On the website Palmer calls it rock love. Neither member seems keen to out him or herself as anything but a successful musical collaborator.
This tour was an entourage of 14 people, Palmer says. We have plenty of space from one another which has been a blessing for our relationship. It just used to be me and Brian and the equipment, in the car, with nothing to do but argue.
It’s one of the quiet areas in a life that is openly chronicled online. From a story about Palmer masturbating in class while staring down one of the class princesses to her obsessive love for the new Avril Lavigne album, it seems most things are out in the open. They’re not, she says: You don’t know the half of it. It’s a long and dark story.
The fact that I enjoy [revealing things about my life] seems a little twisted to some people. But it’s really not. I really like mining my life for what it’s worth and putting it out there as kind of an art form in itself.
[But] I protect my friends, I protect my family. I even protect my enemies. I try to protect everybody except for me. That’s the beauty of art and opaque poetry. There’s a lot of incredibly personal things that are also commercial, and it’s about finding a balance between running around and moaning and wailing and actually trying to say something.
The Dresden Dolls perform at the Annandale Hotel on Thursday 16 December.