Dresden Dolls percussionist wields the power of punk-rock transvestite freak
A band that blurs the lines between the real and the imagined, Boston duo The Dresden Dolls create a world entirely of their own, full of dress-up, confused sexual orientations and a uncontainable amount of heart that’s pounded into the piano and the drums. Vocalist-keyboardist Amanda Palmer and drummer Brian Viglione have spent almost two non-stop years on the road since the release of their second album, "Yes, Virginia."
Their last stop in Dallas was last summer during Cyndi Lauper’s "True Colors" tour. They’re still on the road, stopping at the Palladium Ballroom on Saturday to promote a new disc, "No, Virginia." The album is made up of new songs, old demos and B-sides from the "Yes, Virginia" sessions. This batch stings — sometimes with laughter, sometimes pain — from the strains of "The Kill," to the bands cheeky cover of the Psychedelic Furs "Pretty in Pink."
Viglione recently discussed the band’s empowering message, and the rush he gets from cross-dressing.
What’s the overall message of your music? We want people to feel free enough to be themselves. When you go to a show, you bask in the energy of the people onstage. Hopefully, when people go home, they carry that energy into their everday lfe. Our message is about feeling free to express yourself and respect yourself. As a person, you combat a lot of discrimination in everyday life. Some people don’t like it when you express opposing opinions. It’s okay to have confidence to do that, as long as you’re not hurting anyone.
You dress in drag. Why? It’s about expressing a very uncomplicated side of who I am physically. I was nine years old when I first discovered I had a feminine side. I was with a cousin in a pool, and I had a mullet. When I got out of the pool, my hair was wrapped around my head. He said I looked like a girl, and I couldn’t deny it. I felt empowered by it. I never possessed that brute masculinity that a man is supposed to have. I just decided to embrace my natural physique, which was sort of feminine.
Because you dress in drag do people assume you’re gay? That happens to me all the time anyway. Dressing in drag hasn’t increased the amount of times that people have asked me if I’m gay. Mostly, people are curious about the ways in which I’m able to uncover different parts of myself. People have said, "I thought you were a punk rocker" or "I thought you were a transvestite freak." I am — I’m both! I like what I like, and I do what I want.
You dress in drag onstage as well. Yes, but I’m not a drag queen. When I get dressed up for the band, it’s because I feel like looking hot. I could wear a boring suit, but why not dress in an awesome gown and stockings? It’s what I look better in.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 30, 2008.