COURTESY JAMES ORLANDODum Dum Girls’ Dee Dee Penny says she “re-learned” how to sing while making her latest recording “Too True.”

Dum Dum Girls back in action

New York-based vocalist-guitarist Dee Dee Penny, wife of Crocodiles frontman Brandon Welchez, has been quite productive lately.

In January, she issued “Too True,” her third album under the moniker Dum Dum Girls, who play The City this week. And she and her husband are preparing to release “Imitations,” their neo-psychedelic debut as the duo Haunted Hearts.

No one is more surprised than Penny (whose given name is Kristin Welchez) herself. A year ago, she was facing the harsh reality that her singing career might be over, prematurely.

And the few previous years — spent grieving the passing of several close friends and the protracted death of her mother from cancer — were equally trying.

Not long after she exorcised those demons with two cathartic Dum Dum Girls records — 2011’s chiming “Only in Dreams” and the buzz-sawing 2012 followup EP “End of Daze” — she started having serious voice difficulties onstage.

“And they came to a head when I started recording (“Too True”), and I was just unable to sing,” she recalls.

The irony was palpable. Penny had been singing all her life, she says, “And not just from a garage-band, or an I-sing-in-a-punk-band kind of way.”

Having studied with professional voice teachers, she says, “I had the structure of a more classically-trained singer, and despite that, every day I had to force myself through the songs. I was starting to become self-conscious, and that was very foreign to me. My voice is something that I’ve always had, and I always felt like I could count on it without much effort.”

Penny had been in Los Angeles, tracking “Too True” with her old studio compadre Sune Rose Wagner of The Raveonettes. She demoed ethereal janglers like “Rimbaud Eyes,” “Evil Blooms” and “Little Minx” with drum loops on her computer, then turned Wagner loose on many of her bass riffs, six-string leads and drum programming.

“I wanted there to be a lot of textural guitar,” she says. “And something a lot faster to imply movement, because a lot of these songs were more mid-tempo than I’ve ever written before.”

The instrumentals were finished. But when Penny stepped to the mic? Dead air. Terrified, she flew home, where she was prescribed three months’ rest, plus a rehabilitation-therapy regimen.

Essentially, she had to re-learn how to trill. “Instead of using the one muscle that is your vocal cord, I was using my neck and my tongue to overcompensate,” she says. “So it was really unfortunate to realize that I’d started all these bad habits, because they are really difficult to shake.”


Dum Dum Girls

Where: Independent, 628 Divisadero St., S.F.

When: 8 p.m. Tuesday

Tickets: $16 to $18 (sold out)

Contact: (415) 771-1421, www.ticketfly.comartsDee Dee PennyDum Dum GirlsPop Music & JazzToo True

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