My interview originally appeared in the April issue of Foothills Magazine.
During “Preventions of Heartbreak,” the upcoming EP by Dame, Michelle Armstrong sings “we’re like superstars” at one point.
No mere boast, the lyric could easily prove prescient for the Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. native and her LA-based rock band, whose career has been on an upward path lately.
They are signed to indie label Playing in Traffic, alongside Grammy-winning Los Lonely Boys and critically acclaimed UK folk/rockers The Dunwells.
This past February, Dame performed at The Viper Room, an infamous nightclub on the Sunset Strip that has played host to A-list talent since 1993.
“It was so special hanging out in the green room backstage,” says Armstrong, from Austin, where the group was preparing for multiple appearances at key music industry showcase, South by Southwest.
“You can just feel the history there. It’s an honor to play on the [Viper Room] stage.”
As a student at Rancho Cucamonga High, she started out in musical theater, eventually picked up the guitar and joined a ska band. Armstrong recalls attending a few gigs at the Glass House and particularly going to the local Coffee Klatch.
“That was the cool music handout.”
By the late 2000s, Armstrong had delved into acoustic folk/rock. Shortly after, “my sound completely turned to rock ‘n’ roll,” she says.
Indeed. From the sensual, driving pace in “Holy Moly” and dismissive “Sugar Muffin” to an electronic-tinged “Ride (Give it Away)” and rich layered harmonies amid “Superstars,” the EP is rife with attitude and blaring guitars.
A tantalizing music video for “Sugar Muffin” was set at the beach and directed by documentary filmmaker Andrew Shapter (Willie Nelson, The Roots).
Everything sounds radio ready, thanks to Tim Palmer, whose production credits include Robert Plant, Ozzy Osbourne and David Bowie. The esteemed veteran runs a recording studio in Austin, where Armstrong resided for a period while TV actor husband Matt Lauria (“Lipstick Jungle,” “Chicago Code,” “30 Rock”) shot his role in Emmy Award-winning NBC series “Friday Night Lights.” The couple, who first met at a Colorado summer camp in high school, split their time between SoCal and Texas.
“We’ve been like gypsies,” she notes with a laugh, “we go wherever the work takes us.”
Joan Jett, Pat Benatar, Heart and Blondie’s Deborah Harry are among the Dame spitfire’s primary influences. The band name comes from “these female rock artists and their wild, unbridled energy - they completely let loose.”
Yet she is also motivated by more contemporary rock ladies.
“I’m obsessed with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and The Kills.”
Future plans for Dame music – either a single, EP or full-length album for purchase – are still being determined. Right now, the songs can only be streamed online. Meanwhile, Armstrong says another LA-area concert is being targeted for May.www.playingintrafficrecords.com