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The Record - April 1, 2005

Theatrical flair mixed with punk
by Salvatore Tuzzeo Jr.

A duo that dons stark white pancake makeup and bowler hats and melds German cabaret music with the raw energy of punk rock isn't the type of outfit you'd expect to sell out shows and cultivate a near-army of devoted fans.

But that's exactly what the Dresden Dolls have done since forming in 2001, after drummer Brian Viglione and singer-pianist Amanda Palmer bumped into each other at a loft party in Boston. The two soon realized that their respective styles - Viglione's heavy metal background and Palmer's lyrically confessional songs - complemented each other perfectly.

Within a year of forming, the Dolls had a feverish local following, thanks to their engaging live show, with its nod to both German dramatist Bertolt Brecht and punk emporium CBGB.

In short time, the pair landed a record deal and last year they released their self-titled debut to the delight of critics. Recently, the Dolls were handpicked by Trent Reznor to open for Nine Inch Nails' North American tour. We caught up with Viglione to discuss the Dolls' sudden and unexpected rise.

Q. A Dresden Dolls show is always a very theatrical-heavy performance. Do either of you have any history in the theater?

We have both been involved in community theater and school plays from a very young age. It's another exciting element to the band that we found we had in common and figured we could work into the live show. Amanda directed plays and was involved in productions all through high school. I had been doing theater since I was 7 or 8 years old.

Q. Boston can be a bit, shall we say, puritanical. How were you guys received locally when you first started?

We were received very warmly, I think because we came up though the local art gallery scene. I think maybe if we jumped in and began our career by playing the local rock clubs, people would've been a bit more skeptical of the music, because that audience is used to a more traditional sense of rock-and-roll. When you go to an art space, people are more open to anything that might happen. So we built up a small following in the art communities and brought those people with us into the rock clubs.

Q. What is it about mixing punk and cabaret that seems to resonate with your fans?

With a lot of the music that is out there, I think people are especially hungry for something with a unique twist in it. There are a lot of bands derivative of older outfits. It seems like a lot of rehashed styles that have dominated the airwaves and magazine covers over the past few years. I think people are generally enthused to see a band that doesn't borrow from anything from the last 10 or 15 years of music.

Q. You were asked to tour with Nine Inch Nails - that must have been a wonderful and flattering surprise, no?

When we got the news we just couldn't believe it. Apparently Trent Reznor felt excited about what we were doing and the kind of show we have. ... We are really excited to get out there and reach a whole new group of people.