For most of their existence, Malia James served as the bass player for the indie rock band Dum Dum Girls. A photographer by trade, she carried her camera throughout her journeys with the band and documented everything she saw, and it’s this view of her world that informs Girl In A Girl Band, a compelling and insightful glimpse into the life of a moderately successful international touring band.
As exciting as the rock and roll lifestyle might seem, it’s a well-known truth that boredom, tedium, and downtime is as much a part of the game as being on stage and garnering praise; after all, when you’re on tour, you’re only on stage for about an hour, and you have twenty-three hours to spend to get there. James deftly captures the ennui, offering scenes from hotel rooms, on the tour bus, and backstage. It’s to her credit that she makes it interesting; there’s something quite compelling about the bright colors of an otherwise dull green room, while a photograph of the band’s sexy stage outfits drying from a hand-wash in their hotel room’s bath is quite evocative. There are intimate moments of the band working in the studio, lost in concentration, as well as photos of them hanging out with friends and their partners on an off day.
And hotel rooms.
Lots and lots of hotel rooms.
One photo sums up the truth of being on the road, though. In one shot, we see a beautiful, snow-capped mountain range through the windows of a moving tour bus. In the foreground, we get a blurry shot of a napping/bored Dee Dee and another band member. This image captures the duality of the nature of touring life: there is a very beautiful landscape outside the window, but because the band has been on the road for a long time, such things are taken for granted: they’re not tourists, after all; they’re workers. This isn’t a vacation; this is a job. A job that is often very dull and very boring. That the location is not named only goes to show how anonymous and blurry even the most beautiful mountain range can become.
James is an excellent photographer, and Girl In A Girl Band offers a rare and interesting glimpse into her life as a touring musician. She’s turned a life that can and often is a hum-drum boring existence into both a work of art and a deft statement that helps demystify what it means to be in an actively touring band.