The Dresden Dolls’ Amanda Palmer is a true entertainer: the bisexual front woman of the cabaret-punk duo doesn’t just wear outfits — she dons costumes and stage makeup to accompany her charismatic and playful performances. Her typical stage look is in the vein of a gothic pinup girl, and when she’s pounding on her piano, there’s no chance the focus could be on anyone else.
"It makes me very sad when I find out that people who never hear our music think that we are really about image and not about substance," Palmer said.
"I can understand why you might get that impression if you’ve never heard the band’s music and see a photo of a guy and a girl dressed up in crazy costumes and think, ‘I don’t need to pay attention to that — why do they need to wear those crazy clothes?’ I think that’s why we’ve constantly toured. Our live show is so intense and so substantive and emotional that it’s sort of the price we have to pay for being so flamboyant — we have to prove ourselves as a rock band."
Palmer and band mate Brian Viglione have been perfecting their eccentric stage act since 2001, when they began performing on the streets and stages of Boston. In 2003, their self-titled album was released on Important Records and gave the Dresden Dolls a shove into the mainstream with the single and video for "Coin Operated Boy."
They toured extensively in support of the album, eventually scoring an opening slot for Nine Inch Nails. This summer, they reached a new crowd, touring alongside Erasure, Debbie Harry and the Gossip on Cyndi Lauper’s True Colors Tour.
"We’ve done a lot of support tours, and so we’re used to getting out in front a crowd of mostly strangers that aren’t there for us," Palmer said. "It teaches me something about the band; that we’re pretty flexible and we do well in all of those environments. The only thing we change is the set list, and only very minorly.
"The great thing about the band is that a song like ‘Coin Operated Boy’ actually works for somebody who is relatively straight and in their 40s, or someone pissed off and wearing black and 17. For some reason that song and a couple of other songs bridge the gaps."
The ambiguous duo has always been assumed to be lovers, and their relationship has been under speculation by the press and fans alike. It wasn’t until the band’s fan base grew gayer and Cyndi Lauper took notice that anyone thought to wonder if Palmer or Viglione were queer.
"I’m bisexual, but it’s not the sort of thing I spent a lot of time thinking about," Palmer said. "I’ve slept with girls; I’ve slept with guys, so I guess that’s what they call it! I’m not anti trying to use language to simplify our lives."