I’m always nervous before an interview; no matter how prepared I am and how confident I am in myself, I still get butterflies. I was about to add an incredibly talented + inspiring female guitarist/singer to my roster, not to mention another rad drummer who would spout many words of wisdom + truth throughout our interview. Goth punk duo One-Eyed Doll, based in Austin, Texas, consists of Kimberly Freeman + Jason Rufus Sewell aka “Junior”, who together create an entirely original + captivating theatrical rock-and-roll experience that has been compared to the likes of Strawberry Shortcake meets Gwar.
Winning “Best Punk Band” three years in a row (as well as top ten in Best New Band, Best Metal Band, Best Female Vocalist to name a few others) at Austin’s South By South West Music Awards (SXSW has helped many artists get their big break including John Mayer, Alabama Shakes and The White Stripes), featured in magazines like Guitar Player, Guitar World and being voted Top 5 Most influential Women in Music by Revolver Magazine, it’s clear that Kimberly is a force to be reckoned with and it’s only a matter of time before this duo takes the music world by storm.
I met Junior by their bus after he had just been given a huge dish of baked pasta; those are the kind of awesome + appreciative fans this band has! As I boarded their bus, I was led behind a curtain where I met Vaughn, their roadie who told me his story about being kidnapped by the band after a Craigslist encounter and how fun touring had been thus far. Kimberly boarded the bus a few minutes later and I felt like the Great + Powerful Oz waiting for her behind the curtain. The punky, poetic princess and I hugged, exchanging proper + official introductions, which of course led to the discussion of my first concert and discovering I was not the only one on the bus who had seen Skid Row live.
Junior: My second show was Aerosmith and Skid Row.
Jenn: Nice! I’ve seen Aerosmith five times.
Jenn: They are fantastic! Like I said, my mom raised me right, taking me to live shows all the time.
Junior: I got ruined though, because my first show was Pink Floyd in 1987. And then it was just like, a sharp downhill after that.
Jenn: I can imagine!
Kimberly: Nobody can live up to that, yeah.
Junior: I went to that Aerosmith show and was like ‘Where are the lights? Where are the movies? Where’s the stuff flying around?’
Kimberly: And now he’s obsessed with lasers so we have lasers.
Junior: Yeah, you’ll see it in our show. Unfortunately, the stage is so small we only have a fraction of our actual light show.
Kimberly: They don’t have enough electricity for us to use to do our whole thing but we’ll make it cool. (She paused) We’ll see how it goes!
Jenn: It’ll go great…
Kimberly: (nodding in agreement) It will be fine.
Jenn: …it will go the way it’s supposed to go.
Kimberly: We’re just excited to have a light show. We have a friend on lights and his whole job is (puts on deep metal voice) ‘To do the lights!’ And he’s really good at it.
Jenn: Have you guys played North Carolina before?
(I have NO idea why I asked this question. It totally wasn’t in my ‘list’ of questions. I mean, of COURSE they had played North Carolina before. Lame ass.)
Junior: Yeah, plenty of times. We played, what is it, The Milestone? (Looking to me for confirmation)
Jenn: Sure. (I smiled + nodded. I had no idea)
Junior: Right? (Looking to Kimberly for confirmation) The Milestone?
Kimberly: I have no idea. (She + I were on the same page.)
Junior: In Charlotte. It’s like a punk bar that’s really cool. It was the first show we ever did in North Carolina.
Kimberly: (Her face lit up) Oh yeah! It was a like a real old-school historical punk bar where like, all the awesome 90s punk bands played. And they all tagged the walls. I had to stop for a second when we were playing because you could see the back wall from the stage; it was only like 20 feet from stage…
Junior: There was like Black Flag and other bands tagged…
Kimberly…yeah and I stopped and it was like The Vandals or something and I was like ‘Woah, what?’
Jenn: ‘Those people have stood here!’
Kimberly: ‘They probably spit on the ceiling here. Maybe it will drip on me!’
Junior: Eww. (We laugh as Junior makes a face.)
Jenn: (looking at Kimberly) What was your first show? (Since we know Junior’s, it’s only fair.)
Kimberly: I didn’t really get to go to shows and stuff because I was raised in a religious family. I think my first show was with like, someone’s youth group trip from their church and I think it was…
Junior: Petra, right?
Kimberly: Petra and somebody else.
Jenn: No way! I actually just talked about them in the last interview I did with a band actually out of San Antonio called Nothing More. The singer’s first show was Grammatrain and Petra.
Kimberly: (laughing) I wonder if it was the same show. I can’t remember who else it was. It wasn’t in San Antonio though, I don’t remember where it was; probably in the Northeast somewhere. But yeah, I didn’t have the opportunity to do all that kind of stuff when I was a kid, which is probably why I do it now.
Jenn: (rephrasing my question) What was one of the first shows that really impacted you?
Kimberly: Well, when I was little kid, there was a house party and my Grandpa Bernie performed. He was this clown-y old guy, just super, super cool. He announced that he was going to perform and everyone just circled around him and he started doing stand-up comedy and skits and playing instruments and singing; getting people to sing along with him. (She motioned putting on a large hat) And he would put on this particular hat and would become this character called ‘Ole Svenson’, who was Swedish. And he would all of a sudden have this perfect Swedish accent (she laughed slightly), which is actually true because I got an email from someone in Sweden, who was like a music journalist and they were asking me about Bernie. They were like ‘Did he live in Sweden? We just want to know how he had such a perfect Swedish accent’ but no, he had just come up with it. He was just so clever. He was an actor and he was in movies; he was just an all-around performer, up until his mid-90s, when he passed away.
And he had one eye; that was my favorite part about him, was his glass eye. I just remember watching him (she paused) and that had the most impact on me out of any performance I had ever seen. And it’s, I’m pretty sure, the reason why I became a performer. And then later when I decided to become a performer, I came to him for advice and he kind of, set me on the right path so the band is dedicated to him; that’s why it’s called One-Eyed Doll.
Jenn: Wow. That’s incredible.
Kimberly: Yeah, everybody’s always like (puts on best backwoods, country accent) ‘Are you the daaawl? Why do you have twoooo eyyyyyes?’ And I’m like it has to do with my Grandpa, it’s a long story.
Jenn: That is awesome and a really good impression, too.
Kimberly: (laughing) That’s kind of how people sound when they ask me that. And they usually give me this look. (She raised her eyebrows up and down, while winking.)
Jenn: The good ol’ wink-wink-nudge-nudge.
Kimberly: Or (she crosses her eyes) ‘Is it a reference to genitalia’?
Jenn: Yeah, it’s not One-Eyed Monster, come on!
Jenn: A common thread that I’ve found amongst the people I’ve interviewed so far is the whole do-it-yourself attitude. You guys seem to have taken that mindset and just run with it. Can you talk a little about the whole DIY motto of this band?
Kimberly: I don’t think it’s really a motto; it’s just kind of what we had to do over the years. We didn’t have any help.
Junior: (laughing) There’s nobody else doing it for us! So we’ve got to do it ourselves.
Kimberly: We couldn’t wait around for some fairy godmother because you know, there aren’t a lot of fairy godmother’s in the record industry anymore.
Jenn: And that’s unfortunate.
Kimberly: You have to do it for yourself and then, if you do well enough, people will want to join in on that but you have to get yourself to a certain point. When we started out, I was literally homeless. I didn’t have a place to live. So I was just like ‘Let’s go! Let’s just live in my van and go on tour and never stop! We’ll dumpster dive and I’ll make merch out of stuff we find in dumpsters’.
(If you want to see how Kimberly created some really beautiful + rad handmade tee shirts, check out the One-Eyed Doll Rockumentary on YouTube. It’s definitely worth a watch and I totally want one of those shirts!)
That’s kind of how we started; we built it from there, from zero, literally.
Jenn: You put your blood, sweat and tears into it.
Kimberly: Right. And we’re still doing that but in a different way. You know, we’ve built it to where now we have merchandising. (She looks around, motioning) We have this cool bus we get to live in instead of my little van. But it all started from me like, scavenging and sleeping outside; living in whatever venue parking lot that we could play in that night. It was just a necessity thing. I didn’t know there was any other way to do it, besides the punk- rock way to do it. (She sounded completely sincere + honest) I mean, I would have liked to have had it easy but I didn’t.
Jenn: How do you think it’s helped you grow as an artist?
Kimberly: I think it makes me appreciate everything that I have because I feel like I’ve earned it. I feel truly dignified. Everything I have, I don’t think any of it was handed to me. I feel empathy for people who are working their way up and trying to make it. And then other people I want to just smack in the face. (She laughs) I think the most that I’ve gotten out of it is gratitude. I’m so thankful for every little thing that we accomplish and I feel good about earning it. No matter how many people tried to cut me down along the way and get me to stop. There’s this ‘anti-support’ thing that happens when you try to do something creative and risky…
Jenn: Oh, of course! And it’s hard not to listen to those voices, too
Kimberly: …yes! (Looking at Junior) But now I’ve got an awesome foundation, working with my best friend. I’ve got a great support system. I’ve got my buddies who come out with us as crew. (I say hey to Vaughn, who is hanging out + making coffee.) I’m really grateful for it.
Junior: I met Kimberly because I ran a studio and I was looking for, really, the best band in Austin because when I moved to Austin, I wanted to find the very best band to be my résumé piece, you know? So I just went to a bunch of shows and I was checking out MySpace and stuff and I came across, the band was called Ghetto Princess at the time. And I was like ‘This is the band!’
Jenn: Just the name alone! (They both laughed)
Junior: So I went up to her and was like ‘Check out this CD. I hope you like it. Come record!’ and she was like ‘I wish I could but we can’t even afford to eat’, much less record at a recording studio. And I just wanted to record the band. I thought they were just amazing. I also have this philosophy that if you just do freebies, things don’t really work out as much because there isn’t an urgency, you know? It starts taking two years and then everyone starts getting too picky about things. I asked if there was any skilled labor they could do and she’s like ‘We could probably paint’ so I’m like ‘All right, paint my house! Let’s do it. You paint the house and we’ll make this record over the summer’!
Kimberly: My first drummer Scotty, at the time, was a construction guy and he did a lot of painting houses and stuff. So we painted every room inside of Junior’s house a different color. He was like ‘This room is purple and green! This one will be blood red!’ and we spent a whole summer doing this.
Junior: And that’s how we made the whole album!
Kimberly: We just traded hour for hour for studio time.
Junior: Yeah, it was totally cool.
Kimberly: And I slept in his goat shed. (They looked at each other smiling)
Junior: Yeah, I already had a full house because I brought my whole band from Sacramento out to Austin so there were six people living in the house. But what I was going to say was that with running a studio, these bands always come in and are like ‘As long as we make the best sounding song in the universe, we’re going to get the record deal and then we’ll be big stars’. And that is just never the case. I was thinking that if we’re going to sell out every time we play in Austin, then people will start noticing and then we’ll get the record deal. That’s the concept, right? You get the big crowds, you get the big buzz; there’s A&R reps out there, especially in a music city like Austin, right?
Kimberly: I think it may have been like that a really long time ago but not anymore.
Junior: So that didn’t happen but you know, we’re selling out the shows in Austin and then you’re thinking about South by Southwest (SXSW) and if you get a bunch of buzz at SXSW because that’s where all the labels go. And One-Eyed Doll won Best Punk Band at SXSW for like, three years straight! And still, nobody is trying to help us out! Then you start doing the same thing on a national level, you know? People are coming out to your shows from all over the country, you’re selling merch and of course, at this point, you’re thinking they’re going to be coming to you with the silver platter and the Warner Bros. record deal.
Jenn: Of course!
It takes so much work! You think ‘Oh, she’s on the cover of Revolver Magazine’, people would start offering record deals. You have to literally put in so much work, years and years of work for anyone to pay attention; unless you’re somebody’s son or daughter…
Jenn: Right; if you’ve got connections.
Kimberly: Or if you’re a sucker!
Junior: …yeah, you pretty much have to be connected in some other way. It’s not really about the music and your hard work or anything like that so you can’t rely on that. (Connections, that is) I’m not saying that you can’t get a record or you won’t get lucky but there’s no writing the best song in the world and then that’s your key to success. It’s just hard work, meeting people one at a time who like your music for what it is and traveling the country, making a one-on-one connection with people. That’s the only thing that you can do this for. You can’t do it because you feel you’re going to be Lady Gaga or some big huge star; it’s just such a pipe dream. It has to be because you love making the music. And if you love making the music and you love playing the shows, then you’ll be successful because you’re doing something you love to do. And I feel really successful.
Kimberly: We’ve been successfully running our own small business without any other side jobs for several years now. As a business, we’ve been doing really well and getting by being able to live on that without also having to work at Hot Topic off tour. At this point, we are a little bit protective of ourselves to work with anyone who can’t do better than that for us. We’ve definitely got a really great team going on right now because we’re able to be picky about that so a lot of good things are going to be happening really soon.
Junior: The moral of the story is now after five years of just going out there, we are building a really strong team and it’s going well but I think the path to success is going to be on a DIY level these days.
Jenn: It’s definitely working for you guys. I came across you guys on either Pandora or Spotify. I feel like I was listening to the Switchblade Symphony channel (If you’re not familiar with these awesome 90s industrial-goth chicks, check out their album “The Three Calamities”) and “Commited” popped on. I was like ‘Who the hell is this band?’ so I looked you guys up and was blown away that I hadn’t heard of you before.
Kimberly: Aww. (She looked genuinely appreciative.) Thanks!
Jenn: And you’ve toured with so many bands that I love like Wayne Static from Static-X, Cold, Orgy and of course Otep. What are some of the best words of encouragement that you’ve received from your fellow musician tour mates?
Kimberly: (Her eyes widened) Oh wow, I’ve been so blown away by some of the stuff that peers have told us.
Junior: OTEP tweeted one time, “One-Eyed Doll pollenates the world with art”.
Jenn: That’s beautiful!
Kimberly: Yeah, she’s such poet.
Junior: I was like ‘Wow!’
Jenn: Yeah, she’s fantastic. I’m a big fan of her spoken word stuff.
Kimberly: (laughing) Everything she says is quotable! We’ve played like 150 shows together now…
Junior: She is super nice to us, really supportive.
Kimberly: …never get tired of seeing her play! You can imagine after playing so many shows together, you kind of get used to it after awhile or get tired of it but every time I see her play, I find something new that I love about her. There aren’t a whole of people you can say that about, as in performers but you can tell it’s really coming from her heart. She’s a very creative person.
Junior: We’ve been really lucky to tour with a lot of great people, like Jay Gordon from Orgy.
Kimberly: Oh he had nothing but kind words!
Junior: Super nice! Every night, he would have a One-Eyed Doll shirt on when they were playing.
Jenn: How cool is that?
Junior: Super cool!
Kimberly: He’s very encouraging to us. He would take us aside and give us pep talks that we were ‘doing it right’. We’ve just been so lucky that all of our peers that we’ve toured with have been so supportive.
Junior: The guys from Mushroomhead are really great. We’ve toured with them four times.
Kimberly: Oh man, yeah! Those guys have been super cool. Steve, who is the brain behind it all…
Junior: He’s the drummer.
Kimberly: …he’s given us a lot of inspiration for our stage show and production. A lot of our lighting is totally inspired from watching their show. Those guys always gave us priority.
Junior: The lead vocalists in the band are in our video “Be My Friend”.
Jenn: Oh really?! That’s too cool! I love that video, it’s so fun.
Kimberly: Waylon and Jeffrey! They’re such great actors. And I’m pretty sure I got laryngitis from kissing Jeffrey’s mask in the video, by the way. (laughing) I just want to put that out there! We both ended up with laryngitis shortly thereafter. (Both her and Junior laugh) Of course Patrick (Kendall), the director, made me do that scene like seventeen times and I was like ‘It’s going to be covered in lipstick soon so you’ve got to wash it and do it again!” They were such good sports, too. They had no idea what they were getting into. We basically shot all of that stuff during the day of one of the shows on tour and we had like, an hour or two to get in some shots and we just sort of threw them together. Waylon had his black contacts in already and we just made him a little collar and our merch girl, Pez had a hat like yours on so we just grabbed that a put it on him and he was like, the perfect priest!
Jenn: I’ve listened to the albums ‘Into Outer Space’ and ‘Sleep’ and its very obvious that music lives in your soul; that you were born to create music.
Kimberly: (smiling) Oh, thank you.
Jenn: Its kind of the same way that I was born to listen to music and spread the word! (Total nerd, I know) Once again, I feel that you guys have created this entire art form that is very unique and original. What is it to you, that makes music so powerful? How do sounds + words bring about such a connection between absolute strangers?
Kimberly: I read once that music, at least playing music, is one of the only things that has been discovered to use both sides of your brain at the same time; using math + language at the same time. I guess it’s a way to communicate that I never had before. I always felt like a loner, ya know? If I tried to explain to someone how I felt, it’s like I could never really do it because they always thought I was crazy (she laughs) or out of line or maybe exaggerating. But as soon as I put it to music, people were really listening + connecting and I felt less alone in those feelings that I had. And I didn’t know that I had that with people. I didn’t know that I had the ability to relate with so many people. If I had known that way earlier on in my life, I probably would have lived a much happier life and been less lonely. I was really lonely up to the point where I started playing my music. Honestly, when I started performing my music, I thought it was still going to be that way. I was like ‘Nobody is going to understand what I’m trying to say’.
Jenn: I can imagine how scary that would be, the first few times. I mean, even now I’m sure you still get butterflies when performing in front of people.
Kimberly: Every single night. Actually, I have a hard time eating. I have to wait, six hours or so before we play to eat, otherwise I’m just going to loose it. (Laughing) Evacuate! Evacuate! I get nerves really bad. I still get stage fright every single night before we get on stage.
Jenn: How do you calm down?
Kimberly: I don’t. I don’t have a thing that I do. I mean, I stretch and I put on my lipstick or whatever but I’m not sure that any of that is a ritual at all. As soon as the music starts and we get onstage and that first note comes out, it kind of all disappears; it’s OK again. I’m in my happy place and it’s comfortable and I feel confident. Usually, as the music starts, I feel like me again. (Looking at Junior) But I feel like Jason was born confident.
Junior: There was time that I realized that getting nervous was what it was all about, ya know? And all of a sudden it changed from fear to the reason why I do it. Every once in a while, I’ll catch myself starting a show and not even thinking about it and that’s a bummer almost.
Kimberly: I wish I could do that! I’m filled with self-doubt and things like that right before I go on stage.
Junior: For me, it’s a lot easier because I do have ultimate confidence in Kimberly because she just nails it every single night.
Kimberly: (laughing) I do not nail it every single night!
Junior: Oh she does!
Kimberly: (still laughing) He nails it every single night!
Junior: There’s a technical proficiency that you can measure with, you know, with physics. Then there’s the transference of the emotion + the energy and that’s something that can’t be measured. It’s really difficult to do and there aren’t a lot of people that do it and she does it every single night. I’ve seen rooms just filled with knuckleheads; their arms crossed saying ‘What is this bullshit?’
Jenn: Already making up their mind to not like the band!
Kimberly: (mimicking) ‘Who does she think she is playing guitar?’ It’s like they’re challenging me and I’m like can’t we just have fun?
Junior: And I get to watch from behind the drum set and these sneers turn to jaws dropping. And then it’s like a mosh pit! It happens every single night and it’s super cool. I’ve been in a lot of bands before this and there’s just a magic that Kimberly has that almost no one else has.
Kimberly: We still get rooms where it’s flat out that nobody is going to get it…
Junior: But that’s fun, too!
Kimberly: … but that’s kind of more fun. I mean, I know he has my back and we’ll be mooning the crowd together if they’re booing us off stage.
Jenn: That’s got to be a blast, touring with your best friend.
Kimberly: Heck yeah! I haven’t always had that support. I’ve had a lot of different lineups who were not as 100% behind me. I’ve never had this kind of support in a band before and that has just made such a difference. It’s helped me to not burn out by this point. He is nothing but positive! He will encourage me until the end. I get down on myself and I lose my confidence…
Jenn: I think it’s just wired in us females, I really do. Some of the most awesome girls I’ve met still deal with that every single day.
Kimberly: …yeah, you get these self- esteem issues. But he just absolutely believes in me to the end, like nobody had ever done; it’s the reason our band is still together at this point, I guarantee it.
Jenn: (looking at Junior) Good job you!
Junior: Thanks! But I’m super lucky to be able to work with her.
Kimberly: It can be really emotionally draining to deal with people’s criticisms and people trying to bring you down. The pressures of just being a female performer really wear you down. It’s hard not to become bitter and it’s hard not to become mean or just hide all day long. You sometimes just want to bury yourself in a hole and he gives me the confidence to just go out there and keep going; to be myself and not go bitter. He sees the best in everything and everyone, in every situation. It’s refreshing.
Junior: I think it’s important to find the good things that are happening around you and really try to absorb the good stuff and just shut out the bad stuff. I think what a lot of people do is when the bad thing happens, they’ll attach to it and all of a sudden there will just be this negative energy. You can really get attached to that negative energy. For me, the most important thing is if I see something like that happening, it’s just to remove it from our lives. We don’t have time to waste on the negative stuff.
Jenn: This is true.
Junior: It’s not that I see the best in everything. I just try to focus on the best and not focus on the bad stuff.
Kimberly: Its just super Zen-like.
Junior: And you asked her the question about what music means to her and I wanted to say that ever since I was a little kid, I could really relate to production. I grew up with Pink Floyd and my dad was into psychedelic progressive-rock. It was really fascinating to me, the soundscapes. You know, songs would make me feel a certain way and I wanted to know why. It wasn’t really about the lyrics for me; it was about the sound creating an emotion. I think what I bring is that we kind of complete each other because I’m not a lyricist or a poet at all; I don’t relate to lyrics.
Kimberly: (whispering) He’s a really good lyricist, actually.
Junior: Well, I don’t really have anything to say whereas she’s got something to say and I can listen to her song and know how to tell her story with the music. The albums like ‘Sleep’ and ‘Into Outer Space’, I kind of took over the production and one of the reasons we went into that is because One-Eyed Doll is a very specific thing: it’s drums + guitars and it’s rock-n-roll….
Jenn: And I love it! (Kimberly laughs)
Junior: …but we have all this other stuff that we want to do so we made these solo albums and that’s where we can really explore because there are no boundaries.
Kimberly: I can do a 65-piece harmony and not have to worry about reproducing it on stage. We don’t have to worry about having to live up to the song on stage so we can just use a Theremin! And synths! And string sections!
Kimberly: I can let myself go vocally, too because there are just some things that I cannot do on tour. There’s just a lot more room for experimentation. The ‘Sleep’ album started out as us just going to do acoustic guitar + voice; that was our idea for that album. It was going to be our folk album; I had my grandpa’s guitar. Jason went off on a tangent while I wasn’t there and took one of the songs on that album and made it super-epic with all this production on it.
Junior: This is the song “Overdose”. It had thunder and pianos.
Kimberly: A lot of the beat is actually thunder from a thunderstorm; it’s just a really cool, experimental song. He showed it to me and I had to let it sink it.
Junior: She made me play the song like 20 or 30 times without telling me what she thought! She was just like ‘Play it again’.
Kimberly: I just had to absorb what was happening because I had my mind so set on this acoustic guitar + voice album and I had to reprogram my brain to understand the song as it was. And I decided ‘Yes. I’m going to give this a go’ and do the whole album like this! We’re just going to let go and do whatever we want.
Junior: And that was a big breakthrough because up to that point, we had made ‘Hole’ and ‘Monster’…
Kimberly: Very simple stuff.
Junior: … and she was very adamant about it being basically what you would hear live.
Kimberly: I was just afraid to be expected to produce it live. Nowadays, I’m just like, ‘Whatever. The albums are one thing and the stage show is another thing’. They bring the same energy in different ways. But back in the day with my first couple of albums, when I was still figuring stuff out, I was very held back production-wise. I wouldn’t let Jason do all this cool stuff but now we’re going back and re-doing old songs. He was always very advanced but I wanted it to be real cut-down at the very beginning because we were real punk rock. I was still making stuff out of things I found in dumpsters for our merch table so you can kind of see the progression, I guess. Jason can take my super simple songs and form them into something much bigger and so we work really well together like that.
Jenn: (Looking at Junior) I like how you described it, that you can help tell her story through the music.
Junior: Yeah! I just want to make the music feel like whatever the message is.
Kimberly: And for the first item ever, ‘Into Outer Space’ is a little split; we both wrote different things for that album so he actually has some really cool instrumental music that he had done that I wrote on top of. I would write the melodies + the vocals and then we would reform them to be a song. Some of them were acoustic songs that I had that we made into dance songs so it was a complete, total collaboration, even more so than the ‘Sleep’ album. The ‘Sleep’ album was all of my acoustic songs that we built on but on ‘Into Outer Space’, a lot of that was his music in the first place…
Jenn: And then you would just write the words?
Kimberly: Yeah! I love that album because that helped pull me out of this ‘I-have-to-write-everything’ mentality. It took a lot of years for me to have trust in someone enough to do that. I had a lot of trust issues because you know, people take off and it always came back down to me.
Jenn: At the end of the day, all you really have is yourself. I’ve learned that lesson many times over the years. Music has definitely helped me out of a lot of dark places, especially back in the middle school days of bullying. It happened to me nearly every day for 3 years. I read in an interview that you had had some experiences with that, too. Knowing what you know now, what would you two say to your younger selves back when times were really bad? How would you get yourself through it now?
Kimberly: If I actually knew everything I know now back then, I would have found Jason and been best friends with him at that time. I think that would have fixed a lot of issues that I had. It would have been really helpful for me to know that I wasn’t alone in all the ways that I felt; that all the people around me had different insecurities and that was the reason they were lashing out in different ways…
Kimberly: …and that things do get better. There was a time when I completely lost hope and all that I could do was to escape what was going on around me and from life.
Jenn: Did you escape to music or through writing?
Kimberly: I had a breakdown and ended up in the hospital for a good part of a year over that. That’s where “Committed” comes from. I had no concept of it getting any better. I think that a lot of people in their teens have this really small bubble around them that is their life and their entire universe; it would be cool to be able to fast forward and let people see what it could be. If I had known back then that I could be here talking to you right now, I think that that would have helped me out a lot!
Jenn: Right. And vice versa! (I feel very honored to do these interviews)
Kimberly: I don’t think people believe it, though. I’m sure someone told me that ‘It gets better’ but I didn’t believe it. I was like ‘No. There’s no hope for me. I’m so alone’. I felt crazy and that nobody else thought like me; I was extremely narcissistic. (She laughs) People are told their feelings aren’t valued, especially a lot of girls. I just wish that I had known that it actually gets better and that I had something to hold out for. But knowing that, I can really relate with people who are going through that now and try to give them a little bit of hope because it’s easier to hear it from someone who’s actually been through it.
Junior: I would try to convince my younger self that going out and performing is even more important than honing your physical ability to play an instrument. I spent a least a decade in my garage practicing with my band and we’d have a show like once every three months. Something I learned from Kimberly is: it’s the exact opposite of that. Performing and connecting with people out in the real world is what your make music for. Music is just communication; it’s people having a discussion. It’s the people in the room + the band doing something together.
Kimberly: Yeah, not you trying to impress them.
Junior: It took me a long time to figure that out, not whether or not I can play a scale really fast; there’s a lot of other people that can do it better; that doesn’t matter. There might have been a time in the late 70s when Eddie Van Halen came out and was so much better than everyone else that it made a difference but at this point, you’re not getting better than Eddie Van Halen! No one is any better! I spent so long thinking that being proficient at my instrument was what was important and not realizing it was about this community thing. I would tell myself that it is important to practice but it’s not as important as getting out there; the people will be very supportive of you, just do it!
Kimberly: I also wish that I had started playing music earlier on, like when I was a kid, like how much better I would be. (laughing) I was a late bloomer, you know? I’ve been playing with all these people who have been playing since they were kids and I started in my 20s.
Junior: Yeah then she learned a couple of chords, wrote some songs and then she went out and started touring.
Kimberly: I started touring before I really knew how to play my instrument or what I was doing. I would just throw myself on stage and get through it. It forced me to get better faster because there is so much pressure and I had shows booked. I would play wherever would have me. There was a good period of time when I started out that I played nearly every single day of that year; any happy hour that would have me for an acoustic show or any bar that would let me play a set with a band. There were a lot of times that I would have band members bail on me at the last minute so I would just play an acoustic show instead because the show must go on. I just made sure to play and play. I wasn’t that great at it but I got better. But I’m more about the people in the room + communicating with them and…
Jenn: Just being a performer.
Kimberly: …yeah, I guess so. Just getting my energy out and saying what I need to say. I get by with what I have and I express myself with what I have and that’s all that anybody can do, right?
Junior: So check this out. We moved out of our house and into this bus…
Kimberly: Sold everything we had.
Junior: …this is where we live. So when we say tonight that this is our hometown show, we mean it! (He + Kimberly laughed) We’re living out of the parking lot! One of the really cool things that we did was back in February or March, we went and parked in the Santa Cruz Mountains in California, where the Redwoods are, the tallest trees in the world. We parked there and wrote our whole next album. It was so awesome because for the longest time, I didn’t want to intrude on her writing style but we actually spent the whole month studying music theory and exploring the sounds and what makes certain keys feel a certain way. Most music is either in a major key or a minor key but with weird music, there are actually seven of those, instead of just two. There’s actually a lot more than that but there are five that are similar to major and minor.
Jenn: (laughing) Weird music.
Junior: One of them is called Phrygian and she writes a lot of music in Phrygian, like our song “Plumes of Death”. There’s a song called “Menstrual Case” that’s written in Dorian.
Kimberly: I think a lot of my acoustic stuff ends up in Dorian.
Junior: There’s a lot of stuff in Harmonic minor, which is kind of classical sounding; its stuff that she had already been doing but didn’t know the technical term for.
Kimberly: I’m really uneducated in music theory and he is very educated.
Junior: When writing our new album, we sort of branched out a bit with the music theory so it was really cool.
Kimberly: Yeah, I was able to purposefully experiment with that kind of stuff.
Purposefully experiment? (asking me) Does that make sense?
Jenn: It did!
Junior: And it was in the Redwoods and it was nature. We wrote a lot of it on banjo and mandolin so you’ll hear a lot of that on this next album.
Kimberly: Yeah, it goes really epic + dreamy and (she paused) this next album is our first true concept album…
Jenn: I love concept albums! (It’s true)
Kimberly: And it’s really intense. It’s just the most intense album and it gets heavier than any of our other stuff has gotten. And it gets lower than any of our stuff has ever gotten.
Junior: There’s not really a lot of the bright-side on this one. Most of our albums will go back and forth, between happy + funny songs to heavy, sad songs.
Kimberly: This one has a really intense story to tell.
Jenn: Did that just happen organically or did you want to make a concept album?
Kimberly: We wrote a lot of this music that sort of inspired me to research a particular… (she paused, searching for the right word)
Junior: Historical event?
Kimberly: (smiling + nodding) …historical event. I did a lot of research on this particular historical event and decided to make that the concept of the album. This music that we were making was pulling us toward that. The whole album is historically accurate and it’s got a really powerful message. It’s definitely something you want to sit through from the beginning until the end; it plays out like theatre.
Jenn: One of my favorite songs of yours is “Envy”. Can you tell me a little about the origin of that song? I really like the lyric “She has no shadows”. I’m sure it can be interpreted a few different ways but I see it as someone who has a perfect life; someone with no troubles.
Kimberly: Exactly. It’s literally about envy. When I was first starting out, this was one of the first riffs that I wrote on guitar. I didn’t know I was playing E Minor, I was just sort of feeling out what stuff sounded like when I put my fingers of different parts of the guitar and what emotion I could express through those sounds. And I was having a bad day. (We both laugh) There was a girl that was a dear friend of mine and was someone that I really looked up to. She had an amazing voice and she played guitar. She lived up the street from me and when I was in early high school, I would walk up there, sit on her floor and let her play music for me. She knew lots of covers and she would sing old songs from the 40s. She was really classy. Tall, beautiful, curly hair; she was my ideal beauty. I just worshipped this girl!
Jenn: She was your light.
Kimberly: She was the queen of my world, right! I don’t know if she ever knew how much I looked up to her but I just wished that I could be more like that. I was plain and I was unpopular; not musical, that I knew of. I was never told that I could play something or whatever; I never even thought I had the ability to, at that point. She and I had decided one day that we could play a little bit together and somebody said something along the lines of, after hearing us play together, ‘You guys would make such a great team if she’ being the other girl, ‘did the singing and playing guitar and was like the face and Kimberly just wrote the songs’.
Jenn: They peed on your parade.
Kimberly: But I felt maybe they were right. Maybe I don’t have the right to be in the spotlight; I wasn’t gorgeous like her (but you are gorgeous Kimberly!) and I didn’t have a beautiful voice. She was just so gifted + so beautiful and she had these deep, chocolate brown eyes. She just had everything that I didn’t and that’s why I sat down and wrote that song. I started singing + writing that song and I was just bawling; loudly just retching out to the world. I remember a point where I thought the neighbors are probably worrying right now! (We all laughed) But I was just getting it out and that’s all I could do to get through this feeling that I was having. I just felt so small + worthless and that I would never be as awesome as that person was.
Jenn: It’s a very relatable song.
Kimberly: It’s funny because I talked to a male fan a little while ago who liked that song and his take on it was so different but it was interesting to me how he saw it. He said ‘I feel like “Envy” is about how catty girls are to each other’. I had not even had that concept because that’s not how it was for me at all towards this person; I loved her. There was no cattiness about it; there was no bitterness in my heart toward her. Even in the music video, I feel like that was expressed. That feeling of envy can go down the path of darkness but there are two ways it can go: it can lead to a positive thing where you can embrace what you’re lusting after or it can go down a dark path, where you fight it and you end up destroying something. I feel like the music video tells the story of going to the light and that’s how it should be.
Junior: And in the end they’re hugging!
We ended up talking for well over an hour! I related to a lot of what Kimberly said and many of Junior’s words were definitely food for thought. I knew they needed to get ready for the show so we said our goodbyes, Vaughn made me a delicious cup of coffee (that would keep me awake until nearly 5am the next morning!) and I wished them a kick ass show, which they definitely delivered! I’m excited not only for their next album but the next time these cool cats roll through town.