If you have ever seen goth-punk duo One-Eyed Doll on stage, there’s no doubt you would remember it. But truthfully, a lot of people probably have seen them, and maybe just wrote them off early on. I can just hear the death metaller dudes now: Only two people in the band? And a chick is the vocalist/guitarist? Let’s go get a beer.
But those headbangers are missing out. One-Eyed Doll have shared stages with everyone from Mushroomhead to Cannibal Corpse, and have a knack for tailoring their live show—an improvisational, imperfect and interactive experience—to a range of different crowds.
Take Kimberly Freeman, lead vocalist and guitarist, for example. In short, if Strawberry Shortcake was seduced by Marilyn Manson, their bastard love child would undoubtedly grow up to be Freeman, who has been featured in Guitar Player Magazine’s Top 20 Most Extraordinary Female Guitarists.
Extraordinary sounds about right. Freeman is a mixture of quirky, talented and charming—in a really twisted way. Honestly; who else can come off as innocent and fun while singing:
“Serial killers are people too / If you take away the voices I’m just like you / I’ll hack you up and bury you in my yard / But why does making friends have to be so very hard?”
Along with lone drummer (and producer) Jason Rufuss Sewell, aka Junior, One-Eyed Doll has had more than 1 million YouTube views, and won 16 top 10 Austin Music Awards at SXSW (including best songwriter and best guitarist). They are currently on tour with Otep and have a new album, Committed, that will see the light of day in mid-2013. Boxx Magazine contributor Lauren Wise recently caught up with the duo to discuss working with Tool’s producer, creating sliding scale payment models for music and their vast influences that range from Riot Grrrls to Duran Duran.
Lauren Wise: How was it working with a producer that worked with Tool and Red Hot Chili Peppers? Tell me a bit about the album Committed.
Jason Rufuss Sewell: We made a really cool album with Sylvia Massy. She’s legendary; she made a bunch of Tool albums, System of a Down, the last Johnny Cash album…we haven’t quite decided how we’re going to release it yet.
Kimberly Freeman: From the last album we already released a song called “Committed” and had put out a video out in 2012.
LW: How is this new album different from the last couple that you’ve released?
JRS: Well, this one is all upbeat and shiny. Sylvia has all her fancy gear from the sixties like original sixties’ mixing boards, and we recorded it in this beautiful art deco theater. We wanted to give it more of a sixties vibe. To me it’s almost like there’s a hint of Beach Boys layered on top of the typical One-Eyed Doll sound. A bit of a vintage vibe.
LW: Are you playing new music from it on this current tour?
KF: Not really, but I make up my set list on the spot every day depending on my mood. I like to include the audience in our show. I sort of vibe off of them and assess just what I feel like is going on in the room, and what we could do next that would be the most fun.
LW: Yeah, you’ve toured with some interesting bands. Haven’t you played with Cannibal Corpse?
KF: Well, we’ve played some festivals with them. But with Otep, we’ve been out with her like three times, too. And the Peelander-Z Tour was really memorable. They are a Japanese punk rock band and really funny. We had a lot in common; they were really silly and liked to play with the audience.
JRS: Every tour we do we really have to tailor our set to the headliner’s audience. Like with Mushroomhead, we had to basically have a pedal-to-the-metal set, one song after the other. We didn’t have any silence or talking in between songs. Just had to shotgun it. Like if we stopped for a second the audience freaked out (laughter). But with Otep, she’s a poet. She does spoken word, heavy songs, soft songs, trippy sections where they just have cool sounding noises. So the audience is really used to having a dynamic show with Otep.
LW: When I spoke with Otep a couple weeks ago, we had a discussion about why she is leaving the world of recording music. I found it really interesting that she wants to leave before she gets too resentful about the fact that underground metal and punk are struggling, mostly because the fans pirate the music more than of any other genre. What are your thoughts about that?
JRS: Well, we certainly are resentful of that, and I feel like anybody that’s navigating through any type of business has to evaluate the landscape and plan accordingly. So what we do—we allow our fans to download our music from our website for any amount of money, including zero dollars. That takes the guilt out of it for people who don’t want to pay, and it also allows those who can’t afford it to be able to have our music. And then, we find that going that route there are a lot of people that choose to pay $500 for an album. That’s happened several times, maybe 10 times. And lots of people pay $100 for an album. So we feel like it evens out.
KF: Yeah, but we’re independent so it’s different for us. I’m sure it affects Otep a lot more.
JRS: I definitely don’t feel like our experience can relate to other bands, because they are on record labels. Like Otep for example, she’s under contract to make a certain amount of albums and sell them; that’s how she makes her living. I don’t want to make any negative comments about her or anyone else, but how we do things since we’re independent and there’s no middle man, we’re able to do it directly from the artist to the fan.
LW: That makes sense. You guys have more of a DIY business model.
JRS: Yeah, because the music is the art so it’s actually pretty liberating to not have to be selling the music itself. What we sell is our performance and our shirts. And we have other artists that help us out with merchandise. Kimberly’s mom actually makes a lot of the stuff that we sell.
You are both really diverse in your interests and accomplishments. Can you tell me a couple main influences you’ve each had?
KF: Well, I think my main influences came from the Northwest. So I think the Riot Grrrls were in it for me for sure.
JRS: I’m mostly a producer. I produced the first two albums before I joined the band. So for me, the seventies hard rock bands that had really interesting productions inspired me. I like Duran Duran a lot.
LW: You guys do a great job at staying consistent in your sound. But you can definitely tell there are different energies from album to album. Like on Monster with songs like “Be My Friend.” Then on Break, with songs like “Cinderblock,” and “Plumes of Death” on Dirty. How do you think your musical perspective has changed over the six or seven years?
KF: Working with the same producer—Jason—I feel like I’ve gotten a lot more comfortable in the studio over the years. When we recorded Hole I was so nervous and unsure of myself and not very confident yet. I had never been in a real studio before. Over several albums…
JRS: I think we’re on number eight now.
KF: …We’ve done a lot more music and I’m more willing to experiment. I used to kind of be of the train of thought that I didn’t want to put anything on an album that we couldn’t reproduce live. But now, I like to experiment and make more noises and do more production with Jason. The live show has its own energy that you can’t get from an album, even with both the same sounds. You have to create textures and movement to get that same excitement from an album that you get from a live show. Because I don’t kick you in the chest or spit in your face.
JRS: I feel like the first two albums have manic depression and aggression throughout them. And these days it’s different. Dirty is a darker album while this new album coming out, Committed, is definitely the manic side.
KF: Super shiny! Like yaaaay!
LW: Kimberly, when you were first starting out as a guitarist in genres like punk and hardcore music, did you find it easier or more difficult as a woman in that scene?
KF: I definitely ran into some issues being a female performer, period. Promoters would give me problems, and try to say stupid stuff like, ‘oh, you know, you have to sleep with me to get a show.’ They pulled a lot of, basically sexual harassment in the work place. And it’s just like, well, okay, I’ll call the next club. You just have to work around it everywhere you go. I feel like that doesn’t happen quite as much now, when I have a fanbase to back me up. It got difficult sometimes when you wouldn’t get a lot of respect. But that fuels my fire. Like, ‘you wait, you’re going to be on your knees in one year begging for me to play.’ And a year later, they were. (laughter)
JRS: You should see some of these same guys now; it’s pretty cool.
KF: But that’s in any business. Even in your line of work I’m sure. It’s better than it was 20 years ago and 20 years from now it will be better. But if you love making art you will do anything to continue, even dealing with idiots.
LW: Alright. When it comes to live shows what do you aim for—perfection or imperfection?
KF: We’re more on the imperfection side of things. (laughter) Sloppy.
JRS: We improvise…I’m sure we could make a new word out of imperfection and improves. Imperfectionize. Really we’re a three-piece band and we include the audience as the third member.
KF: A lot of bands play to backing tracks and everything sounds just like the CD, which is fine, but if you want us to sound good you’ll buy our CD. On a CD I don’t have to breathe and I don’t forget the words and I don’t stop the song to tell a story. But you’ve gotta come to the show to see a band play and hopefully they will pull stuff like that so you are really experiencing them as people.
What music are you both currently listening to?
JRS: Let me turn my iPod on right now … Bruce Springsteen.
KF: Rihanna. Salt n Peppa. Earth Wind and Fire.
JRS: We listen to a lot of seventies pop rock funk, and soul. Lots of Motown stuff, too.
KF: I like old traditional blues rock stuff.
JRS: I think the main thing we have in common is that we love music that is very melodic, that is really focused on vocal melodies and songwriting.
KF: We’ve been really blasting Destiny’s Child on this tour. I love female vocals and harmonies.