By Chyrisse Tabone, Tampa Correspondent
Interviews: Chyrisse Tabone and Anita Stewart
While fresh on their cross-country tour in connection with the release of “Witches” on March 24th, Rock At Night had the utmost pleasure of speaking with One-Eyed Doll before their appearance at The Brass Mug in Tampa, Florida. I had just listened to the “Witches” album online, saw a video of “Black in the Rye,” and was anxious to discuss the album and the band’s history in great detail.
I met up with Kimberly Freeman (vocals, guitar) and Jason “Junior” Rufuss Sewell (drums/production) early in the evening and decided to take them to Tampa’s renowned “dive” hang-out Skipper’s Smokehouse, known for it’s grouper Reuben sandwiches, smoked fish spread, and tree-canopied outdoor venue. Since it was early and nobody was on the stage, we decided to break the ice and take some goofy photos on the stage. Kimberly just happened to grab a broom, held it against her body like her beloved Tregan guitar, and posed like the rock star she is!
Junior dashed for the drums asking, “Is it O.K.?”
I said, “Sure! Nobody is around. Let’s have fun posing for photos!”
We continued for a round of photos and selfies (hey, Instagram and Twitter beckoned) and then ordered a light dinner of red snapper and conch chowder. With my Zoom recorder in hand, I initiated the interview, which really felt at times like old friends hanging out and chatting.
I was totally impressed with how down-to-earth and sweet Kimberly was during our visit and thinking in the back of my mind, “In a few hours, she will be wearing striped stockings, high-kicking, and thrashing on her electric guitar. Is this the same person?” Actually, during the interview and later in the concert, I did not hear one profane word, which I found to be actually refreshing in the world of rock n’ roll. I wondered if this was how the multiple articles saying Kimberly is “Strawberry Shortcake meets Gwar” developed.
Please listen to the “Strawberry Shortcake” story below: (Click on player)
Not to slight Junior, he was equally charming and bright. They are possibly the most authentic folks I have met in awhile. Both are very passionate about creating music as an art form and have really paid their dues along the way.
As Kimberly noted during the interview, “Touring for a living…there’s not much money in it. It’s really difficult. You lose your friends and family over it. There’s a lot of sacrifice. It takes up your whole life and it’s difficult to keep band members.”
Currently One-Eyed Doll has taken residence in a touring bus and travels the country, stopping off to see family and friends as they pass through towns. Kimberly relayed that the water tank in the tour bus had recently broken and after watching the documentary One-Eyed Doll: Rockumentary on YouTube, there is definitely no glamour after the gig is over.
Kimberly explained the origination of her career in music in the Pacific Northwest where she was raised prior to taking up roots in Austin, Texas, where One-Eyed Doll was formed. She played at her share of coffee shops, homeless shelters, and lived in a school bus with band members in the “early days.” She explained the school bus would park at the music venues and run an extension cord to the building for electricity.
Kimberly eventually met Junior after he relocated his music studio from California to Austin, Texas. He had encountered her MySpace website when she performed under her then-band-name “Ghetto Princess” and was blown away by her live performance. The story goes that Kimberly and her band took up lodging in Junior’s goat barn (yes, he was raising goats on the property) as well as pay for music production by painting his house. An audio engineer and multi-instrumentalist, Junior produced the newly-formed band’s albums and contributed musically prior to joining up as a full-time drummer in approximately 2009.
Kimberly explained the band’s formation below: (Click on player)
We then delved into the topic of the “Witches” album, which I have to admit, have been playing over and over. Rock At Night’s review of the album is presented here:
The “Witches” album was conceived after Kimberly read about the hysteria of the Salem Witch Trials and the theory that the behavior of the “afflicted” may have been caused by ergot (fungus) on the rye consumed by the settlers. She wrote the bluesy and soulful “A Rope for Mary” which eventually evolved into an impromptu writing session while camping in The Redwoods of California.
Kimberly explained, “All these stories came pouring out. This wasn’t really that long ago…neighbors were killing neighbors. I wasn’t out to write an album. [The story] was so inspiring to me. I wanted to pay tribute to them.”
The melodies were composed using acoustic instruments and were later fleshed-out using electric and acoustic guitars, as well as a violin, mandolin, and even banjo. Each song flows into the next like a movement in a rock opera . The production has a definite 70s progressive rock feel (think Pink Floyd or old Yes) with tinges of Tim Burton-ish or Danny Elfman-like creepy, circus melodies. There is also a gypsy-ish feel and medieval minor-key melodies enhance the mix.
You can hear the discussion about the conception of “Witches” below: (Click on player)
By this time in the interview, fellow Rock At Night journalist Anita Stewart arrived and joined in the animated conversation. Anita had noticed that Kimberly’s earlier music (prior to One-Eyed Doll) was very acoustic and soft. Kimberly explained, “I guess I have a soft side. I have both a soft and hyper side. I think most people have different moods.” She continued, “We have experimental music that you haven’t heard. There’s the Into Outer Space album. It’s kind of electronic with super sick dance music and intelligent lyrics. It was inspired by really great Madonna stuff, Duran Duran…80s synth pop.”
Going back to the topic of the “Witches” album, I asked Junior about the frog sound in “More Weight.” The frogs almost give the song a swampy or boggy feel, which blends well with the Salem witch-hysteria theme. Junior laughed and said the frogs were real and were magically croaking “in time” during the recording session.
He explained the incorporation of the frogs into the music below: (Click on player)
Anita asked Kimberly about One-Eyed Doll’s recent guest bassist John Moyer and I was interested in knowing a little about Junior’s background. This is where the interview became very amusing because our conversation started on topic of audio engineering and later escalated into the topic of pedicures!
You can hear this amusing exchange below: (Click on player)
Lastly, being a musician, I had to find out about Kimberly’s equipment. Since the NAMM convention in January, she received sponsorship by Black Star amplifiers, a company from the UK. I wondered what effects she uses with the amp but she said, “No effects. I play straight into the Black Star. That amazing [Tregan] guitar and that amazing amp are the perfect combination for me.”
Other interesting tidbits noted were that Tregan’s Kimberly Freeman model guitars come with a little space in a pick-up with is actually velvet-lined and features a light. Apparently, Kimberly provides a little personal “present” inside the space for each lucky purchaser of the guitar. Now how cool is that? She also explained she has a couple of heirloom acoustic guitars, a vintage arch-back Gibson which belonged to Grandpa Bernie and her dad’s old Martin guitar which she played throughout the recording of the “Witches” album.
I really look forward to following One-Eyed Doll and seeing more from this dynamic duo. “Strawberry Shortcake which meets Gwar”? Nah! How about a “sweet and gifted musician with a lilting Dolly-Parton-ish voice who can growl and kicks ass on the electric guitar with the best of them”?
**Stay tuned for One-Eyed Doll’s upcoming video for their song “Affliction” and even a comic book!