There are very few artists who live and breathe music like One Eyed Doll. The one time Austin, Texas residents (now they live out of their touring vehicle) have roughed it on the road and cataloged over ten full length releases (on their own Nebulost Records) since their beginning in 2006.
The duo of vocalist/guitarist Kimberly Freeman and drummer Jason Rufuss “Junior” Sewell have been touring behind their latest release Witches (out now via Standby Records) and most recently ventured on their first full headlining tour across the United States.
Freeman admits that Witches came together by accident and was not originally planned. She explained how she was reading about the story behind the album and sparked her interest into creating an album about what she read about.
“I just happened to read the story of a lady named Mary Esty, who was executed for witchcraft in 1692. It was pretty much new information to me besides from the fiction that I’ve seen. It was such a sad story. It was so interesting to me that I had to write a tribute for her. Her story needed a song and it was a dedication to her. It’s called ‘A Rope For Mary’ and I kept reading more and more about it, and the whole event surrounding her execution. I was inspired to keep writing more and more songs.”
“We weren’t out to write an album at this time. I just really had to write about this stuff when I read it. It was total inspiration from having read about the Salem Witch hysteria. It was interesting to me so I wrote about it. Then BLAMMO!…next thing we know, we have this whole concept album. The next album in line is going to have to wait because we’re going to put this thing out! We’re a little ahead of ourselves now.”
The band self produced this album within a short period of time in a rehearsal studio they rented. Pushing aside another planned album they had ready for release, they decided that Witches was something they had to share with the world.
“That was the one that was supposed to come out next but I accidentally wrote Witches…? I fell and wrote Witches. I busted my knee and it came out with all of the blood,” Freeman said, semi jokingly.
“She wrote this whole album in the course of three or four days,” explained Sewell.
“I was very inspired too. It came easy. We had been jamming this really cool acoustic music in the Redwoods and it sort of just worked. It translated really well to big wild epicness. We already had a lot of the music. It kind of worked out. We had all of these cool riffs and we had been jamming with banjos and mandolin and guitar, and it sort of worked. I had these melodies in my head when I was writing the lyrics. We weren’t trying to write an album. We jam and we write and we play when we feel like it. What we do for fun is bust out acoustic instruments,” said Freeman.
Sewell explained how despite the short period of time they spent to write this album, the songs came together somewhat quickly. The music and the themes behind each song blend together and created a vibe that told them story about the Salem Witches and the overall story.
“If you listen close, there’s a real cohesive feel to this album. Because all of the songs were written in such a short period of time, it’s almost like we wrote one long song. The melodies translate throughout the album. One melody right in the beginning, there’s the church bells playing the melody and that end up being one of the acoustic riffs in ‘Remember’ and it ends up being a metal riff for the very last song ‘The Ghosts Of Gallows Hill.’ It’s all the same riff. A lot of the vocal melodies are the same way. Sometimes the vocal melody will be a guitar riff in a different song, or sometimes for example, in the song ‘Inflicted,’ there’s a synth solo. That’s actually a vocal melody from the bridge of ‘Witch Hunt.’ We really were inspired to make a cohesive thematic kind of album where everything you hear different parts of different songs throughout the whole thing, as if it’s one long song.”
One of the unique instruments used on this album was a banjo. One Eyed Doll has incorporated unusual instruments to create some of their darkest yet exciting sounds on the new album.
“There’s banjo on three or four of the songs. There’s banjo in ‘Remember,’ ‘Stillness,’ I believe there’s banjo on ‘Prayer’…,” he said.
“I think there might have been…it at least was written with banjo…I can’t remember if we went ahead and recorded it into it,” added Freeman.
Like they have demonstrated with Witches, One Eyed Doll is a creative machine when it comes to constantly producing music and ideas. They also find new ways to release their music, whether it is through a new album or digitally as a single.
“If we have free time, we’re always making new music,” said Sewell.
“Writing and playing music is what we do for fun. I get asked in these interviews ‘what are your hobbies when you’re not doing music?’ What else would I want to do?,” said Freeman.
“Eat, sleep, breathe….play music of course,” said Sewell.
“We’re constantly tinkering in the studio and writing,” added Freeman.
They have built a loyal following through their past tours and the word has spread like wildfire about their energetic live shows. While their audience has their personal favorite songs, Freeman admits that constructing a set list and including songs off of Witches can be challenging.
“It’s so hard! It’s so hard to narrow it down, but there are some songs that are so fun to play together so we usually go for the funnest jam songs. We have some staples – I don’t think we can get away with playing a show without ‘Committed’ or ‘Be My Friend’ right now. There’s some that are fun to do live so you go with what feels the best to us. ‘Black In The Rye’ actually if we’re going to play one song from this album on this tour, this one is a blast to play live. So we’ll just do that.“
Freeman’s vocal power is one of the band’s unique points, where her angelic vocals compliments her angst ridden screams during various songs. She shares her secrets behind how she takes care of her voice and if she has a regimen behind making it sound so powerful.
“I basically do what feels comfortable. If it’s not comfortable I don’t do it. Like the RAHHHH parts that I do are comfortable for me. I don’t push myself hard enough at any point to like hurt.”
“I try to warm up a little bit for the show but I don’t have any specific tricks. I just drink lots of water, take my vitamins, eat my veggies, try to take as healthy as I can. Adrenaline carries me through a lot. I don’t specifically know how to do anything. I do what feels good and try not to torture myself.”
Even Sewell, after being in this band with her for over nine years, has his own observations on how her voice sounds at different times.
“I’ve been playing music with Kimberly for almost five and a half years now in the band, and even longer before that in the studio,” he said.
“I’ve heard her voice change based on performing a lot and talking a lot, but to me it always even sounds better when it gets a little grit in there I’m like ‘oohhhh…it sounds cool.’ She can always still sound super awesome when you can tell she’s on the brink.”
“There’s only been the one time when she was like really deathly sick and actually lost her voice. We had to cancel the show,” he added.
“It’s one of the few shows we’ve ever had to cancel. I couldn’t make anything come out. I got laryngitis,” admitted Freeman, about a rare show that they had to cancel.
Despite the setbacks, they got a little help from some friends in the audience who made it to the show the following night after they cancelled.
“The next show we actually played it and it was a little rough in Pittsburgh after the show it was coming back,” said Sewell.
“We had the fans sing along and they helped me out. I didn’t have to push it so hard that it hurt,” added Freeman.
Lastly, while One Eyed Doll has been living like road dogs, one of their highlighted moments was their recent return to Austin, TX’s South By Southwest, where they headlined the Heart of Texas Rock Festival, on a rainy Saturday evening during that week of festivities, and were joined on stage by a familiar face there.
“Something cool that happened on this tour was we hit South By Southwest with John Moyer from Disturbed,” explained Sewell.
“He hopped on the stage for ‘Black In The Rye.’ We’ve been talking about jamming live together for years. We finally got to. He’s really a great bassist – such an awesome performer. The chemistry was so good,” added Freeman.