By Martina Fasano
I first met Kimberly Freeman very briefly at the NAMM show, just after she signed some autographs together with the members of Doll Skin and rock legend Lita Ford. Everyone around (fans and industry types alike) was absolutely astounded at how fan-friendly she was: handing out necklaces to fans that had waited in line to meet her. That’s class ladies and gentlemen.
If you haven’t heard of Kimberly Freeman’s band One-Eyed Doll, it means you’ve missed out on some of the most fun, in-your-face, and theatrical punk bands in recent history. A mainstay for “Best Punk Band” kudos at the Austin, Texas SXSW festival since 2009, One-Eyed Doll has also gotten the nod in Metal, Goth, and “new Band” categories. But Kimberly and her bandmate Jason Sewell (aka Junior), have not rested on their laurels. They’ve built a very passionate fanbase and are known for hanging out with their supporters before and after their shows. And Isn’t that what rock’n’roll is all about – connecting people? I caught up with Kimberly and got a chance to talk about all things rock’n’roll with her, and I also asked her what she keeps in her neck pickup cavity. Yes, you read that right! Read on and find out.
One-Eyed Doll’s brand of rock/punk rock is rather unique. What inspired you to start playing and/or form a band and who were your influences and heroes?
We just play music that makes us feel good! We’re both influenced by too many great artists before us to list. That would include bands like Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Duran Duran, David Bowie, Iron Maiden, Nirvana, Jack Off Jill, The Lunachicks, The Vandals, Zap Mama, Barbra Streisand, Whitney Houston, Harry Nilsson, The Beatles, The Andrews Sisters, The Eagles, Johnny Cash.. It goes on and on and only grows over time. As I mentioned, it’s a long list. I think my live performance is heavily influenced by Bernie Jones, my grandpa. He was a great live performer from the Spike Jones Troupe days, and the first performer I ever saw live.
The band consists of you and producer/drummer Jason Sewell. How do you approach the songwriting process and how your songs will translate to a live performance?
I don’t normally sit down to write music for the band. I write to get my feelings and ideas out. Sometimes that translates to One-Eyed Doll, and sometimes it doesn’t. It’s usually pretty obvious, if it’ll work for guitar and drums live. I tend to stick to the fun upbeat songs for our live set. I like to see people smiling in the audience.
You have a signature model Tregan SyrenXT loaded with a Seymour Duncan Invader in the bridge position. Why did you choose the Invader and how did the signature model come about? Why did you choose Tregan Guitars?
Back in the day, I used to buy pawn shop guitars and modify them by sticking heavy duty magnets behind the pickups. I experimented with various magnets from the hardware store. They created different “shapes” of feedback and made whatever pickup I was using louder. One day someone gave me an Invader as a gift. I installed it and totally fell in love. It was the tone I’d been looking for all along! I’ve used it in every guitar I’ve owned since. When the day came that I was able to help design my own signature guitar with Tregan, I naturally requested the Invader.
I was contacted by Tregan after a great guitarist named Skunk Manhattan wore a One-Eyed Doll shirt in a Guitar Player Magazine ad. I was honestly pretty happy with my pawn shop mods at the time and wasn’t looking for a guitar endorsement. I kind of liked the freedom of frankensteining my own. Tony from Tregan claimed that he could change my mind. He boldly offered to build a guitar to my specs – and that if I didn’t like it, I could keep it. How could I refuse? I agreed of course, and Tony built that guitar. Holy moly, was it perfect! I couldn’t believe that he was able to take my weird wish list and turn it into such a beautiful musical instrument. I’ve been working closely with Tony ever since. He makes my signature guitars JUST the way I like them. My current model is the KF Syren XT PRO. It’s what I play live and in the studio, and it’s also available for sale to fans on our website, stocked with the invader, of course. I feel so lucky to have Tregan in my corner. It’s really been a game-changer for me. I highly recommend them. Tony’s the man.
Many people may not know, but the coffin-case covered neck pickup cavity actually has no pickup in it at all! The description on the Tregan guitars site recommends people to store whatever “trinkets” in there that they’d like. What does Kimberly keep in the neck pickup cavity?
It’s true. I’m really just happy with a single Invader in my guitar. When someone buys a KF SYREN XT from Tregan, it’s shipped to me first, so I can sign it and stash a little keepsake in the empty cavity. It’s different every time. I really put a lot of thought into what I’m going to put into it. In the past, it’s been tour memorabilia, lyrics, notes, toys.. Whatever I’m feeling at the time. I usually throw a guitar pick or two into the box, as well. Maybe a painted strap. It really depends on my mood. I can’t tell you what my guitar’s goodie coffin contains. That’s a secret. 🙂
Besides your SyrenXT, what does your live/studio rig look like and what other effects and amplifiers do you use to achieve your sound?
I’ve been using my live rig for recording, which is the Blackstar HT METAL 100 amp with two 4x12s. What’s cool about this particular amp is the ISF: “Infinite Shape Feature.” It’s really fun for the studio, cause you can move the tone from a British rock tone to an American “scooped” metal tone, and anywhere between! I don’t use any pedals or effects live (I just really like the tone right out of my amp), but in the studio I love to experiment. We’ve got a vintage Roland Space Echo RE-301, a bunch of sweet analog synths (Roland Jupiter 8, Oberheim OB8, Arp Odyssey, SH-101, Moog Sub 37) and some great pedals like the 80’s Boss CE-2 Chorus, the Digitech Whammy, Snarling Dog Mold Spore Ring Modulator, Maestro Phaser, Dimension C stereo chorus, Moog ClusterFlux etc.
Many guitar players are also guitar collectors. Do you have any in your collection that you’re particularly fond of, or guitars that you currently have on your wish list?
I have a beautiful vintage Martin acoustic guitar from my dad and a vintage Gibson arch top acoustic from my grandpa Bernie. They’re both priceless to me, absolutely beautiful instruments that’ve inspired many of my songs. In fact, the Martin is the reason for my existence. My dad used it to woo my mother, along with a poetry book written by my great grandfather Robert Freeman from Edinburgh, Scotland. Without those lyrics and that guitar, there may have never been a “me.” I now own the book, as well. With the gracious help of the Director of Scots Studies at the University of Edinburgh, I recently turned a poem from it into a song and recorded it with my dad’s Martin. Scots is considered a nearly-dead dialect now, so I was really fortunate to be helped by an expert. I also used one of my grandpa David Freeman’s trophy cups from his badminton days (he was a world champ, in the Hall of Fame!) as a bell in the song. That put four generations of Freeman into the song. Big thanks to Jason for recording it for my family.
One-Eyed Doll is well-known to have a very strong connection to their fans. You often hang out with your fans before and after shows and get to know them as human beings. How do you continue to make that a priority as your popularity in the industry grows, and what advice can you give bands that want to engage more with their fan base?
Oh gosh, that’s a toughy. We’re always trying to come up with new ways to give our fans the attention they deserve. We do a VIP hangout on tour that’s a lot of fun for me. I love meeting the people who are supporting my music. It’s really humbling, and it’s great to be able to thank them one on one. We also have free meet and greet sessions with everyone who wants to hang after the shows. Every single night as soon as our set ends, we go straight to the merch table for signings, photos and hugs. Most of the time, we hang with the fans until the venue kicks us all out.. and sometimes after that! We try to make time for everyone who wants a picture or a signature – or just a hello.
You had some successful signings/meet and greets at the 2016 NAMM show, and a great tour in the latter part of 2015. What’s next for One-Eyed Doll and what can fans expect from you in the upcoming year?
NAMM was so fun. I really enjoyed my signings with Blackstar and Korg. I met so many great folks and made guitar pick necklaces for the first 80 people in line! Next up: Spring Tour 2016! We’re heading out on a co-headliner with Eyes Set To Kill in March and April. It’ll be awesome. Come see us! Tour dates are at http://oneeyeddoll.com/tour