Legendary Rock Interviews: Q & A with One-Eyed Doll’s Jason Rufuss Sewell and Kimberly Freeman

By John Parks

After getting more than 1 million YouTube views, touring nonstop, and independently releasing album after album of critically-acclaimed and unique rock and roll, it seems One-Eyed Doll is taking the long route to “overnight success.”

The unique duo is poised to have an even bigger year this 2013 with a new album in the works produced by Grammy winner Sylvia Massy (Johnny Cash, Slayer) and more touring than ever.

One-Eyed Doll are currently on tour with heavy-metal heavyweights OTEP, including a stop in Rockford Thursday, April 11, at Bar 3 (326 E. State St.), and we spoke with Jason Rufuss Sewell (a.k.a. Junior) and Kimberly Freeman about everything going on, including the tour.

Q: You guys do a ton of touring and often with pretty diverse bands. Do you wind up seeing a lot of people get into the band who might not have heard of you otherwise?

A: Junior: Yeah, we get to see a lot of different people and meet a lot of people who are just finding out about us. A lot of the bands who are out touring right now are metal bands, and we just end up touring with them, even though what we do may or may not be considered metal. We definitely have a lot of heavy songs from our catalog that we can pull out for those purposes while touring. I feel like we can probably put together a set that will probably work with any touring package we’re on. Personally, I feel like after listening to three or four “screamo” bands, just about everybody in the room is at least open to the idea of hearing someone sing. We headline shows in some areas, but have been out with bands like OTEP and others who we know are going to pack the place every night. Hopefully, soon we will be at that point. I feel like every show we play, we are building to that point. We just played Salt Lake City, and we’ve never played there before, but there were a LOT of One-Eyed Doll fans there, which was pretty cool. I think one of the really exciting things about being in a band is showing your music off to people for the first time and playing to a crowd of people for the first time. That’s one of the best things about doing this, the fact that even after doing this for so many years, we can show up to a venue and play for a room where at least half of the people there are seeing us for the first time.

Q: Kimberly, your insane onstage persona is such a huge part of the show and really makes me wonder what your influences are. I am showing my age here, but to me it’s almost like Iggy Pop, Alice Cooper and Gene Simmons all blended and regurgitated by Hello Kitty. Are any of those artists inspirational to you?

A: Kimberly: There are a lot of those things in there, but I think what a lot of those bands have in common and I have in common with them is their theatrical showmanship. I know exactly where my influence for that comes from, and it was from watching my Grandpa perform at a party. My Grandpa’s name is Bernie Jones, and back in the day, he was part of the Spike Jones group, super cool dude. I was just a little kid watching him, and it was so cool. He put on this particular hat and just became this real slapstick, vaudeville character and turned the audience into part of the show and had them singing along and playing all these different instruments; it was very theatrical and funny. It made a huge impression on me, and I think that’s where a lot of that comes from. Later on when I decided to get into music, I went to him and asked for his advice, and I’ve basically emulated him. It’s always in the back of my mind that I’ve got these big clown shoes to fill, and that is my big performance influence and where all of the fun and silliness comes from, but I think the darkness that comes out is me — that’s part of who I am (laughs).

Q: There is a great documentary about you guys that really captures the life of a band on the road, traveling, getting to know your audience, and one of the most interesting parts of it is watching how you handle your merch. The money from merch is such a huge part of what keeps a band on the road, and it looks like you really approach it as another creative outlet. Do you enjoy coming up with merch ideas?

A: Kimberly: Yeah, it’s really a fun part of it for me that I’ve enjoyed. I like the challenge of merchandising and marketing of it. Jason and I are really good at brainstorming about it and finding creative ways to make our gas money (laughs). After our set last night, I went back to our dressing room and painted a few things to sell at the merch table (laughs).

Junior: A guy came up and said he wanted some of our guitar straps. He said he had seen these really cool hand-painted guitar straps and wanted one. I told him we only had blank ones, but I said, “I tell you what, if you buy one now, I will have Kimberly paint it for you after the show,” and he was like “Yeah, awesome, I’ll do do it.” So Kimberly was sitting there painting guitar straps last night (laughs).

Kimberly: We do a lot of our stage stuff, too. In the very beginning of One-Eyed Doll when I was just starting out, I lived in my car and I would Dumpster dive for stage props and things that I could make art out of and sell at the merch table. I was literally painting lids and things and selling them at tables. So, that’s something we’ve been good at from the beginning.

Q: I’m pretty excited about coming out to see you and your crazy show here in Rockford. Junior, you actually ran for Senate, and I wanted to ask you one last question: Do you think that some of your band’s lyrics that seem deeply personal could also be interpreted as socio-political dialog as well?

Junior: I think we’re all part of the same human race and the same society, and we’re all just trying to make it through the world. Hopefully, our personal experiences are something that everyone can relate to, because we’re all in this together, I guess. I think a lot of our personal issues could also be a metaphor for a socio-political issue, and I think one song could be interpreted in many ways and have a broad range of meaning. For example, if you’re talking about rape, that could be very personal, but it could also be something that can be viewed from — and should be viewed from — a national level.

From the March 27-April 2, 2013, issue

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