Coachella recently broke my heart when rumor had it they had rejected Kate Bush as a headliner (they later explained that never actually happened). When I sat down and started listening to DRÆMINGS’ self-titled EP, I was immediately transported to the mist-filled, gloomy paradise in which Kate Bush fans dwell. Kimi Recor’s voice is part Pat Benatar, part Patti Smith, and all guttural emotion. DRÆMINGS put a dance beat to some dark subjects, including suicide, technology overkill, and even the Dakota Access Pipeline. I spoke with Kimi about living in Germany as a child, her writing process, and even got the scoop on the theme for tonight’s free EP Release Party at The Echo.
I’d love to dig right in and ask you about your childhood. Mostly because when I listen to your music I picture an ethereal Wednesday Addams burning sage and jamming out.
KR: Well, I was born and raised in Germany, and I lived there until I was about 12. I had a very creative childhood – my mother is an artist, so we were always super hands on with everything. I was a wild child, throwing a lot of temper tantrums when I was younger, but eventually I managed to divert some of that energy into just being a spaz
[laughs]. I didn’t really watch much TV until we moved to the US, so my childhood to me feels like this very imaginative, open space in my life. We spent a lot of time playing in the woods outside of my house, so it was really wondrous.
What kind of medium does your mother work in?
KR: Well, my mother started off as a dancer, and then later became a physical therapist, but since I can remember she’s always painted or drawn, or done sculpture — my mother is kind of amazing, because she’s always made art for herself, not other people. She never really exhibited her artwork, even though it was and still is amazing. It made me realize from a young age that “success” in the art world didn’t go hand in hand with talent and that art doesn’t always have to be something you monetize.
That really is an important lesson. Artists so often lose their original intent looking for success.
KR: So true!
How old were you when you wrote your first song?
KR: I’m pretty sure I was always singing when I was super young, but I remember the first time I wrote a song and performed it in front of an audience. I was about 12 years old, had just moved to the US, and roped two of my friends into doing this weird acapella song that I wrote. We wore all black and berets, and the song’s lyrics were something along the lines of “Fear us, hear us, near us, fear us!” It was very goth, pre-me knowing what goth was [laughs].
It sounds very Macbeth to me. I love that you were already incorporating costumes!
KR: Oh yeah, I’ve always loved costumes. Since I was very young, my mother always had a costume trunk for us.
Was fashion ever a vertical you considered?
KR: When I was a teenager I modeled a little bit, and I think for a couple of years I wanted to be a fashion designer based on my experiences. But then I realized I would actually have to learn how to sew and make patterns, and I realized that I’d rather just thrift weird stuff and alter it than actually make something from scratch. It’s funny, because now my costumes on stage are very intricate and strange, but on a day to day basis, I dress almost in uniform.
You did an interview with Nasty Gal where you said “When I was younger, I used to cause myself a lot of pain, thinking it was the only way to access my creativity. Now, I realize I can just draw from the darker experiences of my past instead of creating new ones. It takes a little more motivation, but I think it still creates meaningful work.” Do you draw exclusively from your own life, or do you now pull from other art mediums (literature, film, etc.) during the writing process?
KR: Definitely both. Sometimes I’ll watch a TV show, and I’ll relate heavily to a scene or moment, and it will inspire me. I’m also hugely inspired by the political, economic, and ecological events that are happening in the world right now.
What were some of the inspiration points for The Eternal Lonesome?
KR: A lot of those songs stemmed from a time period during which I lost everything I had defined myself by. A relationship, my band, my home – all of those things dissipated within a matter of months, and writing was the only way I could deal with it. It was very much an album that dealt with loss. But there’s also a couple of songs on there that are about my past, moments that defined me in my life. It’s an album I’m very proud of, but that also caused me a lot of pain, because it took so long to get released.
Do you go through writing spurts or do you have a daily ritual? Have you noticed your writing habits shifting from this album to new music you’re working on now?
KR: I wish I could say I wrote every day and that I have a ritual of that sort. I try to do a brain dump onto paper every morning, but life sometimes gets in the way of that. The Eternal Lonesome was pieced together from songs I had already written, plus songs that I wrote to round out the album. The new EP we just released today was written with my band in a rehearsal space, so I think the energy between the two is very different.
How did the band DRÆMINGS come together?
KR: Chris, my guitar player, is my brother from another mother. We have been playing music together for almost 10 years. He taught me how to play guitar. When DRÆMINGS was still more of a solo project he would come play the live shows with me. Thorson, our bass player, came on board about two years ago, when I needed a bass player for a national tour I was going on. We got along really well, and he’s been in the band ever since. He produced and mixed the new EP at his studio. Nathaniel, our drummer, just joined the band last summer. My old drummer went to medical school, and we lucked out. Nathaniel is super awesome, and his personality fits right in. We are definitely a dorky band that likes really weird things.
Can you tell us a little about the themes on the new EP?
KR: There’s a few in there. “Fire in Hell” is about finding your voice after someone tries to silence you. “Great Escape” is our feminist anthem about the double standards women often have to deal with. “Holy Land” is about the current state of affairs in politics – it was written right around the time the DAPL protests where reaching their climax. “Drowning World” deals with the repercussion that technology has had on our emotional state. “Don’t Even Worry” was written about my friend’s suicide attempt. And “Tides” is the lone love song – it was written about unconditional love, something solid and never ending.
I definitely hear some recurring Biblical themes throughout. It seems like apocalyptic undertones are popping up in a lot of artists’ music nowadays.
KR: Definitely. I think we are all really feeling that heaviness. It’s hard not to live in fear.
DRÆMINGS has had a month-long residency at The Echo. I absolutely love that space. How’s it been going?
KR: Really amazing. Each night just keeps getting better. I love The Echo as well, it’s probably my favorite venue in L.A. They’ve been really great about letting us do our thing. Every night we’ve decorated the venue in accordance to a different theme. It’s been a lot of work but SOOOO worth it.
And this Monday is your release party show right? I’m excited to see what the theme will be…
KR: Yes! We’re so excited. The theme is fortune… and let’s just say we’re definitely ready to blow the last night out of the water.
Is a tour in the works?
KR: We are doing a bunch of West Coast runs this summer, and hopefully booking a proper national tour later in the year. We love touring, and can’t wait to get on the road.
Alright, the Double Jeopardy final question is: What do you want someone to feel when they listen to your music? Is there an emotion or tone you’re hoping to convey?
KR: I want people to relate. Growing up, music was sometimes my only friend. It made me feel like someone out there understood me, and that feeling probably saved my life. I would love if our music could do that for someone else.
You can find DRÆMINGS self-titled EP out now on iTunes and Spotify. In the L.A. area? Be sure to drop by The Echo tonight to dance it up at the DRÆMINGS Album Release party.
Ashley Prillaman is a writer living in Los Angeles, California. When she's not living that #FestivalLife, you can find her walking her dogs, listening to This American Life, or chowing down on street tacos. Follow @AshleyPrillaman on Twitter & check out her interview series #LetsTellAStory on her blog www.ashleyprillaman.com.