[Photo by PJ Sykes]
Whether you’ve been a Moldy Peaches fan since the band’s early-aughts halcyon days, or if you were converted after hearing “Anyone Else But You” in Juno, you know that co-Peach/solo artist Kimya Dawson just wants to be your friend. And she’s a good friend to have; the deeply confessional singer-songwriter exorcizes her demons in such an approachable way that listening to her music is like sitting next to her in a quiet room.
But after weathering the unexpected fame-storm brought on by Juno (Watch this uncomfortable Moldy Peaches interview with Whoopi Goldberg as an example.), Kimya Dawson is “downsizing right now,” and returning to the freaks-and-geeks table of the cafeteria, where she can make music her way knowing everyone around her understands. “After Juno, I started playing bigger shows and finding people having different expectations of what I should be doing and how I should be doing it,” she tells Paste. “That’s not why I started making music—I started making music because I was freaking out, and it helped. So when the process of making and playing music was going to freak me out, it was self-defeating.”
With that mindset, Dawson began to separate herself from the Hollywood hype thrust upon her music: “I’d rather just play in some kid’s house or an art space where everybody’s there and appreciative,” she says. “Not [where there are] bartenders who are mad about not getting tips because all the kids at my shows are 14.”
Such was the emotional landscape for the recreation of The Bundles, the moniker put upon a pack of musical ideas Dawson created with fellow folkie Jeffrey Lewis almost a decade ago. “I took the Greyhound down to visit him,” Dawson recalls. “That was the week he introduced me to Daniel Johnston. We were laying in the dark listening to Daniel and crying. We totally geeked out, went to the record store and bought all his tapes. Then we switched from that to all of Yoko Ono’s records, which are all like [screams wildly]. So we tried to make a song together.”
That attempt led to “Common Chorus,” the first track on The Bundles self-titled debut, out March 9 on K Records. In 2009, Dawson and Lewis “realized we’d never recorded the songs as a band,” called up friends Jack Lewis, Anders Griffin and Karl Blau, and laid down what is arguably the weirdest album of Dawson’s career—and probably the first record with a song about squirrel beards.
The Bundles give Dawson’s rapidly sung-spoken, deeply-personal lyrics a breather; the album has more of a full-band sound, and the songs are infectiously lovely. Dawson and Lewis mix perfectly, like an alternate-universe Sonny and Cher. Lines like, “I’m not going anywhere, I’m perfectly content right here, settled into my own skin, breathing in this atmosphere… and I just wanna sing with my friends,” the latter part actually sung with the Dawson-led Olympia Free Choir, anchor more eccentric lyrics like, “Let’s make out, with our metal mouth. Our braces will embrace, locking us together just like cars in a junkyard.” And unlike Dawson’s previous, mostly-acoustic work, The Bundles actually kind of rock.
“[Jeffrey and I] are from the same cloth,” Dawson says. “It was so easy. We just sat down, and there were more songs, and it felt so good.”
But that’s not the only possible collaboration in Dawson’s future. If she has her way, she’ll be working with a certain TV-star-turned-star-rapper soon. “There was something that Drake posted on his blog, like, ‘If I ever need an underwriter, I want it to be this girl,’ and he posted a link to one of my videos,” Dawson says. “I commented back, ‘All right, let’s do it! Let’s do a song.’ But I never heard back. He probably has 75 million comments on his blog. But as a huge Degrassi fan…”
Amidst all of the above, Dawson’s solo work continues moving forward. With a new batch of songs, she’s planning to begin recording next month. While her last album, Alphabutt (a children’s record), was distinctly Dawson, her next release will dive deeper into her tumultuous past than ever before. “The day after Christmas, I’ll have been sober for 11 years,” Dawson says. “I’ve made six albums in that time period, so you can really track me learning how to not totally hate myself, learing how to deal with stuff without medication. And now, I feel like I’m singing louder. There’s some intense shit that’s been in me for a long time, and I need to yelp it out. [The next record is] very recovery-focused. It’s heavier, darker.”
For a singer who once wrote a song addressing her dying mother’s inner demons with, “Leave her alone! Leave her alone!” that’s saying something. “I feel like some people will say, ‘Wow, so that’s how she follows up Juno?’ Well, wrong,” Dawson says. “Like, ‘She just blew the biggest opportunity of her life.’ But who cares?”
Read Paste’s full interview with Kimya Dawson here.