The notoriously DIY band One-Eyed Doll will release their new album, Witches on Standby Records on March 24, 2015. One might wonder why they decided to work with a record company at this point in their career after they’ve already been pretty successful at building a buzz on their own. Screamer had a chance to ask them about this transition as well as their intriguingly strange new album. For those who may not be familiar with them, One Eyed Doll is an Austin, TX rock duo that consists of Kimberly Freeman on vocals and guitars and Jason Rufuss Sewell (aka Junior) on drums. Some would label their music as “goth,” but the band had this to say about it: “We just make whatever music we feel like making,” Junior replied, “We let others feel free to brand us. But I always just say ‘rock’ when asked. ‘Goth’ I think is more of a fashion or a look than a musical style.” Freeman added, “I don’t know. I guess we’re a rock band with lots of secondary styles. We’re not really concerned with all that.” The band certainly does have a creepy, gothic kind of aesthetic when they perform.
Junior had this to say about the transition to Standby Records, “We’ve been approached by quite a few labels in the past. But the deals didn’t seem to offer much more than we were capable of handling ourselves. Standby Records approached us with a very laid back offer to release this album and they didn’t seem to want to get in the way of how we do things so we thought we’d give it a shot. We’re hoping they can help us reach new fans that we wouldn’t be able to reach as a DIY band.” As far as the new album, the band describes it as having a “forest metal” vibe. When asked to elaborate on this Junior replied: “When you’re in the forest surrounded by massive redwood trees, running rivers, wildlife, there’s a certain music surrounding you at all times. An ancient epic song. You can’t help but be inspired by it’s muse. That happened in a big way with this album.” To which Freeman added, “I’m a mushroom!”
As far as the new album Witches. it was apparently written mainly on banjo and mandolin, which leaves one to wonder if the band is transferring any of this to guitars or other instruments? Junior had this to say, “There are several moments on the album that feature banjo, mandolin, violin and acoustic guitar. We then took those riffs and melodies and jammed them with electric guitar and drums. Some of the songs worked really well in that way so they ended up turning into heavy riffs on the album. If you listen closely, you’ll hear some riffs repeated throughout the album on both acoustic instruments and heavy electric riffs.” Freeman also interjected that, “It’s true that we wrote a lot of the main riffs with acoustic instruments. Some were written on electric guitar and drums, some on pump organ, mandolin, banjo, guitar. One song was actually written on an analog synth. The music tends to come from a lot of places, just whatever’s handy, I guess.” The album was recorded in the awesomely creepy Redwood Forest, which begs the question, how much influence did this have on the album? Freeman elaborated: “As you know, The Redwoods are filled with magic and wonder. Being there definitely had a lot of influence on the songs. I’ve always wanted to spend time there to write, and I’m very grateful for the experience. Those giant trees and ferns just breathe beauty and life.. It’s like nowhere else on earth. A songwriter’s dream come true!” Junior also remarked, “Kimberly and I both grew up around huge redwoods. They are so vast they make you want to reach for something bigger and better. And they are so filled with mystic energy you can’t help but let that mystery flow through your music.” Along with the unique vibe of the music on this album, there is also some pretty deep subject matter when it comes to the lyrics. The songs explore different personal accounts from real people who were involved in the Salem witch trials. Freeman explained more about how this album concept came about: “I stumbled upon the true and very tragic story of a woman named Mary who was executed during the Salem witchcraft hysteria. I wrote a song about her called A Rope For Mary. It’s the tale told from her ghost’s perspective. I became really interested in the whole event: the townsfolk, the strict and fearful Puritan way of life, the history and tension leading up to the massacre, the ‘afflicted’ girls, the accused witches, the Court of Oyer and Terminer, and even theories about why it happened… Everything I read just inspired me to write more. I couldn’t stop. We had so much great acoustic music that we’d been jamming in the Redwoods, and it just fit. We applied a lot of those melodies and riffs to the songs, and everything else flowed right out. It was like writing one song, really. It feels like one piece of music to me.
“There are lots of dedicated people who’ve contributed thousands of hours of research on the Salem witchcraft hysteria, and much of it can be found online. I didn’t think about this early enough for it to be complete, but I started compiling a little bibliography of research material links part way through. I read lots of Wikipedia articles that led me to different historical societies, history blogs, authors and university websites. Some of the original handwritten documents have even been scanned and can be found online.” Freeman also discussed how lyrics in the album also touch on theories of why the witch trials happened at all. “Behavioral psychologist Dr. Linnda Caporael has an interesting theory that blames a black hallucinogenic rye fungus called ergot. She thinks that the children could’ve been unknowingly tripping on the chemical that LSD is made from. Most modern researchers seem to attribute the strange behavior of the ‘afflicted girls’ to child abuse, manipulation, or just faking it for attention. Some people think that the hysteria could’ve started with a case of ergot poisoning and spread more psychologically throughout the already stressed, exhausted and fearful town. The Puritan people blamed everything on the Devil and were afraid for their souls at all times… any sickness, crop shortages, money problems, Native American attacks – all the Devil. They had to constantly pray and punish themselves for sins to avoid the Devil’s wrath. Naturally they straight lost their minds when a group of young pious girls started acting demon possessed. There are also a lot of things that point to a certain family in the town who could’ve been using the children to take out their enemies. Another fact to note is that many of the accused were land owners whose properties were seized by the sheriff when they were executed, or to pay for their jail time. They actually charged the inmates by the day for rent. Money was made on the ordeal, and lots of it. Others accused were unwanted folks, like a begger woman and her four-year-old daughter who no one liked. It’s hard to say. It really could have been a number of things. The song, Black In The Rye touches on some of that. The name is obviously a nod to Dr. Caporael’s theory, but it also represents the debilitating fear that these folks had of constant impending doom. Evil was always lurking in the fields, ready to strike.”
The band is embarking on a U.S. tour starting in March and going through May and are also in the process of releasing a new music video from one of the tracks on the Witches album. Junior adds “We’re giving away a Tregan Guitar! And also doing a super sweet VIP for this tour where we will be recording our fans as backup vocalists on our next album.” To which Freeman added, “Turtles!”
Check here for the guitar: http://merchnow.com/catalogs/standby-records
And here for VIPs: http://oneeyeddoll.storenvy.com
Some cool research links on the Salem Witch Trials Provided by Kimberly:
“Gallows Hill: Where Were the Witches Hung? Field Investigation”
“The Salem Witchcraft Trials Documentary Archive and Transcription Project”
“The Salem Witch Trials, 1692: EyeWitness to History”
“A Brief History of the Salem Witch Trials”
Sarah Good: Accused and executed. Proclaimed before her death, “I’m no more a witch than you are a wizard, take my life and God will give you blood to drink.”
Dorothy Good: 4 year old accused witch, daughter of executed Sara Good.
Abigail Williams: 11 year old afflicted girl, cousin of Betty Parris.