Kimya Dawson: Performance benefits Bellingham Girls Rock Camp
Kimya Dawson’s music has been repeatedly described as “anti-folk,” which is a genre that uses folk music as an avenue for less serious subject-matter. But when Dawson opts to write about hanging out with her friends, her love of giants, or lighting houses on fire, she sounds dead serious.
While Dawson may be most widely known for her contributions to the Juno soundtrack (during her time with the band The Moldy Peaches), her catalogue of music is much deeper, and spans from her time with the Peaches to her recent work with Rhymesayer keystone, Aesop Rock. Since The Moldy Peaches disbanded in 2004, Dawson has been writing solo material; her style denotes a stripped down, honest insight by shifting the attention to her lyrics.
“I started playing music in elementary school,” she said. “I actually played the flute from the fourth to the eighth grade but after that I wasn’t super into it.” Dawson started playing guitar several years later. “I took guitar lessons when I was 16 but I didn’t have a properly sized guitar,” she noted, “I think that actually happens to a lot of kids and they wind up not being able to play music because their instruments don’t fit them.”
After a few years, Dawson returned to playing the guitar. “In my 20s, I started actually writing music,” she said. While many artists strive to create a persona of distinct originality, Dawson comes out on top by writing playful songs that can quickly transform from silly to serious.
Dawson’s musicianship has notoriously been labeled “quirky” due to her unique style. “My parents were camp counselors and ran a daycare center out of our house, so Sesame Street actually became a big influence on me and how I approach music,” she said. “After a while, that stuff can get to you.”
While citing Sesame Street may not be entirely shocking to those familiar with Dawson’s work, especially her album devoted to children’s songs, her reasoning goes beyond gimmicky appeal or memorable lyrics. “I remember hearing Grover Sings the Blues and it really stuck with me,” she remembered. “It’s just this really sad album but the music is really catchy.”
Aside from children’s music, Kimya says that artists like her friend Jeffery Lewis are important to her. “He’s just really raw and honest,” she said. “I really like when artists are able to do that.” Dawson added that she admires prolific artists as well. “I’m impressed by anyone who can write their butts off,” she said. “But really, a lot of different things influence me.”
Since her latest album, Thunder Thighs, came out last October, she says there are no plans for her next album. “Between my last album and working with Aesop Rock, that’s a lot of music,” she said. “After releasing so much material, I need some time to recover. I have a kid now so I’m just chillin’.” She added that the duo have a collaborative album coming out at the end of the year under the name, The Uncluded.
While Dawson is no stranger to working with other artists and has even recorded with Ben Kweller, The Mountain Goats, and Bellingham’s Your Heart Breaks, she has collaborated with Aesop Rock frequently in the past few years. “He’s awesome to work with,” she said. “He’s a really great friend of mine and our brain’s just work really similarly.” Their music offers what seems to be the fairest division of both characteristic sounds by combining Dawson’s laid-back acoustic guitar with Aesop’s blistering delivery.
Dawson’s upcoming performance on May 13 benefits the Bellingham Girls Rock Camp, a non-profit summer camp that aims to empower young women through music and education. This summer marks the first year for the organization and Dawson is excited to help. “I’ve performed for a lot of rock camps in the past,” she said. “I’ve played for camps in New York, Oregon, and for Olympia’s Queer Rock Camp.”
Dawson’s last visit to Bellingham was over a year ago. “I always love coming to Bellingham,” she said. “Also, my friend is having a baby the day of my performance. It’s going to be a really exciting day all around.”
Catch Kimya Dawson at the Old Foundry on May 13. The show is a benefit for Bellingham Girls Rock Camp. Check out kimyadawson.com