The Uncluded: We cry a little, shake our asses a little -- it's nice
Folk rock singer/songwriter Kimya Dawson and rapper/producer Aesop Rock have crafted numerous musical works and have fused their musical strength to form the Uncluded. The duo recently released their debut, Hokey Fright on Rhymesayers. They will be taking over The Cedar Cultural Center Stage with Hamell on Trial on Sunday, June 30.
Gimme Noise spoke with the dynamic duo after their show in Houston to find out how their obsession with words and common understanding of loss brought the Uncluded together.
Gimme Noise: What inspired the name the Uncluded?
Aesop Rock: There's a gentlemen named Michael Bernard Loggins who wrote his own dictionary, Imaginationally. One of his words was unclude. We thought it sound right for feeling a bit like an outsider so we adopted it.
Aesop, you were a fan of Kimya prior to the Uncluded, so what is it like to be working with her now?
AR: It's totally awesome, literally a dream come true. I have been a fan for many years. She was one of the people I listened to on tours a lot and kind of inspired my writing. It's been awesome to get to know her a bit, get to work together, and be good friends.
Both of you have made appearances on each other's records including Skelethon and Thunder Thighs, what brought about making an album together?
Kimya Dawson: I think we did those songs together and realized we work well together and it was easy. We had similar things we needed to get out. We just started making songs and kept going.
What were those similar things you both needed to get out?
AR: At the time, there were some morbid things that brought us together. We had both known people that had recently passed away to cancer. There was a couple of things along those lines that we both started talking about that made me realize we fit and that there were a few songs that needed to come out at some point. There were a few songs that I wouldn't have been able to write as solo songs. We just pulled that stuff out of each other in conversation and tried to translate it to music. I would say that was a starting point, which is a bit of a morbid starting place of feelings lost.
Songs such as "Organs" on Hokey Fright deal with those morbid places you speak of but are mixed in with a lighthearted playfulness. How does that approach of the morbid and playful work in creating these songs?
KD: I don't feel like its even super intentional. I think it's a combination of dealing with hard stuff and being fun, playful people.
AR: I think it's a certain amount of going through experiences in life. I think Kimya talks a lot about how you are never really flooded with just one emotion at a time. There always seems to be a couple of things you juggle around in your head at the same time. It seems a little more realistic to have laughter tied to the bad times and a little bit of questionableness about the good times. It seems more of a realistic scenario that I have come across in life.
How has working together influenced you both as musical artists?
AR: I'm going to quit music completely. It was the worst experience of my entire life.
KD: What did you say?
AR: [laughs] Nah, its been totally awesome. [both laugh] It's totally weird. There are so many things that are new for me with this whole thing like having a band on stage next to me and being in a band is new to me. It's awesome sharing the lead vocals with someone else. I did one other time with a group I'm in but never in this capacity. I think the way Kimya writes songs which has this very cut to the chase approach for me. When I listen to it she goes right in and I think a lot of what I do is drenched in metaphor to the point where the story gets lost to a degree. I think that hearing how Kimya would attack the subject, I try my best to do my version of that on a lot of the songs we do together where I would just cut to the chase instead of getting all wordy and cryptic.
KD: It's funny for me. When I started writing songs, I was more cryptic with my early solo stuff and Moldy Peaches' stuff. I was straightforward sometimes but I would feel more like weaving around my words and I think working with Aesop has gotten me back to doing some of that and really loving that style of writing. I tend to write stream of consciousness and I don't edit. So to work with somebody who is such a meticulous song-crafter, who focuses on every syllable and every single beat makes me think a lot about how I want to put stuff together and maybe trying to do things that I haven't really worked before, which is great. The shows have have felt so good. We're all so cool with each other. Its been incredible fun and super intense at the same time because some of the songs are really, really intense. We cry a little, shake our asses a little -- it's nice.
You both have an amazing passion for words, where does this passion come from?
AR: I don't know. [Laughs] But it seems to be OCD with the both of us. I think that's probably what...
KD: [laughs] That's pretty much it!
AR: I think before we decided to make a record together, I remember sitting in the studio working on her record and laughing about if we ever chose to make a record together how overly wordy the entire thing would be. Beep beep beep beep words constantly and that's kind of what we did. For me, it has always been an audible thing. When I hear a sentence out loud that I think is crafted nicely, it just resonates with me somehow. So that's how I try and write. Things that are domestically spoken out loud I think can dictate where you place your syllables, consonants, and vowels. I didn't write before I started rapping. Rap lyrics are pretty much all I have ever written in my life.
KD: I remember when we first met and started doing songs together, there was a point where we would talk about how we both always had the words in our head and sometimes that could be hard to relate to other people. It's like OCD where its constantly happening all the time. I know my parents listened to Paul Simon and Buffy St. Marie; wordier songs that really clicked with me when I was a little kid. We also listened to a lot of Sesame Street records and read a lot of Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein.
I got really into the way words could sound together at a really young age. I started reading when I was 3 and was absorbed in books all the time. My dad is super punny. He was constantly doing silly word play and we'd be driving in the car and he would make these ridiculous puns. I think that really affected how I thought about words. Even in elementary school and middle school, I remember when we had to read out loud in class. It was always really important to me in how I annunciated my words when speaking in class. I always wondered if people noticed I was trying to speak really well. [Laughs] That could be a total disorder. I think kids are probably medicated for stuff like this these days.
AR: [both laughing] I have these words in my head. I can't get them out.
KD: I can't stop them, I have to make them really clear! [laughs] I started writing poems when I was five and kept writing. It wasn't until I was 21 when I met Adam Green. He was twelve and played guitar. He said, "Oh, I could make melodies for some of your poems." Then, a couple of years later, I got my own guitar and started making my own songs but I was always writing.
You both have fans of hip-hop and folk rock, what do you want your fans and new listeners to grasp from this record?
AR: I don't know if I ever think of things that way. For us, it was was therapeutic and fun. You're so in a bubble when you're creating it that you don't know what you did until its in your hands, shrink-wrapped. You get scared at the last minute. I always forget I put all of this stuff on a record forever and now its going to come out. I think it's better for me to block out that people are going to hear it. In hindsight, it's cool to see the people who do get the record. There's been a lot of "how do these two people even know each other and how are they friends" and not attempting to get it. The flipside is that the people who really get it tend to say, "Whatever you guys did is resonating with me and I don't know why but it's working."
KD: Like he said, I never go into a project imagining other people hearing it. It's always cathartic getting shit off of my chest. It's been awesome hearing what different people say about the way we are approaching grief creatively and talking openly about loss. There have been people who have come up to me after shows. There was a guy who said his mom died a month ago and one kid who lost a friend that morning. Talking about the hard stuff, people are needing to hear that stuff in such a frank way. Also, you can be friends with people you don't expect them to be friends with and you can work together. You don't have to do what people expect. You can be bummed out and hopeful at the same time. You can laugh your way through the hard shit and not have to be alone.
AR: A lot of people write songs about loss or stuff we're talking about. It's hard to find anyone who's feeling the same way I am about it. My reaction to this tragedy is this and everyone else is reacting in their own way which is totally normal and expected. But it's difficult to find someone who can identify within those scenarios and it can lead to bottling things up and not dealing with a lot of it. Even though there's thousands of songs about loss, love; maybe there isn't the right song out there for you or to connect with who you are and what kind of weirdo you are in the world. It seems like people coming up to us are finding that in this record and it's fucking awesome. I think me and Kimya made these songs because we're both like, Wow, I feel like a weird alien and can't find anyone who feels the same way about this that I do. We found some similarities in our reactions and that's a difficult thing to find.
KD: That's the cool and important thing about music: that everybody needs to receive certain messages in a different way. I know I won't be issued pop success probably but the kids who need to hear what I'm saying in the way that I say it, that means everything to them.
Can we expect to hear more from The Uncluded in the future?
AR: I don't see why not. It was an easy album to make. I feel like with my solo projects, I make them difficult on myself and I think I see Kimya do that a little with her solo stuff. Maybe that's how it's supposed to be. You are your own worst critic. This one flowed out of us. Having had that experience with this record, we blinked and realized we had sixteen songs. The catharsis and therapy it provided is something we'll want to go back to.
KD: We were constantly reassuring and could easily bounce stuff off each other.
AR: So I think the answer to your question is yes.
The Uncluded. $15, 7:30 p.m., Sunday, June 30 at the Cedar Cultural Center. Click here.
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