Got to Lose Control and Then You Take Control:
Dasher Whips, Crushes, Liquefies
It’s pretty astounding to consider that Kylee Kimbrough only began playing music five years ago, while today her band Dasher ranks as Atlanta’s most intense and thrilling din-maker. Credit that largely to sheer determination, on a multitude of levels. After learning her way around a drum kit during fleeting stints with a handful of formidable local bands, including Knaves Grave and Abby Go Go, Kimbrough started Dasher two years ago. Since that time she’s gotten her own personal shit together, which has had a palpable positive effect on the group, not to mention her life. Following last year’s demo cassette (Yeah I Know, which Scavenger of Death will soon be reissuing), this month Dasher’s debut 7-inch will be released via longstanding local label Die Slaughterhaus. It’s already gotten positive press, the songs debuted on SPIN and Pitchfork’s websites, and in June the trio will embark on their first tour up the East Coast to New York City and back. All of which likely would’ve seemed absurd and impossible to Kylee in 2009…
“When I started to play, no one would play with me. None of my friends. ‘Cause I sucked. I was terrible,” she remembers. “But I guess I was really determined. I remember not having a drum set, not having any idea really how to play drums. And I used to drink a lot. A lot. And I went to this house show, and this kid was asking if anyone knew a drummer, and I lied to him, I told him that I could be his drummer. And I was just totally wasted, and then the next day he called me to follow up, to see if I wanted to get together that day and play, and I was like, ‘Who is this…?’” she laughs. “But it ended up being a lot of fun. And it wasn’t really the kind of music I was personally really stoked about, but it was fun to just play with someone. So that was the beginning of The Wild, which is like a folk-punk band I played in five years ago.”
With an album released last fall on Asian Man Records, The Wild are doing quite well for themselves in Kimbrough’s absence, though she still fills in on drums when needed, including a month-long jaunt in January and an upcoming festival date in June. “And then that’s the last time,” she figures. “They’re great people but it’s just not [my thing].”
Onward Dasher. Frustrated by her transitory experiences in other people’s bands, she decided to form her own. Well, actually, she just decided to try and write a few songs of her own after Jordan Gum, the gent behind local label Pygmy Records, gave her a bass guitar and encouraged her to give it a shot.
“I felt almost obligated. He was like, ‘Just keep doing stuff.’ So I started writing, and I think I wrote maybe four or five of the songs that are on the demo by myself in my apartment. And from that, the band was kinda born. Once people heard the songs, then they got interested in it.”
Like many nascent bands, Dasher went through its share of membership adjustments. Ian Deaton and Jon Allison (Abby Gogo) play bass and guitar on the demo and 7-inch, while the current lineup consists of Atlanta newcomer David Michaud (brother of current Wymyns Prysyn drummer Bobby Michaud) on bass and Kelly Stroup (from Ralph and Manic) on guitar.
“I wanted almost, like, psychedelic, noisy, landscapey guitar work, but [with] a punk background – that’s kind of like the foundation of what I’m trying to do. I grew up with that shit, and I love punk and rock ‘n’ roll, and I want that to translate through the band, no matter how weird we get,” Kimbrough explains. “The reason why it’s called Dasher kinda worked out, too. I don’t know if I consciously planned it that way, but looking back, it makes sense. A lot of people are like, ‘Oh, the reindeer band…’ But it’s not named after that. A dasher is the blade in a blender. So, this band is kinda like a way for me to conjure a lot of different music that I like from all kinds of genres, and put it all together at the same time. There’s the noisy, landscapey guitars, that comes from a lot of dreamy, shoegazer stuff that I’m into. I like Spacemen 3, Jesus & Mary Chain. I like pop music. And the basslines, they’re really driven. I like the Pixies. And I try to keep things a little dissonant, ‘cause I like a lot of punk and darker stuff. And the vocals, I really like this band Crisis, and I remember hearing some versions of their songs where they had really blown-out delay. And I figured out I could put delay on a delay pedal, run my vocals through it to get that effect. And then I play the drums like I’m in The Ramones or something. It’s just all this stuff in this one band. It’s like everything I’ve liked, growing up.”
Make no mistake: this band will rip you to shreds. Figuratively, of course. As Kylee was putting it, there are multiple divergent elements at work, but I don’t think I’ve heard anything quite this potent in a long, long time. The bass is on a mission, incessant and agitated – the pulse. The swarm of guitar squalor surrounds you like a shifting monster, striking from one angle, then another in a tempest of white-hot combustion. Kylee’s savage vocals erupt with a terrifying animal ferocity, while she mercilessly punishes her drums as if she’s slaughtering prey. Like a blood frenzy put to wax, “Go Rambo” b/w “Time Flies,” stands as one of the best debut singles by any Atlanta band, ever. And it almost prepares one for the dizzying fury of Dasher’s live performances, which are simultaneously bracing and exhausting as you’re not sure whether Kylee’s head may explode at any given moment.
“That’s kinda how it feels on my end!” she laughs. “But I decided this is what I wanna do – run in place for a half hour and scream off the top of my lungs in front of a bunch of people all the time… There’s still parts of songs that I keep that I don’t know what the fuck I’m gonna do until we get there. Like, ‘Time Flies,’ the B-side of this 7-inch is…written a certain way, and then at the end we just have this long-as-I-feel-like kinda ending. And we usually end the set with it, ‘cause after I do that, I can’t do anything else. I can’t. There’s nothing left. I think I actually pissed my pants last time we played that. We did Mammal Gallery. I had to pee really bad, but I couldn’t get into the bathroom, and we had to be on, so I was like, fuck it, let’s just go. And then at the very last of that song, I hit the cymbals and stood up, and I kicked my foot up on the drum throne, and then grabbed the mic and started screaming, and as soon as I did, I peed a little bit, and then I was like, ‘I just peed in my pants – we’re done!’ Hahaha! I don’t know if anyone heard that. I guess I’m getting older…”
Kimbrough is 30, so “older” is in the eye of the beholder, but there’s no question she’s getting wiser, and healthier. And I say this even as she lights up another cigarette.
“Aside from the smoking, I’ve totally changed my life to kind of fit having to do the job that I created for myself in this fucking band,” she says. “I quit drinking, I don’t do any drugs, I’ve been clean for over a year, I work out, I juice all the fucking time, I’m real particular about nutrition now. I’ve lost like 20 pounds. I do have a lot more energy. And I am able to practice. Like, we were practicing for three hours, every time we’d go in, twice a week, and it was killing me for a while. The band definitely influenced greatly my getting sober. I wasn’t used to having the responsibility of running a band.
“I didn’t wanna quit [drinking] for a while,” she continues. “I’ve played shows where I just fell off of my drum throne in the middle of a song. I’ve thrown up on stage multiple times, not to be cool like the Black Lips. So all that shit had to go. It was just like, that was gonna be the death of the band, and this band is kinda like an extension of myself, so I kinda had a choice to make.” It’s made an impact in other areas, as well – she’s now the Assistant Manager where we met for this interview, the Star Bar. “Which is crazy to me, because when I first started working here, I could barely get a shift, and I was the bottom of the totem pole, and it was always like, ‘We’re cutting you off.’ You know, I can’t believe I didn’t get fired,” she admits. “I hung on somehow, and then just started coming in to work with the attitude of ‘What can I do to help?’ instead of ‘What’s in it for me?’ Which is kind of like across the board what I try to do in everything else I’m doing.”
Whether any of these lifestyle changes inspire Dasher’s songs may be difficult for most listeners to ascertain without a lyric sheet. Kimbrough’s primal screams can be difficult to understand in the maelstrom of the moment, some of Dasher’s songs don’t yet have set-in-stone lyrics and on top of all that, she confides, “sometimes it’s not even English.”
She says she tries not to be too specific with her lyrics, so that they’re open to individual interpretations and meanings. But “Go Rambo,” the A-side of the single, does have an enlightening concept.
“That song specifically is my kind of little jerk-off song to Patti Smith. Because I’m a huge fan of hers,” the Illinois native says. Inspired by Smith’s song “Land,” from Horses, which incorporated elements of the Chris Kenner song “Land of a Thousand Dances,” a hit for Wilson Pickett in 1966, “Go Rambo” is “not a cover, but it’s definitely a tribute. I wanted to somehow put myself into part of this historical song that’s evolved throughout the years. Maybe it’s egotistical, but fuck it, I wanted to. It’s an amazing song, and [Smith] took some verses from ‘Land of a Thousand Dances,’ and they mixed it with all this other stuff that was kind of singing about Robert [Mapplethorpe], and what he was going through, and then she kind of sang it soulfully, ’cause she still had this connection with the ‘60s stuff. It was like proto-punk… She has a verse where she says something about ‘Go, Rimbaud’ – she’s talking about Arthur Rimbaud, the poet. But when I first heard it, when I was younger, I thought she was saying ‘Go, Rambo!’ So I used to say that when I would sing to it. So that’s kind of what sparked the idea – since ‘Go, Rambo’ never really existed, I’m gonna make it exist. And I took that verse, and I used three chords to make it like this rock ‘n’ roll thing, kind of like what they were doing, and tried to play with the same kind of beat, to be mirroring that song.”
Kylee goes on to say reading Just Kids, Smith’s 2010 autobiography about her and Mapplethorpe, “made my interest in her just go through the roof. ‘Cause I found all these parallels… I mean, I guess you can see what you wanna see, but she had a child early on in her life, which I didn’t know, who was later adopted. She touched on that a little bit in the book. And that happened to me, too. I have a 12-year-old who lives in Alabama, who’s adopted. I had him when I was seventeen. We’ve gone through a lot of similar life experiences, that I didn’t even know about until I read the book, and I had already been a fan for a while. My first boyfriend died when I was young. We both had come from small towns and moved to cities, and kind of lived in squander for a while. And like, the whole not knowing what you’re doing and trying to play music anyway thing. Just the boldness of like, ‘Fuck it, don’t tell me what to do – I’m gonna do this!’”
Photo by Tim Song.