Indeed, I do “live in a heartbeat city,” “[falling] in love every minute on the street,” but Kim Boekbinder takes the cake for my #1 crush of 2013. Boekbinder is a Canada-born, NYC-based electro singer/songwriter and visual artist, who has made a name for herself collaborating with the likes of David J and Amanda Palmer and also her use of Kickstarter to fund her first two albums and first tour. She also utilizes Tumblr to criticize things like Western culture’s notion of “healthy” embodiments of gender (I’m not going to lie, about 90% of my crush is based on this… but the music is fucking good, as well.) Boekbinder’s sophomore effort, The Sky is Calling, is out this Friday, June 21st. At times, the album sounds like the most disenfranchised of New Wavers; at times, a brilliantly morbid and synth-heavy effort from 4AD, circa 1986; and, at times, like the gloomiest and sassiest pop music of the ‘90s (see: the very namesake of “#1 crush.”)… So I guess the two major themes here are “dark” and “dance.” I recently chatted with Boekbinder about her latest album… and the best way for the discontented youth of America to fuck shit up in the digital age.
Kim Boekbinder: The Sky is Calling is the first album that is exactly what I wanted to make. I love every second of it. The writing and recording process were great and the continued creative journey of making music videos and putting together the live shows with the band is just as enjoyable. My first solo album was very much me finding my own sound after breaking up my last band. I knew I was reaching for something, but I didn’t even know what it was. I used to play pretty, acoustic music. Now I am full on rocking electronica and I feel like I finally hit my stride.
IC: What are the album’s biggest influences and inspirations, both musical and otherwise?
KB: Space! I wanted a theme to keep me focused, and I love space, so I wrote a space album. Of 10 songs, 5 are space songs, and 5 are non-space songs that still fit, sonically. I spent a long time mapping out the sonic and emotional arc of the album so that it’s totally enjoyable as a listening experience, instead of just a random collection of songs I wrote over a few years. It’s all swirling synthesizers and sound samples collected from the earth and the heavens. I used the ‘singing’ of a star, and created a rhythm for one track based on a photograph of a nebula. I’m always influenced by textures and layers. I was really interested in using sounds that don’t get heard together, traditional instruments like hammer dulcimer and kalimba, riding on waves of synthesizers and distorted guitars. The clash of sounds and ideas is exciting.[youtube http://youtu.be/KCJzUiBZItk]
IC: So, like all entities of high technology and postmodernity, I kind of hate Tumblr, but I think yours is quite cool and I really appreciate your cultural politics, so I’m curious if you have any particularly significant heroines or heroes that have influenced your views on the Western world?
KB: I keep my Tumblr pretty focused. It’s not just a reblogging platform for random cat gifs (though I do enjoy me some cat gifs on the sly.) For me, there is no division between the arts and sciences and cultures. They all bleed into each other and my creative work is about my politics and ethics and philosophies, always. I’ve been deeply influenced by so many writers, some for their fiction and some for their non-fiction. Here’s a little smattering of word slingers I like: Arundhati Roy, George Orwell, Philip K. Dick, Jeannette Winterson, and new favorites (and friends) Laurie Penny from London and Mona Eltahawy from Egypt.
IC: In line with my last question, what do you feel are the best outlets for young people with off-the-grid, or non-traditional, takes on our society to get their ideas out to larger audiences?
KB: Twitter has been an incredible tool for reaching out and also for learning, connecting to new people and new ideas. Following people in different countries, cultures, from different backgrounds. Even people I don’t agree with all the time (or even much). It’s amazing to have a stream of consciousness so accessible. The immediacy of Twitter also makes it incredibly powerful. People live tweeting events as they unfold. Sure – it can be vapid or annoying if you only follow bland celebrities, but if you curate your list right, you can have incredible conversations on a global level about art, music, politics, activism… everything.
But never discount the power of face-to-face meetings and discussions. If you live in a city, there is most likely a group of people talking about something you want to talk about. I don’t think online or offline communication is better or worse than the other. We live in an incredibly connected world now, and all those ways of connecting work together to create intricate networks in our lives that go beyond “digital” life or “real” life. It’s all real.
IC: So I realize this is a little cheesy, but your sense of fashion is totally amazing. What or who does it draw inspiration from?
KB: My approach to dress is similar to my approach to music. It’s about textures and layers and colors that feel right in the moment. Shiny things are always welcome. And I often clash – if that’s even a thing anymore. I’ve always been iconoclastic when it comes to fashion. I get compliments and I get nasty comments from strangers. But my own sense of what looks good always trumps what I “should” be wearing. Clothing is another means of expression. It’s not a costume, it’s me.
IC: What are your most significant plans and hopes for the second half of 2013?
KB: Always more art, more music, more touring – hopefully Europe this year! This album is so fun to play live and my band is kicking ass!