Kim “Vermillion” Boekbinder visits East Village as her solo career trampolines across the creative canvas.
Thursday, January 14, 2010
“You know what?” Kim Boekbinder says. “I’m just going to give you some dirt, because I feel like it.”
As Vermillion Lies, Kim and her sister Zoe Boekbinder formed a part-cabaret, part-folk, part-performance art music ensemble in Monterey that employed found instruments including a typewriter, a tap-dancing puppet and a barbecue grill in the service of superb songs like the jazzy “No Good” and the twisted carnival ride of “Circus Fish.” Following a move to Oakland, the duo’s career continued to blossom as they toured the world playing gigs in far-flung locales like Moscow, Berlin and Portugal. Vermillion Lies also opened a handful of spring dates last year for Amanda Palmer of the punk cabaret act Dresden Dolls.
But this summer, Vermillion Lies posted a message on their website. It began: “When you chop an earthworm in half, legend tells us, you get two worms. And we all know that two worms is better than one worm!” The announcement continues further down, exclaiming: “Our exciting news today is that Vermillion Lies is giving way to two solo careers!”
Kim, who plays a solo show this Thursday at Monterey’s East Village Coffee Lounge, explains what happened. “Zoe decided she wanted to do her solo career, and that was that,” Kim says. “It wasn’t like a huge fight or anything, but I’m very disappointed because I still believe in Vermillion Lies 100 percent. I think it’s an amazing project, and I’m really sad that Vermillion Lies isn’t happening.”
Even though both sisters are immersed in their solo endeavors, Kim foresees a future when Vermillion Lies will reunite.
“I would describe it as an indefinite hiatus,” she says. “It’s not like we are never going to play again, but neither of us is putting any energy into Vermillion Lies. I don’t know when we are going to play again. For sure, we’ll play again, because it’s too great to let go of forever.”
These days, Kim is forging a new identity as a solo artist. Now, instead of strumming an acoustic guitar or wringing sounds from found materials as she did in Vermillion Lies, Kim has turned to playing an electric guitar, while using a looping pedal to weave the instrument and her vocals together.
Her songs have taken on a new shape as evidenced by tracks like “Rainbows and Unicorns.” The song is all smooth edges, without Vermillion Lies’ flights of fancy, and recalls the sound of the ’90s alt rock act The Cranberries. “I still have this sort of theatrical cabaret thing – that’s just part of who I am – so I have these songs that are very similar to Vermillion Lies,” she says. “And then I also have these songs that are – I don’t know – New Wave-pop sounding?”
Kim’s recent songwriting has been influenced by living in Berlin and New Orleans. This fall, she spent three months in the German capital, and a year and a half ago, Kim spent a month in the Louisiana city. “There’s this rich cultural soup that I really got to experience and be part of and let it be part of my songs,” she says of the latter experience. “Those songs that I wrote there are kind of slower and have a sultrier feel to them.”
The songs will make up a part of Kim’s upcoming solo CD, most likely titled The Impossible Girl. The album will be produced by Sean Slade, whom Kim met backstage at a Boston show where Vermillion Lies opened for Amanda Palmer. Slade’s credentials are wholly impressive, and include co-producing Radiohead’s Pablo Honey and Warren Zevon’s Life’ll Kill Ya.
Flipping the usual economic chronology of creating an album, Kim is financing the making of The Impossible Girl by soliciting pre-orders for the album from her fans before it has been made. Kim’s fans are contracting her to make something for them, like an artist is commissioned to create a work of art or a construction company is hired to build a home. “It is even on the table that if someone wanted to veto my album title, they could give me $10,000 for my record,” she says, “and they would get to name my album.”
Before heading to Maine to record with Slade later this month, Kim will debut some of her new material at East Village. Even though she has done countless shows around the globe with her sister Zoe, Kim is approaching this upcoming gig with a bit of trepidation. “I’m way more nervous to perform solo than I was ever with Vermillion Lies,” she says. “It’s s-o-o-o-o terrifying.”