Upon the premiere of last year’s indie film sensation Juno, Kimya Dawson said, “I am excited for when the soundtrack comes out. But […] it’s all really scary for me. Some of those songs were recorded in my bed in Bedford Hills, under the covers, on the 4-track. And when people were coming up to me telling me I did a great job, it felt weird because I didn’t do a job. I wrote a bunch of crap when my heart was hurting.”
Anti-folk pioneer and cult favorite Kimya Dawson was launched into sudden stardom last year with the release of the Juno soundtrack, on which her music was heavily featured. Dawson, who performed as one-half of The Moldy Peaches until 2004, began a solo career when the band went on hiatus, recording a series of heartfelt lo-fi albums, the latest titled Remember That I Love You – a phrase that could also serve as a mantra for Dawson’s music.
Throughout her career, Dawson has made no secret of the addictions and hardships that she has overcome, and has used her music as a catalyst to reach out to listeners in the form of a compassionate friend and a hand to hold. She escapes the saccharine-sweet stereotype that most musicians might fall into while on this quest, however; Dawson’s songs are comforting while still retaining just enough of the madness of real life to remain familiar. In the song “Loose Lips,” included both on Remember and the Juno soundtrack, she repeats, backed by a company of friends: “So if you wanna burn yourself, remember that I love you/ If you wanna cut yourself, remember that I love you/ If you wanna kill yourself, remember that I love you/ Call me up before you’re dead, we can make some plans instead/ Send me an IM; I’ll be your friend.”
“I just hope things don’t get too different,” said Dawson last year, before things got so different. “I like the way I do stuff now. Group hugs, and potlucks, and all that shit. It doesn’t really get better than that, does it? All this other stuff is cool and all, but the community and the closeness and all that is what keeps my heart beating.”
The expansion of this community has proven troublesome for some supporters, who have faulted Dawson for being more unavailable now that she has millions, not thousands, of potential friends vying for her love; her visibility, as she suspected when Juno premiered, has skyrocketed, as the twee-heavy soundtrack topped the Billboard charts this year. Dawson, who makes a point not to use the word “fan” when referring to her, well, fans, tours with her husband Ange and their toddler daughter, Panda Delilah (pictured), and tries to limit her performance venues to smoke-free and all-ages rooms so that anyone who wants to attend will feel comfortable and welcome.
Several times on her current tour, however, the breadth of her sudden fame has overwhelmed Dawson, as her fans demand hugs and conversation regardless of context, or whether Panda has been sick or tired. Dawson responds: “We, as humans, need to be mutually decent to each other, and recognize that all people are still real, live, thinking, feeling people regardless of how you know of them, what they do, or the connection you have to them through what they do. I love you all […]. Understand that soon all this Juno hubbub will die down and the shows will get smaller and it will be easier to hang out and meet everyone again, just how I like it.”
Come hang out with Kimya — and maybe snag a respectful hug — this Sunday at the IMC, 202 S. Broadway Ave. in Urbana. Special guests are L’Orchidee D’Hawai and Dawson’s husband, Angelo Spencer. Tickets are $13 in advance and $15 at the door for this 7:00 P.M. show.