One-Eyed Doll's clear eyes, full control
The members of the Sacramento-via-Austin band help kickstart the rock ‘n’ roll economy
These days music fans are bombarded via social media and various web outlets by acts that don’t seem to have ever paid their dues. Whether this is the result of nepotism, chance connections or corporate-sponsored tours, it would seem many touring acts don’t know how to do just that—tour—and build a grass-roots following organically.
The members of One-Eyed Doll are taking another route. After four years of playing live and releasing a roster of well-received, self-produced records, the Sacramento-via-Austin, Texas-based duo has become something of an Internet sensation. The band launched a YouTube channel in 2010 that’s since garnered more than one million views; their video for “You’re A Vampire” alone boasts nearly half-a-million views to date.
Drummer Jason Rufuss Sewell, a.k.a Junior, a Sacramento native, is certainly aware of what it means to pay one’s dues. The musician says he became disenchanted with the music industry while working at Valley Media Inc., the now-defunct music distribution hub based in Woodland. Sewell, who worked as a sales rep for the company’s internal distribution company during the late ’90s and early 2000s, says he learned the benefits of being on a smaller label and owning one’s own content.
Valley Media went bankrupt in 2001, which in turn motivated Sewell to start his own recording studio, which he ran for several years.
Eventually, however, the musician decided to try something new, selling his studio and house to move to Austin, where he says there was an opportunity to get more land for less money. There he started recording bands and, perhaps more importantly, met the Austin-based songwriter Kimberly Freeman. Soon the goth-punk band One-Eyed Doll was born.
The meeting wasn’t serendipitous; Sewell says he’d been searching for just the right musician with whom to work—although not initially as part of his own band—when he finally stumbled upon Freeman.
“I basically scoured the Internet looking for a good band to use as a resume piece for my studio. … I found Ghetto Princess [an Austin -based band featuring Freeman] in 2006 and that band became One-Eyed Doll,” Sewell explained during a recent tour stop from Chicago.
The band has since recorded several albums and is now on tour in support of its latest, Witches, released in March on Standby Records.
Sewell says he and Freeman went with a one-album, one-year deal with Standby because the label offered them more creative control.
“We have gotten offers from bigger labels, but they wanted to own our previous records which we put out, take over our website, own our trademark and more,” he says.
One-Eyed Doll spends considerable time on the road and, after years of playing support slots for bands such as Otep, Wayne Static and Butcher Babies, has evolved into a veritable headliner on the club circuit. They’ve also found alternative ways to make money on the road, offering so-called “VIP packages” to fans that include a meet-and-greet and, in some cases, the chance to record background vocals with the band on its tour bus.
“We’ve sold out of these [packages] nearly every night,” Sewell says.
And while the economy may still seem slow for other touring bands, the members of One-Eyed Doll say they make a tidy profit from merchandise sales.
In addition to stickers and several T-shirt and sweatshirt options, the band also offers a unique souvenir, an $80 handcrafted magic wand made of animal bones and tusks. The price may seem hefty but, Sewell says, the band’s followers are more than willing to open their wallets.
“Our fans are huge collectors and we always sell lots of merch,” he says.
Further proof that all good things come to those who actually work for it.