Now is the perfect time to get hip to kimdollars1, a club-adjacent producer you may have already encountered through her collabs with Finals fav Tomu DJ, her own electronic, ambient, and hip-hop inspired recordings, or her live band improv jams.
Her new, short solo project 3733775 (out today) is an 'allow me to reintroduce myself' moment, where Kim is actively trying to connect with more listeners. On the phone from her new home in Austin, Texas, the former Manhattanite says she's been "focused on conventional electronic music structure lately, trying to make my music more accessible."
3733775 is, as I like to think of it, one for the DJs. Made from sturdy Ableton beats and emotive KORG Triton piano lines, it holds up on repeat listens, too, with a unique sound that is at once housey, jazzy, and IDMish. Kim told me she was inspired by the broad umbrellas of house music and rap music, and specifically the moody wistfulness of mixtape era French Montana and Queens drill rapper Big Yaya.
Finals loves a first, and this is Kim's first interview of her whole damn life. It has been edited for content and clarity.
We met at Young World 3, where we were both pretty hyped to see Jay Critch. What did you think of his set?
I thought it was super cool. One of my main goals was to see if I was taller than him, I always heard that he was really tall. From where I was standing though I could see the top of his head, so I think I’m taller. I think it would have been cool to hear some other throwbacks, although he did play “Smutty,” and “Did It Again,” but it was really cool to see. It was a cool hometown hero moment. Whenever I’m in New York I hear people listening to his music in the street.
I loved it, but I must admit I was bummed that he was going over his recorded vocals.
But it was just cool to see him, I’m such a fan.
It was inspiring, and such a full circle moment. He’s someone where…OK the Rich Forever thing was such an era, but it’s interesting to think about what other spaces he would have been in if that never happened. That was a time when there was a big underground rap scene in New York. I think Rich Forever set him apart and made him less immersed in what was going on. So seeing him at Young World get to be a part of that was really cool. You know his producer Laron was DJing for him that day, and he’s made music with MIKE, so it made sense in that way. He always seemed like he was caught between worlds. If Jay Critch had never been signed to Rich Forever, would there be these really cool Jay Critch and MIKE records?
I like that speculation. So are you not a New Yorker anymore? Where am I reaching you?
I am, but I moved to Texas last summer. My partner is a farmer and they got a job down here last spring, and I was working in education at the time, so I moved to Texas last summer. It’s been chill, I would say. I’m in Austin, and it’s cool. Right now it’s been hot, and summer vibes in Texas are that everyone does what they need to do and then goes swimming afterwards. Austin is super lush, ton of green space, and that’s cool. I have friends here from NY, some people I know through music, and I work as a waitress in downtown Austin which is very different socially from working as an educator but very fun, for sure. Kind of a mixed bag. Past few months I’ve been feeling more so certainty, confirmation that the move was a good decision. People here are really nice. It’s a big change of pace from New York but I was looking for that, and it’s really cool to be here, on a different tip.
I’m glad it’s clicking.
I love being in NY when I visit. But having some time, and reflecting more on what’s really inspiring to me, and what my influences are, this is helping me see it in a clearer way. Versus being inundated by the trendy stuff in NY.
It sounds like you put it on the line for love.
I try to put it on the line for love everyday.
I want to talk about 3733775, your EP. Where do the numbers come from?
Yeah! The numbers are significant to me, past addresses and phone numbers. My projects, I view as being emblematic of different periods of my life. This was my way of grounding the project in a new place, in the past nine months or year or so. A second chance, sort of. It was a way for me to describe the project and where I am right now and how it connects to other points in my life. The numbers are impersonal but very characteristic of how meaning often works in life, in music, or writing, or physical space, something might have a lot of context but if someone else doesn’t have that context it might not be decipherable. But they’ll make it meaningful to themselves. Not immediately identifiable, but you’ll develop your own personal associations.
You’ve got a bunch of projects, do you feel like it stands out?
I feel like it does. In NY, that was me responding to influences and figuring out my sound. With this project my two goals were to make something that was more sonically cohesive, and approach it in a professional way. I’m trying to put it on streaming and stuff. I was trying to hone in on where I see my sound coming from, and how to present that using a downtempo, housey sound. I think it stands out as more cohesive and I’m just confident about it.
I hear it rooted in house, and I hear jazz and IDM melodically and in terms of arrangement. Are those influences?
I am not a jazz pianist, I’m an amateur piano player but I love jazz piano. My primary influences would be jazz pianists like Patrice Rushen, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, his improv videos…I had a friend growing up whose mom was a piano teacher, and his mom was Taiwanese and my mom is Korean so they were friends on like a “Asian mom” tip, and she would come through and teach me piano lessons once a week. So I learned scales, stuff like that, but never super rigorous. I admire classically trained musicians but I have enough proficiency in baseline music theory. My dad played guitar, so I got some experience with stringed instruments. The whole jazz improv paradigm is something I’m inspired by but dont have those skills. Although I am always trying to get better. IDM, I’m not super familiar with outside classic stuff like Aphex Twin, Warp stuff, but jazz has been a huge influence on me.
Maybe you’re not jazz, but jazzy?
What about the role of improv on the project. Are any of the melodies improvised?
My process is that I do play out all the melodies, they aren’t just written in the DAW. The project was almost 100% composed in Ableton. But there are some piano lines off the keyboard. I build tracks in Ableton, and I have a KORG Triton, an 88-key, fully weighted keyboard. I might sit at my piano and see what comes to me, play for a half hour, and hour, longer. For the most part I just go into Ableton and see what comes out.
I hear those melody, keyboard lines like Future’s DS2 album cover. Ink being dropped into water.
I imagine the melody unfurling, noodling around while the drum programming remains more sturdy.
That is the way that I record to a certain extent. And I’ll keep imperfections if it works in the context of the sound.
Your music goes between genres fluidly, incorporates a lot. Do you feel like you need a genre? Or a brand?
I don’t think I feel much external pressure to do so. Reflecting on where the sound comes from, I’ve come to a better understanding of what I’m trying to express through my music. My music has a lot of different genres, but my music is interested in melody, texture, rhythms that come from house music and hip-hop. I view house music as an umbrella term. Shorthand that implies a lot of other influences. Sonically I’m feeling more singular recently.
What do you think about your future with non electronic music? Still interested in jamming?
Yeah after this project I want to revisit ambient. I’ve been thinking about a mixtape series. I’ve been having more regular practice with being at the piano. In NY, I picked up the guitar and had a lot of fun, and have been thinking about buying one. I like live instrumentation. I’m always trying to be a better piano player, and having opportunities to do so with friends is cool. I’ve been more focused on conventional electronic music structure lately, trying to make my music more accessible. But now I’m gonna zoom out again, and let myself go down that path.
What did you mean when you said you wanted the project to be “professional”?
I wanted to release an electronic project with a more conventional structure versus freeform, so I wanted to present it in a professional way. I want to get it out through official streaming, but I also want to release things casually. My main goal with music is just to keep working on it and make things that I’m proud of. The professionalism thing is finding things for others to relate to, and about accessibility more than anything else.
Did something about your upbringing contribute to this attitude about music, where you’re not really trying to make money off it?
I think so. I grew up on the Upper West Side, and on the one hand, it was very inspiring, exposed me to cool music and cultural stuff. As did the internet. At the same time, there was also this music scene and kids making music when I was in high school who were classically trained, Jazz at Lincoln Center for Youth, and I’ve always been interested and passionate but that was more like outside my life. I never viewed myself as a capital M musician, like the people who go to LaGuardia High School. And seeing all the weird NY scene stuff, put me off pursuing music as a career. I’ve been trying to grapple with that, maybe insecurity that I have, maybe impostor syndrome. And seeing how it informs my music, and also not get too attached to it. I’ve tried to keep music as something I’m passionate about, and not my livelihood. But at the same time, I’m recognizing that I have the power to present my music in a way that people can easily get into. Growing up in NY, I’ve seen so many paths I don’t want to go down.
Doing the whole, and no shade, but the whole Brooklyn DJ thing. I mean I’ve been trying to learn to DJ lately, trying to expand my craft. But the whole scene stuff. I’ve always been wary of that. I was never going to try to participate, I had my own life, and own friends, and was doing me. I was never upset about it, but I never identified with it. People can feel very opportunistic in NY, but so does so much in NY, so I don’t think it’s a music problem specifically. Hence why having some space has been good.
I’m not anti- the hipster axis of music in Bushwick, but I also have my stuff already, my people, my family, and I’m not trying to be a factor in a scene.
I’m curious to hear about your high school listening life. And early, formative, living in NY musical experiences.
When I was forming my identity around music, in middle school, I was getting into the new indie stuff, DFA stuff, LCD Soundsystem was a big influence for me. This Is Happening came out when I was going into 8th grade. Growing up my dad listened to De La Soul and Beastie Boys and put me onto that. In high school, I was still into indie rock, but also rap, Chief Keef, Dipset, Cam is my favorite rapper. There was a whole like, Mishka scene, Das Racist, that world was inspiring to me. Le1f was really inspiring to me, they grew up in Hell’s Kitchen. They have a lyric on their album Dark York “I’m from West Manhattan / where it’s always happenin.” Looking back it’s like, Oh, that was a Wesleyan/Oberlin postcollegiate music scene. It’s identifiable. But that music scene, for the first few years of high school, was something I was into for sure. Later into high school I was super into Young Thug, Future, Migos, Peewee Longway, Gucci Mane. I thought Young Thug was the most innovative rapper ever. And was also getting into like Prince, Chaka Khan, so it was diverse. But I was really into rap. New York and Atlanta. There was certain NY stuff I never got into, because it was too serious, like real hip-hop. I was like, that’s cool, but I’m listening to Future. And those real hip-hop people would be like, Future is trash. They were trying to get me into like, Nas, and Immortal Technique. Serious rap. My taste was never super aligned with that. I’m not even being a hater, some of that stuff is cool, too. But the Real. Capital R. That was never really my thing. People would be like, We can’t even understand what Young Thug is saying. I would be like, Well, it speaks to me. But I always say Cam is my favorite rapper because his thing is about being really flamboyant, and kind of being a bitch, and just being from Manhattan. That ostentatiousness stood out to me.
And when did you start making music?
I started making music when I started realizing I was trans. I had a friend with an Ableton crack, and that was really cool to me. I thought if I could learn how to use Ableton, that would make the whole trans thing more discernible or decipherable to people somehow. I came out as trans five years ago, and I’m 25 now.
Do you think in some sense you’ve been trying to convey who you are through your music?
I think so. When I was first coming out, and how that can be vulnerable and scary part of anyone’s life, I thought it would make sense that, Oh, you also make music, so it makes sense that you’re, like, eccentric. I think because of that I always viewed music as a way to figure out my relationship to influences, and communicate elements of my own life.
So in a way when we’re listening to your music, we’re hearing you do a little introspection.
Definitely. And even though it’s my music, I don’t think it sounds a lot like Juelz Santana or anything. But I’ve been seeing press about hip-house lately, and I think that’s really cool, and I think I view house music and rap and electronic music as more coextensive or mirror images of each other. I used to make beats, moreso. And I’m not a vocalist. But I’ve been trying to let in more of the rap music I was listening to growing up, if not the sonics, then the mood. I’m a huge French Montana fan, so maybe the emotional tenor of that stuff I want to come through. And even the Dipset stuff, it’s very classic New York get money get fly stuff, but also the pain and cruelty of New York City and just trying to make it in this world. I similarly try to have an element in my music that’s celebratory and also reflective, or true to what we endured along the way.
If I have to take some of the mood from French Montana, then I can see there’s something from like “Sanctuary” in your music.
Exactly wistfulness is the word for it. The New York rap I listen to now, I feel like is more so the stuff that has that wistful mood. You ever listen to Big Yaya?
He’s from Queens right, with Shawny Binladen?
Yeah, he’s probably my favorite rapper out of New York, really carrying that mood, where it’s really celebratory but also very painful. Definitely when I was living in New York that stuff really spoke to me. That got me through my last few years in New York, listening to mixtape French and Big Yaya and like, also Chaka Khan.
I know you don’t want to be a hipster DJ, but if you could put together a set that involves all that music, I want to be at that club.
Totally, I am trying right now. I’m trying to put together a more serious DJ set, and I’m putting together a trip to New York in fall. Recently I’ve been getting back into Ron Browz, Dame Grease production style. I think house and rap, they come from similar places, maybe not socially in terms of positionality, but in terms of what they want to express, and using all the same technology. All the samples coming from old soul and disco. Same goals, but different stuff. "Pop Champagne," the toms on that are really inspiring to me. I see that as related to house music, in New York, in different ways.