Icons are very special objects of art. Performers of themselves. Whether inanimate or flesh-and-blood, they conjure instantaneous reaction from us, their mortal observers.
The chords an icon strikes lie deep in the human psyche—at once universal, but also alien. Relatable yet standing far above us. While they are perhaps not perfect, icons are infinitely alluring. (I should know—I studied icon painting with Christine Uveges, famed iconographer.)
In the musical sphere, you can work at being iconic, I suppose. But true icons simply emerge, fully-formed. Ready to rock.
Case in point: Kym Priess, aka STUNTDRIVER. Yeah, I know, she’s not a household name but that’s not the point. The music Kym makes—I am so relieved she name-checked Iron Maiden and Peaches in our interview below!—welds the majestic soaring arcs of the greatest metal bands to the late night bump ‘n grind of the shaggiest Electro. Music heaven.
STUNTDRIVER is an icon. Just listen to her songs. She understands hooks. The ones she writes are up there with the all time greats. Like, “Red Road” (scroll down for the video). Chilling. Enervating! I want to take sweet, slow revenge on the world each time I hear it. It’s a song that begs for repeats. At top volume.
And, whatever you do, DON’T MISS STUNTDRIVER IN CONCERT.
Kym, aka STUNTDRIVER (or ‘STDR’), was generous enough to do a drive-by. Interview that is. Read—and ROCK—on….
How long have you been playing under the name STUNTDRIVER?
Since about 2017. That was the first time I played out as anything remotely STUNTDRIVER. It was an experiment at this event called Art Beyond the Glass at Resident—an event where bartender and artists shared their art. I did one song (never played it since), used an overhead projector that showed images of me as various animalistic alter-egos, wore a leopard leotard and borrowed a friend’s motorcycle helmet. I had a drag queen escort me to the stage and asked for a volunteer to share something intimate about themselves.
What’s the significance of the name?
The name… Well, I’m obsessed with stunts and stunt-driving. I’ve done a few stunts in films but it’s one of those things that I’d love to pursue but never really have completely gone after it. I threw the name in the hat for an old band I had but nobody liked it (whew!) and I thought it would be a great name for my ‘solo’ project. At the time, I had no idea what it would end up morphing into but now, in the world of STDR, it points to the idea of the Driver (in the white suits), standing up for truth and justice and baring oneself, flaws and all to the world.
How would you describe your musical aesthetic?
Well for STDR I say, Siouxsie x Rocky Horror x Peaches on the patio of Pee Wee’s Playhouse. Lots of people will say Karen O or Joan Jett vibes, even more new wave industrial stuff too. And my latest writing is definitely returning to some heavier roots of mine.
And your performance aesthetic is super important, right?
Um… yup! But music always comes first.
But, yes, it’s a whole deal including the following: White stunt suits that I collaborated with designer Stephen Baldry on. My newest one is white leather. Blade Runner-ish makeup, black gloves, gold helmets, props used with the audience like yellow sponges, a human tunnel and more. The idea is to take peeps on a ride through another realm.
How did you get interested in music?
Started out listening to Boy George, Cyndi Lauper, Madonna, Michael Jackson then went into hair metal: Motley Crüe, Ratt, Quiet Riot. Then wrote lyrics to pre-existing music and performed them for friends and family, picked up instruments so I could accompany myself and write on them. My mom tried to sign me up for piano lessons but I thought it was a boring instrument at the time. Ha! Years later, I have a synth rock band. Guitar came first, then accordion and bass.
I’m so interested in these archetypes you’ve created. Who’s The Driver? And The Influencer? Could you give us a crash course, please?
Hahah thanks! Oh you mean my alter-egos. HAHA. Ok here we go…
The Influencer: The green lady. Creator of Nitecreme, disguiser of flaws. So what the hell does that mean? She’s a hoax; her product doesn’t work but yet she reels people in like a cult leader. A bit of a biting critique of influencer culture. I think people are often really confused by her at live shows but they hate her/love her when she hosts her Nitecreme seminar.
The Driver: A bit of a Darth Vader relationship here. Perhaps The Influencer is her mother? Haha. Now I’ve really confused you. Naw, The Driver (this is plural when there’s full band) is here to save the world—stand up for truth and justice and have fun out there!
That’s the STDR 101 course.
Is there a philosophy behind this world you’ve created?
Truth, don’t take yourself so seriously and have fun!
Who’s part of the STUNTDRIVER musical gang?
Well, it started as a solo project than morphed into a million configurations. Gang-wise, it’s a bit of a revolving door but Anton Söder (keytar) and John Avila from Oingo Boingo (bass) have been with me since I launched the original immersive production in 2018 and produced the record Saga. They play with me when we do the bigger full band shows. Sean Burgess joined me on drums since we started playing out again this past April. We’ve been having a lot of fun and have played a lot of shows with just him and I with me on bass (which I reintroduced because I wrote a lot of the songs on bass). But Jimmy Lucido (Electric Six, Nightmare Air) was the original drummer and plays on the record. And then there’s the backup dancers—most recently, it has been the lovely theatrical performers, Rachael Caselli and Nichole Hanley. Very grateful to do this with rad people!
When do you feel the most artistic power—when you are creating or performing or…?
Hmmmm I love them both so much. I’ve been in show mode since like April and I’ve hopped back into writing recently and that is so fun, exciting and scary to see what wants to come out. But live shows—the presence of everyone, the interaction, the energy…. it’s irreplaceable.
What was it like touring with Peaches?
A fuckin’ dream. She’s a boss in the coolest way—she’s calm, she’s chill, she’s funny. And her amazing posse of performers have total respect for her. Everyone’s just on the same page. It was so refreshing to be backstage warming up and stretching with like-minded performers. Most of them are European and come from a multi-disciplinary approach to performance like I do so that was so awesome.
Did you get any teaches from Peaches?
Trust what you’ve created. Be smart and efficient with what you have. I learned that it’s okay to play your bass through the PA! Ha. I’ve always been a purist with amps but sometimes it’s just easier to go through the PA, when it’s a good one. I also learned that having a tech is so amazing! Because it’s definitely a lot doing it all by yourself. Let people help you.
Also: you don’t have to be so tied to a concept—trust where it wants to go (aka where the F is STDR going next?!?).
Do you have any fun stories from the Peaches shows?
The most supportive crowds EVER! There was such a positive audience at Meow Wolf, for instance, that they made The Influencer WIN—she’s supposed to lose, ha! Doing makeup and vocal warmups with Peaches was also super fun—she doesn’t normally do them (the latter). And her partner pouring tequila down my throat before I went on in Vegas was pppperrrfect. And obviously getting to see her show every night was invaluable.
What can folks expect from your upcoming show at Oracle Tavern?
Last night I had an idea of making all my October shows darker and dirtier. And probably bloodier. I always wear the white leather suit but I think I will do more of a black thing this month, to change it up. All my October shows will also be solo and I hope to be trying out new songs, sounds and a different set order. I don’t think it will start with The Influencer this time, like it has been lately.
I must share something with you: October 14th will be the one-year anniversary of my dad’s passing. At first, I thought the show was on 15th then I found out was 14th and I was like, “Oh,no” and seriously thought about asking for another date but playing a show is exactly what he would’ve wanted me to do. He was always incredibly supportive of my endeavors, whether that be a divorce, an abstract performance piece, or rock ‘n roll. HA!
One of my fave stories was when I was doing this one-woman show in Austin, Texas in the late ’90s … I was topless, sweeping the floor, in my favorite tattered blonde wig while The Good, the Bad & the Ugly soundtrack was playing… I can’t remember what my diatribe was… but my dad, the late-great “Cowboy Dan” said, “and that’s when I reached for my beer.”
STUNTDRIVER music and videos are like movies in my mind. If you could direct a Hollywood movie, what genre would it be and who would you cast?
Aw thanks! It would be a dark comedy, maybe even with a horror element to it. Starring Sharon Horgan and Sebastian Stan (watching both their shows now—Bad Sisters, Pam + Tommy, respectively.)
And what would it be called?
Would be called Take it How I See It.
Thanks , Sean!
Don’t miss Kym Priess / STUNTDRIVER at Oracle Tavern on October 14, 2022:
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