Autism Spectrum Disorder is a behavioral disorder characterized by a deficiency in social skills and unusually repetitive or restrictive actions and interests. Because it is a spectrum disorder, cases can run the gamut from mild to severe, and there can be any number of causes.
While those with severe symptoms can have trouble living independently or even communicating at all, those with mild symptoms are described as high-functioning and might even front your favorite critically-acclaimed melodic noise-punk outfit from Bloomington, Indiana, by way of Atlanta, Georgia.
Kylee Kimbrough is the driving force behind Dasher (get their new album, “Sodium,” here), and she’s in the process of receiving her official diagnosis. Unofficially, she and her doctors already know she is on the spectrum.
According to Kimbrough, who I spoke to over the phone last month, “It’s like the ‘Sixth Sense’ where the guy realizes he’s been dead the whole time. It’s one of those feelings. Regardless of having the formal diagnosis yet, everything makes a lot more sense and a lot of relief came with that.”
Considering autism’s effect on language, I was curious about Kimbrough’s approach to singing and writing lyrics. It can be rather difficult to make out her rhythmic howls on Dasher’s songs, but as the drummer of the band, that doesn’t much matter to her.
“I kinda hate writing lyrics. I don’t listen to lyrics. I never remember the stuff I was planning to say anyway. People always ask questions about lyrics, and I just think it’s funny,” she said. “The whole point of this project was to make something I could play drums to. Vocals I just ended up having to do because no one else wanted to.”
It’s not that the vocals are irrelevant to Dasher; in fact, they’re quite crucial to the sound. Kimbrough’s vocals give Dasher a primal tinge -- it’s like she’s beating on a war drum with her voice. Her vowel delivery carries as much communicative information as a rational conversation would.
“My voice is like an extension of my drums,” Kimbrough added.
The process of being understood -- by herself and others -- definitely hasn’t been easy outside of music. Kimbrough moved to Bloomington from Atlanta because, according to her, “a bunch of s--- went down in my life.”
In her band’s bio, she’s quoted as saying, “I have sought therapy and psychiatric help for several years trying to figure out why my brain couldn’t grasp things that it seemed like everyone else was getting.”
Luckily, she’s made progress, thanks in large part to understanding the psychological underpinnings for her inability to grasp the things that many people so easily take for granted.
In many ways, being the drummer and vocalist of Dasher is a natural extension of Kimbrough’s high-functioning autism. After all, isn’t being punk about finding one’s own means of communication and expression within a mainstream culture that operates on a whole other set of exclusionary rules and assumptions?
Rutger Rosenborg was almost a Stanford neuroscientist before he formed Ed Ghost Tucker. Whoops. He now plays in the Lulls and makes music on his own when he's not writing. Follow his updates on Facebook or contact him directly.