Bloomington’s prolific music scene has fostered creativity even in the homeless community, where husband-and-wife duo Johnny Knapp and Kimmie Deckard found each other. Collaborating to create what they dub “cowpunk,” a subcategory of alternative folk music, the couple, performing as Kimmie & Johnny, frequent Bloomington venues and have become the college town’s top-ranked group in their genre on the music site Reverbnation.com. And they’ve only been playing together for a year. “Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I was going to be a pretend rock star,” Knapp says.
Kimmie & Johnny will host Cabaret Inside Edge, a monthly variety show, this Saturday, June 29, at Bear’s Place in Bloomington. (They’re booked to play Indy’s Melody Inn on August 11.) Known to sprinkle risque humor into their songs, Knapp and Deckard take pride in the rebellious attitude that characterizes their alt-country sound. “If we were a rap act, the fact that we talk about weed and all that kind of stuff wouldn’t mean a damn thing,” Knapp says. But with each of them pushing 60 years of age, Knapp finds that audiences are often surprised by their sometimes blue material. “People can’t believe she’s singing this stuff,” Knapp says of Deckard. They have added a third, vulgar verse to their cover of Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me,” for example (not appropriate for inclusion here). “It’s clearly country-folk based, but it has a hell of a lot of attitude,” Knapp says.
The “subversive sentimentality” present in their lyrics is in many ways an ode to their scandalous past. The daughter of an outlaw, Deckard recalls a childhood wrought with police raids and sawed-off shotguns, things that lead her to the promise of redemption in Christianity. However, bad experiences with the church lead the mother of seven astray, and after a marijuana bust she lost her nursing license. At 56, Deckard picked up a guitar, wild to channel her exploding heart into something positive.
Knapp, or “Johnny Profane,” as he calls himself, has had a life full of similarly unique experiences. After a brief stint in a Hindu cult, he worked as a therapist counseling cult survivors, although he eventually lost his license due to a lawsuit.
“I was faced with, ‘I’ve lost everything, what do I really want to do with my life?’” Knapp says. “I thought, ‘You know what? When I was a teenager, I wanted to be a musician. Let’s try that.’”