The project of multi-instrumentalist Kristina Moore, koleżanka first appeared back in 2021 with the release of their debut album, Place Is. Kristina has always made music, from their childhood spent in Phoenix through to adulthood largely spent in New York, releasing their own music under various guises as well as collaborating within other projects, most noteworthy the excellent Foyer Red. All of those musical experiences have fed into the second koleżanka record, Alone With The Sound The Mind Makes, which was released last week via Bar/None Records.
After trading ideas back and forth with regular collaborator Ark Calkins, Kristina set up camp in Florida with producer, Jonathan Schenke, who they credit with helping to achieve a fuller, lusher vision of what koleżanka could be. Despite the collaborative and expansive approach that came with recording, much of Alone With The Sound The Mind Makes, as you might guess from the title, came not from collaboration but solitude. The record was written while Kristina was holed up in their Brooklyn apartment, and as they put it, “tumbling deeper into their own mind”. As New York’s background hum, and the numbness that it can produce began to fade, Kristina found their thoughts coming into focus, and creativity came pouring out.
The resultant record is an exploration of freedom, Kristina following a stream of consciousness wherever it took them, focusing in on ideas of juxtaposition and contrast, the pull of youthful exuberance and the desire for calm. The record shifts rapidly between ideas of the self and of wider society, of personal physicality and what the world tells you your body can and can’t achieve. Kristina has spoken of the record as an attempt, “to feel like you were leaving your house, and wandering, and all the places your mind goes”.
Along the album’s journey, Kristina treats us to an array of musical and lyrical stops, from the fairground-like pulse of City Summer Sweat, which feels like the thrilling genesis of an idea just emerging, through to the magnetic Saddle Up Cowboy, a reflection on the constant buzz of the modern world, how the pace of the world can suffocate creativity in a constant desire to not miss out, as Kristina sings, “I dreamt there was something to see, and everyone could see but me”, before wearily noting, “each breath comes as a sigh these days”. Particularly wonderful is the recent single Cheers! which, atop a fabulous bass line and meandering synths, explores cycles of trauma and how they can suck you back in, “I have a habit of hurtling forward, assured collision every day, another fire, I want to rest”. The verses serve as intricate dissections of the whirring mind, yet are interspersed by the increasingly clear irony of the repeated refrain, “cheers for all the good times”, which seems to grow more chaotic with each repetition.
Fittingly for a record about journeying, in all the senses of the word, Alone With The Sound The Mind Makes is bookended by ideas of home. The opening track, Koszmary, finds Kristina in Phoenix, reflecting on innocence in the face of chaos, fleeing from a dust storm without fear of the threat it poses, “laughing at the danger, then watch our bodies disappear”. Latterly the track shifts us to a more recent time, and the fact we all accept risk as part of being alive, as Kristina sings, “I live on an island now oceans and rivers new things to swallow me whole”. If Koszmary is the record’s jumping-off point, full of the wide-eyed innocence of youth, then the closing track, River Rushing, is its chaotic, crash of an end. The track was inspired by a dream, Kristina seeing visions of various versions of themself, and everyone they knew, gathered at their childhood home as the apocalypse comes, “from the parched earth, water surfaced slow at first then forms a current river rushing up to our knees and the crowd cheers”.
Following the album’s release, Kristina recently took some time to answer my questions discussing live plans, their love of collaboration and finding peace in “making art on my terms”.
FTR: For those who don’t know, who is koleżanka?
koleżanka is me, Kristina Moore, born in Phoenix, AZ and living in New York City.
FTR: Your new album, Alone with the Sound the Mind Makes is coming very soon, what can you tell me about recording it?
I started writing this record only a few months after “Place Is” was released, so around winter of 2021-2022. I was writing A LOT, like obsessively. My long time collaborator, Arkie Calkins, who performs all the live drums on the record and almost all of the bass, was living back in Phoenix at the time so I went down there in March to tie up any loose ends with them. In April of 2022 we spent seven days at this beautiful studio called Pulp Arts in Gainesville, FL. We were staying with our friend Steven Head, who is an incredible musician himself and was our tour guide and emotional support (and burger connoisseur) throughout the process. Lily Ruckstuhl and Danny Clifton were our engineers, they were fantastic to work with. Recording is grueling and vulnerable and sometimes devastating, there were some songs like “Cheers!” where we had to do take after take because I couldn’t perform the vocals without crying. They were both so available for all of it, and obviously for all of the fun improvising we got to do towards the end that yielded Arkie on vibraphone, some glassware and rainstick percussion, and Steven performing some E-bow guitar and obliterating some drum machine sounds through a Sherman Filterbank. Danny and Lily helped me create a pillow fort to perform all the guitar parts in. It was truly the best time I’ve ever had recording.
Jonathan Schenke, a legendarily gifted engineer and fantastic person, mixed and mastered the record. Elana Riordan, who fronts Foyer Red and also plays in the koleżanka live band, recorded clarinet with Hunter Jayne while the mixing was occurring. We were suddenly in crunch time, as deadlines for vinyl pressing were approaching much faster than we thought. But everything turned out so wonderfully in the end.
FTR: What did you do differently with this record compared with your debut record?
While writing my debut record, I was still feeling pretty green as a guitarist, and unsure about composition when it came to writing songs with “full band” components. Most of my writing had been more minimalist or freeform. I was committed to pushing myself to get better and go farther. This second record felt more like I had reached a plateau, so now I can take a breath, stay awhile and enjoy the view. I felt good about what I was capable of.
FTR: The record is bookended by images of your childhood home, did you want the record to have that cyclical feel?
Yes actually, and I really appreciate that being noticed! For whatever reason the setting of 85% of my dreams has been some form of the home I grew up in that my parents ended up moving out of around 2015. I remember it felt like a death losing that home. Then a few years later it was just suddenly in my dreams all the time. I think my mind still designates it as home subconsciously.
FTR: The record is coming out on Bar/None, how did that come about? Do you think record labels are still important?
Mark from Bar/None hit me up back in 2019 to play with Rose Dorn in Phoenix, not knowing that I was residing in NYC by then. He had expressed he was a fan of things I had been making and seemed very genuine. When it came time to start thinking about labels to work with for “Place Is”, they were the first in my list. They still have a DIY ethos I really appreciate, and in the end it made the most sense to go ahead with it. There’s a lot of warmth and support I really appreciate, they really care about their artists. I think labels offer a lot of financial support to do things that would otherwise be impossible, especially as an artist like myself who doesn’t come from means. I also think that in the best of situations, labels offer advice and support with connections as well. However in all honesty, I am unsure what is and isn’t important in the music industry anymore and find navigating it and it’s constant changing to be exhausting. But that’s a conversation for another time, definitely over a few drinks.
FTR: What can people expect from the koleżanka live show? Do you have plans to tour this album?
Well I would like to think we are a very fun and entertaining rotating cast! As of late, I have Elana Riordan and Marco Ocampo from Foyer Red on synths and drums, respectively. Arkie plays drums for some shows when they can come over from Pittsburgh. Sam Houdek of Why Bonnie plays synths and guitar and Sam Cogen on bass, and Mitch Myers of Foyer Red occasionally makes an appearance as the band unicorn who can come in and play just about anything. We are going on tour in March supporting Why Bonnie to and from SXSW, and Foyer Red will be playing on the tour as well! I’m very excited as I have never done a double header tour.
FTR: You also play with another band I’m a big fan of, Foyer Red, does working on other projects influence the music you make as koleżanka?
Foyer Red has been life-changing as a musician. I have relearned trust and family in a collaborative project, discovered the absolute magic of writing with people you love and admire as this sort of hive mind, and get to play guitar in crazy ways I never imagined I would. I’ve been lucky enough to work with many people, friends and folks who invite me into their creative space, over the years in between Phoenix and NYC. I have a personal goal to do so actively this year and am in the middle of a project with someone at the moment. Being able to create with others is profound- it feels like building new neural pathways, like learning new words in a second language. And I love being in the background and figuring out the best way to support someone else’s shine. I learn something new each time I get to create with others.
FTR: Your music seems quite uniquely your own, are you conscious of taking inspiration from other musicians?
I remember when I was beginning to pitch “Place Is” to labels and distributors for the first time, everyone told me I had to include a “For Fans Of…” in the subject line of the email and I was so perplexed. I think I messaged ten friends asking them “weird question but who do you think my music sounds like?”. Over the years I have tried to be conscious of music I feel inspired by and make inspiration playlists before endeavoring to make a record (mostly to share with Arkie in hopes they can have a glimpse into my head before I begin sending them songs to work with) but I never really feel like what I am writing follows that thread of interest. I think it comes from having a lot of different experiences playing things as well, growing up playing piano and then accordion, then ukulele and autoharp and pretty much anything I could get my hands on. If I were to really consider inspirations, I draw a lot of it from general sounds of the world around me, and from my friends. I really admire the work my friends make, and would even say I taught myself guitar by watching some of my favorite guitarist friends. When I listen to what I make, I feel it is heavily imbued with the art of friends and loved ones around me.
FTR: What’s next for koleżanka?
That is a great question! I have made a promise to myself to really take my time with writing instead of allowing mania to take the reigns and end up in a well of material. I have things I’ve been working on as songs and also as personal exercises- for instance, I would love to become more comfortable on an acoustic guitar and writing on one, and that’s something I’m actively working towards. I am also very interested in working with others. I’m hoping to move into some more production work soon for other people. I anticipate playing some shows, hoping to go on another koleżanka tour this year when it makes sense. Money, or lack of money, always complicates things and I wish I could just tour and play locally every week but unfortunately it just seems to get harder and harder to make even a simple show sustainable. Its also difficult to coordinate things as a solo artist with a live band. I have been very lucky to have friends who are willing to learn parts and play shows with me and are down to just have fun together, as often times we will all walk away with $25 a person for a show we all practiced for for weeks. I am looking forward to playing more solo shows, getting a bit weird and doing some unique events like I used to in Phoenix. I think I feel very at peace lately, and feel entranced and engaged and even held by the idea of making art on my terms. Doing things in this city and in this economic climate can really suck the life out of you, so I’ve been searching for an anchor that grounds making art into something meaningful and not capital.
Alone with the Sounds the Mind Makes is out now via Bar/None Records. For more information on koleżanka visit https://linktr.ee/kolezanka.