April 26 2016

From Dum Dum Girl to Kristin Kontrol: A Transformation

Los Angeles-Standard Sounds

With her new moniker, musician Kristin Kontrol isn’t shedding her old self, but rather marking her growth past the constraints of her former persona, Dee Dee (no last name, like Cher) of the black-clad, retro-vibed outfit Dum Dum Girls. After nearly eight years of making music within the context of DDG, Kristin (her real name, actually, thank you for asking) realized that her evolution as a musician and the kind of music she was interested in making no longer aligned with the unintentionally limiting constraints of the DDG universe.



While the inspirations that helped shape her music from the beginning (garage rock, 60s girl groups, etc) haven’t evaporated, they've been joined by other influences that are coming to the forefront of Kristin Kontrol’s sound. Her new album, X-Communicate, is so ripe with genres it becomes genre-less, and hints of electro-pop, kraut, R&B, and even reggae don’t so much crassly demand your attention but rather caress your ear like a subtle yet refreshingly cool breeze.     

We spoke to Kristin about some of the artists and albums that have informed her musical sensibility.

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The Standard

Sinéad O'Connor's I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got
"The vocal production on her classic second album was a big reference point for X-Communicate. The innate power of her Sinéad's voice is astounding and just by establishing a consistent effect (reverb and doubling), a varied collection of songs sounds cohesive. It can jump between the very different Jesus and the Mary Chain-like song “The River” to the Prince cover “Nothing Compares 2 U”, but it's seamless. I researched message boards trying to pinpoint the parameters of the reverb used (someone laid it out almost exactly) and then approximated it in my demos. My producers [Kurt Feldman and Andrew Miller] didn't use the same settings on every song, but they definitely understood what I was looking for and made sure my voice was the focal point that allowed us to play around more wildly with everything else." 
 
Early 2000s Kylie Minogue
"X-Communicate went full-on electro pop in a similar vein, but Kurt Feldman was careful to add his version while maintaining modern production sensibilities so wouldn't come off as overwhelmingly pastiche." 

Madonna's Ray of Light
"'Drive The Night' initially started off with this in mind but Andrew Miller brought in a neo-Motown thing a la Edwin Collins so the album version retained Madonna as a touchstone more so melodically than anything else." 
 
Dev Hynes + Samantha Urbani
"I'm such a big fan of both of them and was so moved by performances I'd seen of them together and separately. I remember I saw Samantha play a small teaser show at Baby's All Right in Brooklyn last year and stood next to Dev while she sang a song he'd written. The freeness of the music and how it came across on stage was so inspiring, particularly because I'd already started feeling a nagging, almost negative tethering to the rock thing of Dum Dum Girls." 
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Kate Bush + Julee Cruise + Elizabeth Fraser
"Kate Bush is such an inimitable artist and while I certainly looked to some of her more interesting and experimental production or song arrangements, it was more that I finally embraced my full range. I assume most people aren't aware of my more formal vocal training background. It was really fun to cut loose and write really long ascending lines that I would never have attempted before.
 
Similarly, I embraced more ethereal vocals on top of the classic weirdo-pop instrumentation of Julee Cruise. I once cured a hangover by listening to her second album Floating into the Night and I was shooting for a similar effect on "(Don't) Wannabe." 
 
The dynamics of Elizabeth Fraser also heavily factored in to both main melodic writing as well as in more textural backups: fuller throated lower melodies that then break away and soar into more abstract high lines."
 
Mariah Carey + Janet Jackson
"Two total favorites of mine as a younger singer. Janet Jackson for the dancing as well. This sort of reference was mentioned heavily when I released the first single "X-Communicate," but it's not like the dominant theme on the album, maybe more just the least expected? The whole point of establishing Kristin Kontrol was as much about expanding as it was returning to past loves."
 
X-Communicate is out on Sub-Pop Records on May 27. 
The Sounds that Inspired Kristin Kontrol's "X-Communicate":
Photographer
CHRIS SHONTING