Kristeen Young Talks "V the Volcanic", Favorite Films, and More
Wed, 25 May 2011 09:37:25
Kristeen Young didn't just passively watch her favorite films. Instead on her new EP, V the Volcanic, she actually inserted herself into them. Young penned an enigmatic, entrancing, and engaging collection of tunes each derived from the perspective of one of her favorite film characters. As a result, the EP comes to life with a cinematic brilliance, conjuring a myriad of visuals via warm, wild soundscapes.
About her choice to use her favorite movies as a muse, Young exclaims, "They were all movies that had really spoken to me at some point. I also quote them a lot in my own life!"
Now, Young quotes them within her songs. The music on V the Volcanic echoes Florence and the Machine's daring take on pop, while emanating strains of classical and electro. In essence, it's just the kind of journey that pop culture desperately leads right now—ballsy, bombastic, and utterly brilliant.
Kristeen Young sat down for an exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor and Dolor author Rick Florino about V the Volcanic, becoming her favorite screen characters, and so much more.
Did you have one complete vision for V the Volcanic as a whole before you went into the studio, or did it come together track by track?
Lyrically, there's an overall theme. However, musically, I started out wanting to write a funk album. It ended up being all over the place, but that's what I originally set out to do. Then, I just decided to experiment with a lot of different styles.
What were some of those styles?
Well, opera was definitely one of them. There was a little classical, but I didn't want to go too far in that direction. I wanted to keep it in the pop medium with a verse-chorus format. I wanted it to be feasible for people to catch everything. I didn't want it to be too much.
How do songs typically start for you?
It's always different. Sometimes, I'll get a musical idea. Then, I'll just go to the keyboard and write in that direction. Maybe, I'll have an idea that I want the verses to be really sparse and then the chorus to be heavy and angular. Then, I'll improvise until something I like comes out. Other times, I'm playing and a song will come out. It's always different.
What's the story behind "Imitation of Life" in particular?
I came up with that beat, and I liked the minimalism of it so much in the verses with the spiky horns coming in all of a sudden. That inspired me. I love contrasting moments. I love it when you think things are going in a certain way and something comes in and messes it up a little bit. I like the idea of it being so laid back. I wanted to do a vocal over it that was manic. I wanted the chorus to be huge to where I could belt it out river-deep mountain high-esque.
What threads V the Volcanic together?
I was going through a strange period psychologically or creatively. I was tired of writing songs the way I had been writing them, and I didn't feel like going back to that. I like old movies a lot, and I was spending a lot of time watching TCM. There are certain characters in movies who I quote a lot, and I really would love to know about their lives. Suddenly, I got the idea that I'd like to write songs from their perspective. Once I got that idea, all of the writing went really fast. Each one of the songs is from the perspective of a supporting character in a major movie of the past seven decades. There's the Apple Tree from The Wizard of Oz, Violet Bick from It's a Wonderful Life, Sarah Jane from Imitation of Life, Lucy from Dracula, Pris from Blade Runner, Old Lodge Skins from Little Big Man, and Cleopatra from Cleopatra.
Which song comes from Pris's perspective?
Pris is in "The Devil Made Me." There are a lot of quotes. Each song has quotes by those characters or from those movies.
Did you watch the movies numerous times while writing the album?
I only really watched them again once, and then I wrote down things that were inspiring to me. It was a lot of fun, and it went really quickly. Of course, it's from my perspective because I'm the writer. It's part me and part that character. However, I loved not writing completely from my life. It was fun to get out of that. It was liberating to be even partly someone else for a while.
Have you seen any good flicks lately?
I liked the Joan Rivers documentary! It was wonderful. It was such a great story, and it was a part of her you get to see that you wouldn't think, and it was inspiring. She really persevered for so long. In my songs, I talk about how war never ends because war is life. The war just goes on. The struggle, fight never stops. It was inspiring.
Have you heard Kristeen Young yet?