April is Sexual Harassment Awareness month and Brooklyn based band, Kirsten and the Pretty People, are starting it off by crowdfunding to record a 5-track live studio EP, Blood & Guts & Human Stuff. Kristen and the Pretty People is not your average band, but a collective of 14 musicians that create a curious blend of punk & soul. The band’s goal to raise $7,000 and record the 5 cathartic and empowering songs by her birthday on May 2 is ongoing. You can donate here. Kristen agreed to answer some questions to enlighten us about the album, her experience, and the importance of promoting Sexual Harassment Awareness month. Read below for the exclusive interview:
#WCM: How did you first start the band and get started as a musician?
K: I've been a singer since I started speaking. My dad played piano and I would always sing with him. I went into intensive vocal/music theory training with a classical chorus in elementary school and performed in operas and concerts with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra until I was in high school. I had a rough start to college and bought a ukulele to give myself something to do. I kept all of my writing to myself. I moved to Las Vegas after college and taught myself piano and guitar overnight when I couldn't sleep. I got really serious about songwriting and decided to move to New York to pursue my passion. I kept all of my work to myself for about eight years. It took me two years of working on music alone in a basement in Brooklyn before I performed my first set. I didn't share my music with other musicians until October of 2018. It was always my goal to have a band, but I felt so insecure in my abilities and very embarrassed by my work. My writing can be dark, and very revealing, and I thought nobody would want to play my music. It's really introspective, and ultimately my tool for healing. I had no idea people would be able to relate to it. I went through a really rough break up and decided that I had to get over my fears and made myself put on a show. I created The Pretty People as a platform for collaboration. I play with different musicians all of the time. I feel limited by my skills playing actual instruments, so I love to hear the way a new musician interprets my work. I'm just starting to fully understand the real potential of the songs that I'm writing. Collaborating with new musicians so regularly has given me a much clearer direction for the sound. Since forming the band, I've worked with over 40 musicians. We've been performing a ton, and really creating a community feel around the music
#WCM: What is the album about?
K: The album is about my toxic relationship with both men and myself. My first experience with romance was extremely damaging, and it's taken years to unpack what I went through. Writing music is my way to learn how to heal. The five songs we chose for this EP tell stories of manipulation, anger, and heartbreak, but it ends on a positive note with reminders to stand up for yourself and put yourself first. It's a deep exploration of relationships and how to navigate expectations.
#WCM: What are some of your favorite songs on the album?
K: My two favorite songs are "So Tired" and "Lost Time." "So Tired" is a song of defiance. It's about standing up for yourself, and not letting anyone else make you feel small. Singing it makes me laugh and feel very strong. "Lost Time" is my promise to love and take care of myself first. I wrote it after a very painful breakup, as a reminder that I need to be less forgiving. Sometimes it's better just to move forward than to try and fix something broken.
#WCM: What about some of the more difficult songs to write about?
K: "Fairytales" wasn't difficult to write but is the most difficult to perform and talk about. "Fairytales" is my first exploration of talking about sexual abuse. I was raped by my first boyfriend at fourteen years old and buried the experience until December of last year. I had never considered writing about him, or that relationship. I was deeply in denial about what I had been through. Once I started writing about it, everything in my life opened up. I started to understand myself so much more, and a huge weight was lifted. I realized that that experience affected every single relationship in my life. I am drawn to manipulative, controlling men because that was my introduction to relationships. Everything that I write is from the POV of an assault survivor, because it deeply impacted the way I relate to the world. The actual process of writing the song wasn't difficult - I woke up in the middle of the night, threw up, accidentally lit a fire, then wrote the song in about twenty minutes. I didn't remember that happening - I listened to the voice memo on my phone the next morning and cried so hard. The song basically fell out of a bad dream, and I was left to pick up the pieces of my truth the next day. Writing "Fairytales" put everything in motion for creating the album. It took me two months to be able to perform the song without crying. I was going to keep it to myself because I thought it was too sad to share, but I went to an open mic and there was a woman reading poetry. She was African American, from an entirely different background than me, and her poem shared the same words as my song. We had lines and descriptors that matched - it was mind blowing to me that such different people could describe their (very different) experiences with this type of accuracy. She inspired me to perform the song that day, and I'm very grateful that I finally felt brave enough to speak out. It took a really long time to accept the truth.
#WCM: What is your writing process like?
Writing music comes naturally. It's my way of understanding my relationship to the world around me. It's difficult for me to process intense emotions logically - I have to look at the lyrics after they're written to really know what they mean. I pick up my guitar and empty my brain. I play by ear until I come up with a chord progression that I like, and then wait for the lyrics to come out. This part usually takes the longest. Once a subject matter comes through and the song is starting to make a little sense, the rest falls out of thin air. It's gross, but I say it's like I puke it up. After the song structure exists, I usually let it sit for a few days and then go back through to edit it. Songwriting keeps me tethered to reality. Anytime I'm going through something, or am feeling an emotion I can't understand, I can get past it if I can put it on paper. I've always been inherently sad, so writing out my feelings has become my personal version of therapy. I have over 30 notebooks completely filled with songs, poetry and other forms of writing. It's all an exploration of self, and my attempt to find moments of peace.
#WCM: Why record a live album instead of an edited album?
K: Honestly, I really just want to record a live album. The musicians that I've been working with are killer - I totally trust that everyone will be able to deliver a stellar performance. I've always been a live performer - I've been on stage since before I was in kindergarten. The energy and emotion that come out of a live performance are unmatched. I'm definitely interested in eventually having an edited studio album, but for my first project, I wanted to do something unique and challenging. I don't usually like following conventions and prefer to do things my own way. It just seemed like more fun to throw a bunch of musicians in a room and see what we could come up with. We've been preparing for months, and I really can't wait to hear the full arrangements. I also believe that the listener will be able to connect differently to a live album. I want the little mistakes, the unexpected improvisation; I don't want to remove any authenticity from the experience. These stories are real and vulnerable, and I want the sound to match that. We are also going to record the album on my birthday. I feel incredibly lucky to have made it to where I am; I want to celebrate by making something epic.
#WCM: How much money do you hope to raise for the album?
K: Our goal is $7,000 and we have currently raised $4,100! This covers the cost of a ten-hour day in a studio, payment for 14 musicians, audio engineer, post production on the EP, the producer fee, and distribution. If we are able to hit the goal, we would also be able to cover marketing costs and film the recording process. It also will cover food for the day of recording so that everyone stays happy.
A courageous woman fighting for a noble cause, Kirsten and the Pretty People are our very own Knights of the Round Table. We here at #WomenCrushMusic wish her the greatest success in her cause. Another woman crushing music.
Charlotte is a recent Graduate in Art History from New York University. After working at a publishing company, she realized her affinity for writing when she had to write weekly newsletters on authors and podcasts. She started her journalism career contributing for online media and entertainment source, The Knockturnal. Currently living in New York City, Charlotte enjoys going to concerts and art museums, and mixing cocktails for her friends.
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