INTERVIEW: KRISTIN KONTROL

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You’ll recognize Kristin Welchez as the founder and lead singer of Dum Dum Girls (in which she was known as Dee Dee). Now known as Kristin Kontrol, she’s back with a new project, 2016’s X-Communicate, which features a killer synth-pop sound, infatuating hooks, and an all around refreshing jolt of creativity that pop music desperately needed. Kristin recently stopped by our studios in Brooklyn for a shoot, featuring some of our favorite OAK styles and new arrivals from A/OK, Soko and more. We also had the opportunity to speak with Kristin about everything from the Spice Girls, to the future of the Kristin Kontrol project, and her biggest influences.

Interview by Conor Riley
Photographs by Elvin Tavarez
Assisted by Larry Cardenas
Styled by Conor Riley

OAK: At our shoot we briefly spoke about the Spice Girls and how they were actually pretty badass underrated feminists. First off, who was your favorite Spice Girl, and more importantly what does Girl Power mean to you?
KRISTIN KONTROL: I think I’d mentioned an old interview they did with [radical queer academic] Kathy Acker. i-D had written it up a few days before and I’d tracked down the original Guardian article. At the time I remember regarding the Spice Girls as pop novelty, contrary to Riot Grrrl, but I flipped on that at some point in the last ten years. It was cool to see and hear them through Acker’s lens, to see them placed within the context of feminism instead of in opposition to it. Maybe the Spice Girls were more materialistic than altruistic, but they helped break feminism out of academia and into real life, into the hands and heads of young girls who might not have heard the message otherwise. And they carved out a permanent spot for it in pop music. I was into Posh but probably more aesthetically than anything. I played her in a high school performance. “Girl Power” to me at its purest form is anti-patriarchy. It’s rejecting the established norm that women are contextualized by men.

OAK: Speaking of the Spice Girls, they were famously given their nicknames (Sporty, Scary etc.) in a somewhat snarky manner by a TV show in the UK, but then they flipped the script and reclaimed those names and really embraced the identities. When I was reading about your pseudonym Kristin Kontrol, you had a similar story where someone called you that as a diss of sorts, but you took it back and made it your own. Can you elaborate on that for our readers?
KK: I didn’t know that. Love it. Yes, I was hanging out with people who ran a night called Skull Kontrol (after the band, and a real eclectic, free-for-all music vibe), and an ex tried to belittle me by implying I’d sponged up to them. I rolled my eyes but made it my email address later that night, it was just too good. And strangely, eleven years later, it finally made total sense as part of my artist identity.

kkalt3A/OK Long Bomber, Chapter Atre Dress, and ATP Silje Sandal.

OAK: What kind of creative freedom goes along with giving yourself an alter-ego of sorts?
KK: Well for me, Kristin Kontrol isn’t an alter ego. It’s what happened when I shed the alter ego of my former band Dum Dum Girls, when I took back artistic control after feeling the real constraints of a project fans and critics think they know better that its creator.

OAK: Do you ever feel like you have to write or perform a certain way depending on which name you’re using? What, if any, are the creative limitations of these “personas”?
KK: Yes, with Dum Dums, and that’s precisely why I started over. Nothing is off limits now.

OAK: Do you think you’ll ever revisit creating music with Dum Dum Girls?
KK: Doubtful unless it’s something very specific. We’ve always joked about a casino reunion tour when we’re geriatric.

scan-10OAK Long Zip Bomber, OAK LA Print Team Tee,
OAK Mid Slim Jean in Ash Wash,
OAK Paxton Boot, and A/OK Cuff in Silver.

OAK: We’ve really been loving your first album under the Kristin Kontrol name, X-Communicate. Can you tell our readers about the process of creating and completing it? What lead to this transition in the more synth-pop sound you’re working with?
KK: I knew I was making an album different enough to signify a name change. It took me a year to figure it all out, to write enough songs to get past the learning curve. I wouldn’t consider X-Communicate entirely synth pop, but it obviously was a big production star. I love a guitar but I didn’t want to play one anymore. I wanted to distance myself from the club mentality of rock’n’roll. There’s a huge music world out there and I was so bored of only repping a small niche of it.

OAK: Listening to the album, it personally reminds us of the Siouxsie and Cocteau Twins era but there’s also something super current about it too. Some of the tracks wouldn’t sound out of place on say a Gwen Stefani or Charlie XCX record for example. Musically, who are your biggest influences?
KK: That’s a wonderful take away. I could almost leave it at that.

OAK: Who is a musical artist that people might be surprised to find out you love? Why do you love them?
KK: I don’t believe in guilty pleasures or “problematic favorites” as i-D put it in reference to the Spice Girls. I am a music fan first and my tastes run a full spectrum. Right now my favorite song is “Bam Bam” by Sister Nancy. Last week it was “Romeo” by Chairlift; before that, “Needed Me” by Rihanna; before that, “Best To You” by Blood Orange; before that “U.N.I.T.Y.” by Queen Latifah.

OAK: All of those are fantastic songs! What song by any other artist do you wish you had written?
KK: “Watching You Without Me” by Kate Bush.

kkalt2A/OK Long Bomber, Chapter Atre Dress, and ATP Silje Sandal.

OAK: What’s your favorite meme right now?
KK: Fuck I don’t have one. That means I’m old, huh?

OAK: How would you describe your personal style?
KK: I’ve tried to streamline as of late. Simple but chic? A bit sporty? I cut all my hair off and got rid of all the black lace.

OAK: What’s on the horizon for 2017? Will we get a follow up to X-Communicate this year?
KK: I’m in LA right now working on the next installment. But I’m also writing for a bunch of other stuff. Trying to start the next chapter of my life.

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