koleżanka is very much a band for our times – or perhaps that should be bands, plural. Originally a loose “psyche-art-pop” collective founded by and built around the songs of Kristina Moore, it currently exists in two iterations, divided by 2,500 miles and yet overlapping all at once. Moore is based in New York City, but her background is in the tight-knit band scene of Phoenix, Arizona – and the story of how this project has evolved sums up much of the complexities of modern creative life, especially in the time of COVID.
We’re excited to present this exclusive performance video that captures the deep communal aspect of koleżanka – and below, Moore talks us through the meanings of the songs in the video. koleżanka’s most recent album is called Place Is, a meditation on what location even means in this most dislocated of eras. The band name itself, a nod to Moore’s Polish heritage, translates to “colleague” or “friendly acquaintance”. In the makeup of this band, and its place in a wider network, we can see a fascinating illustration of how a set of collegiate relationships in music scenes can build into something greater than the sum of their parts. At a time when support structures for musicians are more precarious than others, this seems particularly vital.
Moore began the project in 2015, playing with many musicians in the Phoenix scene over time; the band you see in the video is the last line-up she played with before moving to New York in 2018. For the first few years she was the sole songwriter, but increasingly around the time of her move, and for the entirety of Place Is, she began writing more with drummer / percussionist Ark Calkins. Though this tied the project even more tightly to Phoenix, she also drew together a new line-up from New York to play local shows and tour with. Now, there is an “East Coast band” (the “primary band”) and loose “West Coast band”.
The sense of community among bands in Phoenix is something clearly very precious to Moore even as she reaches wider audiences. “It's cool,” she says “to be in a situation in which your music is heard outside of your community – but that's new for me, and not something I ever really had a desire for or worked towards when I was in Phoenix, because it was just so fulfilling to be in a community that was so supportive and you just played for each other and that was your apex.” Even with the disruption of COVID, though, she has been building new links in Brooklyn: she plays in the new band Foyer Red, which in turn shares a member with Hypoluxo; members of both of these two are in the NYC-based koleżanka. However, Moore says: “I'm only just now establishing myself as someone who is quasi in the New York scene, or in a New York scene, because there are so many.”
This video shoot was a deliberate move to reinforce old links. “I set this up,” says Moore, “after finding out I was in the running to be vaccinated. I thought, if this seems like it's working I'll fly to Phoenix and we'll make live videos of some of these new songs. At that time I had no idea when we might be able to do live shows again. I was thinking we might have another whole year of silence as far as live shows go!” She gathered her most recent Arizona line-up (which she’d played with just before she left in 2018), rehearsed for a week, then headed with one cameraperson – a student at Arizona Christian University – to Oracle, “which is a collective community near Tucson where our friend has this really, really beautiful studio.”
“I feel like a lot of [the film] is unorthodox because we hodge-podged it together,” says Moore. “We were so stoked about just doing it – we stayed overnight in Oracle and it was my first time playing the songs live at all. We wanted it to feel like a coming-together for the first time in a long time, so we edited a lot of this sort of candid footage around the performance. We wanted it to feel very intimate and very ‘us’.”
Kristina Moore’s guide to the songs in the video:
“These songs were written before COVID, in a time when I had just moved to New York, but was touring a lot. It’s about how the people involved around you are the location and dislocation. It's not even about physical space; it's about how do you create a community when you're selfishly trying to gain something, or when you're not even in a physical space, or you're constantly moving around?”
“That's a remade song from an earlier EP – originally it's called ‘Back to Your Place’. It's kind of in the same vein, in that I had just started touring really often, and it felt like I was in a liminal space all the time. I would come back home, or I would meet people on tour, and I would try and form intimate relationships without really knowing where I was going to be next. It’s the precursor to the rest of the record; this is the start of all that touring, the rest of which was written while the touring was happening.”
In a Meeting
“This is my interview with myself in situations in which I am socially anxious and know I should just go home, but really want to be a part of things so just stay way too long. A conversation about, at the time, getting to know a new environment – moving to New York – wanting to hang out and be social, but being like ‘what am I doing here?’”
“This is also a New York acclimatisation song where I was meeting new people but a lot of it was spent meeting people who were clout-chasing, meeting weird New York stereotypes, and thinking, ‘well, dang.’ I felt kind of shocked – I had never met such disingenuous people at that time. I don't feel like I'm good at playing those sort of games, so this was just an observation piece about that, I think...”
7th St 7th Ave
“This is the thematic centrepiece of the record. It's all about what I wanted to try to understand while writing the record about place, and what place is to me – if it's a visible place or a memory. A lot of this song captures places that were mine, that were my home. 7th St 7th Ave is this plot of land that everyone in downtown Phoenix knows and lives on. Then there was capturing feelings of being in New York, like one night where I was running home from a bar just to feel something – I was confused, like ‘why am I here?’ The last movement of the song recalls this time we met up with a bunch of bands we've been on tour with, and went to all the springs in Austin [Texas], and were taking turns on a rope swing, swinging ourselves into the springs. That felt like home to me too! These tour destinations that you're at after years and years of touring – you always come here.”
Cover Credit: Nita Blum
Writer | Joe Muggs
Joe Muggs is a writer, DJ and curator of many years standing, covering both mainstream and underground. His book 'Bass, Mids, Tops', covering decades of UK bass music, is out now via Strange Attractor / MIT Press, and you can subscribe to his newsletter at tinyletter.com/joemuggs