Feb 17, 2023
By Mark Moody
Photography by Jake Kile
Though koleżanka’s (aka Kristina Moore) second album for Bar/None has songs that contend with mental health issues (“Goliath,” “Mania”), Moore describes her time in COVID-19 lockdown and in working on the beginnings of Alone with the Sound the Mind Makes as a happy time. “It’s a strange thing to say [given] people lost so many or lost their own lives, but it was one of the happiest times for me,” she says. “I didn’t have to work and working in the restaurant industry in New York will make you want to walk into traffic.” Though she readily admits her current restaurant gig is a great one.
Moore grew up on the outskirts of Phoenix, Arizona, and from a very young age, her musical interests were spurred by her grandfather on her mother’s side (or her dziadzu to her). Raised in a Polish-American household, her grandfather was heavily involved in the city’s Polish community and Moore spent countless hours with him at Phoenix’s Pulaski Club. “I grew up listening to a lot of polka and learned how to dance and hung out with a lot of old Polish people on the weekends,” she says. “My family has been going there a long time. I sang ‘I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus’ and ‘Frosty the Snowman’ for one of the Christmas parties. My dziadzu abandoned me on stage and I didn’t know all the words. Classic him.”
At a young age, Moore started with piano lessons and migrated over time to ukulele, autoharp, and ultimately guitar. Alone with the Sound the Mind Makes also evidences Moore’s vocal range as well and she admits to being a quick study and sang, as a pre-teen, in the adult choir at church. “I got more into an indie-leaning kind of thing in my early 20s. Before that a friend was teaching me guitar and wanted to start a punk band with me. So we started this band with these other two dudes who only knew how to play ‘Smoke on the Water,’ and they kicked me out of the band because they didn’t want a girl in the band,” she remembers.
It took a while for Moore to regain her confidence, but encouraged by friends, she started making music with others and on her own, ultimately leading to her move to Brooklyn. Moore opened a 2019 date in Phoenix for Bar/None artist Rose Dorn at the label’s request. “When 2020 came around with the pandemic, I started sending out what was the prototype for my prior album, Place Is, to a lot of different labels and Bar/None expressed interest right away,” she explains.
Photo by Mateo Ruiz Gonzalez
With the forced downtime caused by the pandemic, Moore set to work on her second album for the label in earnest. The extended downtime resulted in some more experimental sounds on this album. “City Summer Sweat” starts like a calliope fueled carnival song and migrates through a psychedelic swirl before concluding in a soaring vocal outro. Moore refers to the beginnings of that song being an “absolute mistake.” Much of the album’s synth parts were recorded by Moore alone in her apartment, but the vocals (of which there are oodles) were all recorded live in the studio. “We spent probably three to four days on vocals alone. There were so many to do and nothing was looped or repeated. We did all of it live,” Moore explains.
Other songs such as the opener, “Koszmary” (Polish for nightmares), and mid-album highlight, “Canals of Our City,” were inspired by childhood memories back in Phoenix. Not surprisingly, the desert city relies on a network of canals to create the oasis that it is. “Canals of Our City,” is far ranging. The song references the murder of her first boyfriend’s cousin, but also harbors fonder memories with her friend. “It was very debaucherous [back then]. We were just two crust punks, hanging out in the canals and doing bad stuff,” she says.
Though Moore hopes that people discover her music, she doesn’t necessarily have her sights set on making it in the industry. In addition to koleżanka, Moore also plays guitar in the band Foyer Red, who were recently signed to Carpark. She will be doing double duty playing at this year’s South by Southwest in both of her current iterations, before going on tour with Why Bonnie. “I don’t have these magnificent aspirations for koleżanka to be a huge thing. I don’t really like getting [all the] attention, so it’s been nice to be in a band where it’s collaborative as well,” she says. Either act is well worth checking out, but with koleżanka you get more of a sense of Moore’s true artistry. An artistry that blossoms beyond Moore’s own modesty about her achievements.