by Bela Omoeva
Last Wednesday, AfterHours was hit with two stunning performances from Mei Semones, a jazz-influenced Green Line Records artist, and Kate Bollinger, indie pop singer-songwriter with a captivating voice. The L.A.-based Virginia native's latest EP Look at it in the Light dropped a year ago. Kate's currently working on her music and touring, most recently with renowned indie duo Tennis. Onstage, Kate performed solo, holding our attention with only a mic and a guitar. WRBB’s Bela Omoeva managed to nab a quick interview with her before the show!
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
Bela Omoeva: So I guess I’m just gonna start out simple — have you ever been to Boston before?
Kate Bollinger: No, I'd never been to Boston.
You’re originally from Virginia, right?
Yeah, I lived there for two years. I just moved from there.
So I know you studied art with a concentration in film at UVA, and just going back and watching some of your videos, like “Who Am I But Someone” and “Yards / Gardens,” for example, with the whole storyline and stuff — did you have a hand in the creative direction of that?
Yeah, definitely. I mean, not as much for “Who Am I But Someone,” because for that video, I found a director [Allyson Yarrow Pierce] who was very specific in her style, and I knew that if I got her to direct it that I wouldn't be able to be as involved, which was fine with me because I loved everything that I'd seen that she'd done. But that was kind of a rare situation. Usually, I like to be really involved. The “Yards” video just kind of began with an idea that I had, and then I was just bouncing it around with two of my friends, and I just kind of came up with the whole thing.
Where does your specific taste in aesthetics come from?
Oh, that's so hard to answer. I think it's just kind of all a big combination of everything that I like. I just like a ton of different music. I grew up listening to a ton of pop music, but then my older brothers would also show me the music that they were into. So I feel like I kind of built up a pretty varying music taste, I guess. And it's the same, I think, with visual taste. But recently I've been into a lot of like, ‘60s imagery.
What was it like touring Europe in January?
It was, I think, four shows in the U.K. and then three shows in Europe and it was solo. So fun. It was just, like, really exciting. And I had never been to any of the places that I went. So that's really fun. All the crowds were super nice.
Does touring ever get stressful?
Yeah, definitely. I mean, I'm so grateful to be doing it, but it is like any job, I think, in that way. It can just be sort of tiring and it can be stressful, and you're with, like, if you're not touring solo like I was, it can be five weeks in a band with the same people, so it can get stressful. But it's also exciting.
What was it like working with the team that you put together? How did that come about?
So my drummer Jacob [Grissom] is one of my best friends from high school, and then he introduced me to Chris [Lewis], who plays guitar, when I decided that I was going to put a band together. And so, Chris and Jacob were two of the original members of the band. And since then, I've kind of just pieced things together. The guy that I had playing bass, Noah [Luna], has joined us for a couple tours. He was roommates with Jacob in Nashville. So it's all kind of, I don't know, a lot of it has been through word of mouth and friends of friends, which I like. But now that I'm out in L.A., there's so many good session players, too. So I had this bassist Erica [Shafer] play on a tour a couple two years ago, and she's great. So, all different kinds of ways.
What's the role of location in your songwriting, if any?
I think a lot of the songs I've been writing are about not really having roots at the moment. Like, I've just kind of been all over the place, which is great, and I love doing that. But also, you know, it's weird not having a home base for a while.
I was listening to the “Running” single — which is really good, by the way — and I kind of noticed this difference from some of your older stuff, where before, your voice would be like, in the mix of the wall of sound, whereas on “Running,” it was almost, like, just your voice and the sort of sparkling production that came in later on. Was there any specific reasoning or direction that your thoughts were going in for that?
Yeah, definitely. I think that's sort of the direction that I want to head in and that's sort of how I've wanted things to sound for a while. I feel like I've finally learned to communicate what I want. So I'll definitely be making more stuff with that production style in the future. Sam Evian recorded that and we have plans to record again soon. But yeah, it's nice to record something sort of in the way that you wrote it. Like, I feel like when you work with the producer and other players, the song can sort of get lost in translation the more people you involve.
Were there any specific influences that you thought of? I heard a little bit of Angel Olsen, but I don't want to put words in your mouth.
Angel Olsen’s amazing, I love her music. For “Running,” I'm trying to remember what I was listening to, because it's been a long time, actually, since we recorded it. But, um, I grew up listening to a ton of Feist. Specifically on her first two albums, Let It Die and The Reminder, they're both like — she has a lot of songs that are very sparse, you know, it's just her voice at the forefront. And I love hearing a strong voice in a song. So that's definitely a big influence.
What's it like touring with older acts like Tennis or sharing space, which is, you know, already stressful enough on your own. Does that make it any easier or harder?
It's funny, before I ever toured, I assumed that the bands would be, like, hanging out all the time and doing everything together. And it can be that way. But a few of the tours that I’ve gone on recently have been very separate, and COVID has had something to do with that, and people not wanting to get sick on the road and stuff. With a few of the bands that we toured with recently, we really only saw them, like, briefly at the venue and then we wouldn't really see them. With Tennis, we went out with them two times, but other than that, you know, we wouldn't see them a ton. Maybe that has to do with the fact that they are a little bit older, and they've been touring for a long time. They're not wanting to, like, party with us every day, not that we're doing that! But, like, I think maybe with a younger band, we would be in closer quarters or something.
Do you have any plans to release a full album anytime soon?
Definitely, yeah. I am focusing now on — I've been writing an album and I have plans to go to upstate New York to record with Sam again. We're going to record. I've been, basically over the past two years, I’ve been trying to figure out who I want to produce the album and I feel like it's been really, like, I've been so slow to figure out what I want. But I think I finally know the exact sound that I want to go for. But yeah, I'm definitely going to release an album. And then, I mean, I could see myself releasing an EP in the future too. But I think for now at least, I'm focused more on albums.
So I think that's pretty much it. I guess if there's anything else that you wanted to say, that would be cool. I'm in the habit of, when I interview people, I'm like, “Oh, do you have any questions for me?” Which is, you know, not always fitting, just a habit.
No, I actually was thinking before you came, I was, like, thinking about what I want interviewers to ask me. And I was thinking about my favorite interviews with bands or artists that I like, and I feel like the best ones are the ones where they talk about the music that they like rather than their own music.
It takes the pressure off.
Yeah, maybe! But anyway, what kind of music do you like?
I gotta think... I’ve been listening to “The Most Beautiful Girl in the Room” by Flight of the Conchords, that's cool, and “Enjoy” by Bjork, from her Post album. But yeah, it's crazy that you mentioned Feist because I love her. I love “Inside and Out” and “Mushaboom” especially from Let It Die, and Pleasure in general.
Ugh, Pleasure’s so good.
I think she did, like, her masterwork on that. Yeah, and it's cool because I went to one of her concerts in D.C. —
Wait, was it in 2017?
I was there with my mom!
I was there with my mom too!
Oh my God!
And she did this completely new twist on the songs she was performing. I mean, I just love when that happens, when someone plays and you just hear the music differently afterward, even though it's the exact same recording.
Yeah. Exactly. That was such a good show. I was, like, crying for so much of it.
Listen to Kate Bollinger on Spotify and visit her site here!