Sunday, January 3, 2010

Q&A: Singer Kristen of The Crazy Ivans

I first met Kristen when I saw her singing and playing guitar with her band at the time, Jane loves Dick, at the notorious Bar of Soap bar/laundromat by Fair Park in Dallas. I took some photos of them and we became friends, and I've seen her perform many times since, including an impressive performance singing for her new band The Crazy Ivans.

Q: What made you want to be a rock and roller to begin with?

Kristen: When I was in High School I wrote and sang a lot of music, and one year decided to try to get one of my songs into the school's talent show. I didn't play an instrument back then and unlike most of the girls I wasn't singing some popular song I could just get a backup tape for, so it was pretty much just me up there, unaccompanied. And like a lot of my stuff, the song was pretty edgy and raw. I got laughed at by the judges and didn't even make it into the show. That motivated me big time, because I knew this stuff had potential, just not as an acapella. So as soon as I could afford it I got my first guitar and started teaching myself to play. I didn't ever consider myself talented guitar-wise. But I realized the louder and faster I played, and the realer I got with it, that raw talent mattered less and less. I'm not gonna lie... I think that's what appeals to most of us about rock and roll, that pretty much anyone can do it as long as they love it.

Q: What was the first record you ever bought?

Kristen: This is embarrassing. When I was very young, I saved my allowance and got MC Hammer - You Can't Touch This. I had a brief SWV phase right after that. This was back when things were still on tape, though. I'm sure my first CD was much much cooler.

Q: Tell me a little about the first band I saw you perform with- Jane loves Dick.

Kristen: That was a really great experience for me. I had been singing for a long while, and when I first moved to Dallas I started playing with a group that never got around to doing any shows. But JLD was my first real opportunity to get on a stage and just put it all out there for people, something I had been wanting to do for a very long time. And the format was a lot of fun. I was listening to a lot of The Donnas and The Muffs at the time, so the girl-band thing just made sense. I met Rachel at a show at the old Bar of Soap and we clicked right away, really feeding off each other musically. I wouldn't be surprised if after just a few months we had something like 50 songs in the tank between the 2 of us. And her (now husband) Rob (of Responsible Johnny) really helped me expand what I had been doing on the guitar. The whole thing was probably the best introduction I can imagine to Dallas Punk music and everyone that loves that scene.

Q: tell me how you got involved with your new band The Crazy Ivans

Kristen: Four of the guys had been together about a year and were auditioning singers. I was looking around at a few things, and a big part of me was actually contemplating a move out of the state at that time. But after meeting everyone and hearing a few songs, I absolutely fell in love and knew that this was what I was supposed to be doing. Then I just had to convince them. They might tell you it was because I worked my ass off at the audition, or maybe they just liked the sound. My version is that I was the only chick smart enough to bring cookies with me. Either way... it all worked out, and here I am. I couldn't ask for a better group of guys to have to spend the majority of my time with.

Q: How do you like only singing as opposed to playing guitar and singing?

Kristen: It was rough at first putting down the guitar. As a female in the music scene, there's something about even just holding an instrument that seems to give you a little more credibility up there. But Keith and Justin are phenomenal musicians, so me playing along would really just be overkill. And focusing on singing does have advantages... it's nice not being tethered to the mic stand, being able to move around and really connect with the crowd. Besides, I'm a total klutz... I can't count how many times I just start rocking a little to hard and end up falling over. It's nice knowing I have a free hand to catch myself with.

Q: What sort of guitar and amp do you perform with and why?

Kristen: My guitar is a Fender Highway 1 Strat and the amp is a Fender 2x12. It's a pretty clean sound but I usually end up going through a pedal anyway. I also have an accoustic Taylor I'd love to take out to a coffee shop or open mic someday. I'm not the type that picks out a guitar for a specific sound, for me, durable and easy to play is key. I can be pretty rough on my instruments and something that can take a beating without going out of tune after 15 minutes is important. They've also got some good stories, and a little history in an instrument is a pretty big deal to me too.

Q: what bands or artists do you enjoy listening to?

Kristen: Oh gosh this question is always tough because I'm so all over the map. I love Punk- Rancid, the Distillers and Dropkick Murphys are some favorites. I'm also a huge fan of the classics like Clapton, the Stones and SRV. I'm really digging some younger bands too, like the Fratellis, the Arctic Monkeys, stuff like that. And there's always going to be a time and place for some funk and some good ole 80s pop. But probably one of my favorite all-around bands that most people haven't heard of but should definitely check out is Dovetail Joint - I've gotten a lot of inspiration from their stuff over the years.

Q: what else do you do besides play music? what do you enjoy doing?

Kristen: Well most of the time that I'm not at work does revolve around music one way or another. If I'm not playing with the band, I may be out at a friends show, or have a new CD that I'm listening to, or writing and playing on my own. Most of the other stuff I like to do is pretty laid back... cooking or writing or swimming or camping or anything outside really. I'm almost always up for trying some totally new thing too.

Random topic round.

Topics: deep ellum. Dallas music scene. bars and clubs.

I've only been here a few years so I may have a different perspective on this, because I don't really know how things "used to be". I hear people say Dallas music is dying and it always feels like a cop-out. Frankly, I think we have as diverse, talented and envelope-pushing group of musicians here as they've got anywhere in the country. Sure, it's a big city, things are spread out, fans are spread out, venues are closing and spreading outside Deep Ellum, and there's a lot of driving around. It makes it tough for bands to get as many people out, it makes it tough to be successful. But as music fans, we've got it great. Every weekend there are a ton of great local acts to choose from. For like 15 bucks at the Palladium, we can get spitting distance from the same national acts I would have had to spend $50 to see from nosebleed amphitheatre seats in the Midwest. It seems like we're getting fresher stuff here too, bands trying a lot harder to stand out from the pack. I'm a musician, but I'm a fan first, so I really can't complain.

Topics: tex-mex food. italian food. delis.

Love Italian food, but tend to think I'm pretty bad-ass at making it myself so I never eat it out. And I love that in TX you all put avocados in everything, even soup. My first and still favorite tortilla soup experience was at a local place called Posados. Yum.

Topics: people who drive pickup trucks. people who drive hybrids. People who have rims on their hooptie worth more than the car.

I am a pretty practical girl so I find hybrids and pickup trucks extremely sexy. (And by truck I mean the real kind - old, beat up, 2 seaters, not that big shiny 4mpg-so-I can-pretend-my-penis-is-bigger variety). And I don't mind hoopties, but the rims don't really do anything for me. Biggest pet peave are the people who armor up there cars, like those big front catches on trucks, or the hubcaps with the spikes sticking out, or the entire Hummer for that matter. Anyone who treats their commute like their own personal open war zone is generally not someone I care to be around.

Topics: playing in bands with girls. playing in bands with guys.

We definately have different ways of communicating, so having a mixed-gender group I think automatically doubles the amount of time it takes to say anything. Working with all girls is probably easier, and I imagine an all-guy group might say the same, but easier doesn't always mean better. Ultimately I think being a chick in rock music is weird enough on its own, regardless of who we play with. There are some that treat it like, "I am female therefore unique therefore more important..." These are the Divas. The rest of us, I think we're just trying so hard to be "one of the guys" (even in a girl-dominated band) that it can be hard to figure out where you fit in. Who knows... at the end of the day we still have to sit down to pee, we generally get cuter panties, and it is what it is I guess

Topics: dungeons and dragons. monopoly. life. sorry!. uno.

Funny you mention this. The Crazy Ivans actually have a D&D campaign that we all play. That's how the first 4 all originally met and decided to start playing (music) together. So yeah... I am now a level 9 Barbarian who focuses on two weapon fighting (short swords). That's right boys, picture a bad-ass amazonian warrior in studded leather standing over you cold, lifeless corpses and weep. And I really can't lie... I've known all about Lord of the Rings, World of Warcraft, and comic book super heroes since WAY before I started running with this crowd. I may be a punk rocker now, but the huge dork in me will never die. My dice are purple.

Topics: daytime soap operas. spanish station soaps. reality teevee shows.

Never really got into these too much. I think I have enough drama in my real life to keep me from seeking out any more on TV. And when I do have a desire to watch the interactions of scantilly clad women with no morals, I tend to just cut to the chase and go straight to the porn.

Topics: water parks. lakes. amusement parks.

Water parks are kind of like hotdogs for me. Deep down, I already know that if I did all the research, I'd find out all sorts of disgusting things about what's *really* in the water and never want to swim at one again. But I'll never do the research. Because I really just don't want to know. They're fun, and I like them and I just don't care enough to ruin it for myself. But deep down, way deep down, I think I kinda already know...

Topics: cell phones. laptops. social networking.

Technology has certainly made communicating easier. But it's also made me lazier, and I probably do far less of it now than I did before I could text, facebook, etc. I kind of miss the days when my friends would just "stop by" to see if I was home and wanted to hang out. It's hard to be surprised by anything when you're always wired in. I don't miss being clueless, but I do miss being surprised.

Go see The Crazy Ivans live. They will brainwash you. They did me.