Seattle based band Kris Orlowski are on the verge of releasing their impressive full-length debut album Believer on April 15 and they recently announced a U.S. tour, which includes a stop at the SXSW Music Festival. We got a chance to chat with the band's namesake, singer-songwriter Kris Orlowski, about how the band has evolved sonically and what fans can expect from his solo show in Evanston this Wednesday evening.
Congratulations on the upcoming release of your debut full-length album Believer. How was the writing/recording process different from your previous EPs?
Why thank you, there are so many records out these days, it makes it feel like a record is a weeks worth of toiling in your bedroom and Voila you have a masterpiece. This record was months of writing for me. Writing that would come at the most sporadic times. With the past EPs the songs came whimsically through fragments in a journal as time floated by. With the Believer record, I made the effort to sit down almost nightly to write songs for weeks, nay…. months. Beyond the writing process, two things were different with this record, the band took on more of a collaboration with me – helping to craft the arrangements and the sounds. As we started looking at studios, a producer kept rising to the top named Martin Feveyear. The man is a magician and I felt like a bright eyed freshman throughout the whole process of ‘working with a producer’ as he helped us sonically change, arrange, and focus some of these songs to make a cohesive album. This is probably one of my biggest accomplishments to date – and the biggest drop my bank account has ever seen.
Your new music has a more cinematic feel than your previous folkier tracks. How did this style evolution come about? Did you set out to make a “bigger” album from the early stages or is that something that arose organically in the writing process?
I tend to love the epic nature of music – the strings, the glory, the over indulgence that comes with a wall of sound. I tend to write songs that favor extra instrumentation, and lyrics that seem grandiose and focus on big ideas. Originally when I wrote my first EP The Fremont Abbey EP with the Passenger String Quartet, I thought it would be more epic to add strings to what we were doing. I then connected with the same composer thinking “lets go bigger” and we added a full orchestra. I think the sound can’t really get much bigger than a band + 17 piece orchestra…unless we went with the NY Philharmonic…but the point is, we liked the cinematic feel of the arrangements, but went for more of a pop sound on this record, omitting the strings and some of the folk elements instead with a fuller sounding five piece band. The results feel like a step in the right direction for now.
Can you tell me a bit about your experience at the Sundance Film Festival this year?
Sundance is beautiful – the people, the films, the crisp winter air. I had as much time playing music at The BMI Snowball & RallySong showcases as I did flying down a roller coaster on top of one of the nearby mountains. There was a very cool flick that one of the producers from Belle Sebastian directed called God Saved the Girl. It was basically a pop musical indie extravaganza. I recommend it to all.
How did you get involved with the new charity RallySong, where you are currently offering your lead single “Believer” for free download?
RallySong holds a dear place in my heart. I met the founder when he was pairing non-profits and music for social change up in Seattle and raising capital to take his idea mainstream. I was an early supporter and connected him to many folks in the area. As the plans came together to launch, we were both after the same thing – making a difference with music, and it made sense to pair up. The download has been really successful. A lot of people are into what RallySong is doing, and they have some BIG plans in the works for the future.
What are you most looking forward to about playing SXSW this year?
SXSW is always a great opportunity to connect with people and share what you are up to and it seems like the shows get a little lost in the social aspect of the event. I’m excited to see our friends at Chop Shop, they always put on a killer showcase, but I’m really excited to showcase our new record for the first time live. We are playing about 60-70% of the songs on the full length during our sets at SXSW and the following tour with Sam Roberts on the west coast. I’m also curious to see how they translate live – it fascinates me why some songs resonate.
You have a live performance up in Evanston on March 5th. What can fans expect from the show?
Thanks for bringing that us, since this is a Chicago publication, I’m playing an opening solo set to support Noah Gundersen, and it’s a bit of a rarity as I don’t often play solo anymore. I won’t say gold banana hammocks and pogo sticks are involved for this set – it might set the wrong precedent, or hype the show too much, but I’m going to be playing about half the songs from a fairly produced pop record in a very stripped down, vulnerable way. The show is already sold out, and I’m excited to play my first show in Evanston!
You are also playing a really unique gig at the Studio 914 gallery space on March 4th. How will you adjust your sound to accommodate the intimate gallery space?
I was feeling pretty stress free about this show until you asked me that… the natural reverb is always a welcomed addition for most singer-songwriters. It should present some needed ambiance for my solo appearance. Really appreciative of Chicago welcoming me in by asking me to play a second show.
What are you looking forward to most about playing Chicagoland? Do you have a favorite restaurant or club that you want to visit? Or a signature food that you want to try?
I’ve heard there is great food in Chicago, specifically a place called Girl and the Goat that I have to check out. Very excited to be in such a vibrant, dense city again. Like NY and LA, there is an energy in Chicago that makes me walk a little faster.
Your new album Believer will be released on April 15, 2014. What's next? Will you be embarking on a tour or heading back into the studio?
With the release of the new record in April, a national tour seems eminent. We spent so much time and have a great team releasing this record nationally, so we are lining up the dates and finalizing a route that should take us around most of the U.S. sometime in the future.
I have a tradition of ending an interview by asking if you have any advice for young musicians who are just starting out?
I always say practice, practice, practice ad nauseum. Part of the reason I say that is because the people that put in the time are those that get noticed, get the opportunities. I spent too much time thinking about the business. When I started writing more, spending more time practicing and invested in my art (listening to other artists, taking vocal lessons, etc.) that is when my music started to get better, that’s when people really heard it. If you don’t want to practice, maybe doing music as more of a thing, not your thing.