“I set out to make the most 80s record possible.”
Greece-based Kristine is one of the most famous retrowave/synthwave singers and producers out there — and certainly the most famous woman in that group — but with her new self-titled debut album, there’s a chance she could cross over into the mainstream.
Her solo songs such as “The Deepest Blue” and “Modern Love” are nouveau classics of 80s retrosynth, and her vocal spots on songs by the likes of FM Attack, Futurecop!, and Kung Fury’s Mitch Murder have ensured her genre legacy is etched into stone. She can write great hooks and sing great melodies with earnest emotion.
On her new album, which includes “Blue,” “Love,” and some other previously released songs along with some new ones, Kristine kicks that 80s pop template into overdrive. These are the songs your synth-skeptic friends will be playing repeatedly for months, if anything because of their genetic similarities to the best of 80s-era Heart and Pat Benatar. It’s pure and honest pop hooks bathed in 80s nostalgia.
This seems to be all part of her plan, based on what she told Vehlinggo in a recent email exchange from her home in Athens.
“I set out to make the most 80s record possible — as if it came out in 1989, when stories are unfolding while the sun sets in place… where it’s always summer… that’s what I hope people get when they listen to it,” she said.
Listeners will get some time to feel carefree again and feel something “that’s honest, full of nostalgia and optimism, full of summer, melodies, and life. That’s what my most favorite songs feel like to me and that’s what I wanted to recreate as well.”
The Modern Love EP, from which two cuts on the album are derived, came out four years ago. Along the way, her vocals have graced Futurecop!’s classic “Superheroes,” Murder’s “Summer of Heat,” Dance with the Dead’s “The Power,” two songs on FM Attack’s brilliant Deja Vu, and other compositions. Then last year came “The Deepest Blue,” one of her most popular songs and another from the past that shows up on her debut album.
“This record is my journey though life in music during these last few years,” Kristine said. “It’s like my autobiography almost and that’s why it’s self-titled. It’s been in the making for a really long while though. The first songs were written almost five years ago, and the last one last year, so everything in between all this time, all my thoughts and ideas, is what this record is about.”
In that five years, inspiration was everywhere.
“Each track speaks to me in a different way and evokes something different out of me,” she said. “It can be anything — a fleeting feeling, a moment in time, or an imaginary story to tell or a love song to the sea — every track has its own story. I just picture things in my head and let the music take me where it wants to go.”
She wrote, recorded, and produced the album primarily in her home studio in Athens, but synthwave fans will notice some familiar styles from her global cadre of collaborators. American SelloRekT/LA Dreams, Israeli and Kung Fury star Highway Superstar, Britain-based Sunglasses Kid and Belgian Diana Gitallog all played synthesizer parts from their homes all over the world. A Danish band called The Surf School Dropouts contributed harmonies to a song as well.
Local Greeks also lent the talented producer a hand. John Bitzios and Alexandros Solomozis played guitar solos and Ilias Papadopoulos played a saxophone solo, according to Kristine.
Quality Not Quantity
That roster of contributors shouldn’t be too surprising to Kristine fans, or even anyone who’s enjoyed her guest spots. In fact, her collaborations have all been pretty damn delightful — so delightful that it seems there is some articulated plan going on here, I’d often thought.
It turns out my suspicions weren’t off-base. Kristine has approached her collaborations and solo releases in a very deliberate, well thought-out fashion.
When it comes to the collaborations and guest-spots, she said, “I only take on songs that inspire me and that I really want to do, so maybe that’s why they all seem good to you.”
“And that’s why I don’t have dozens of new songs and collabs anyway,” she said. “I will prefer quality over quantity, if I can’t have both.”
Earlier I mentioned that she’s the most famous female producer in her realm, in addition to being one of the most popular of any gender identification. However, aside from Kristine, the retrowave/synthwave scene is still predominantly male. There are several female vocalists, but a full-fledged female producer with a body of fans and some potent success is rare. Dudes abound.
I brought up in my email to her the male-female dynamic among producers in the scene. I was curious if she ever encountered any hurdles on her ascension. It turns out things have been just fine for her.
“I know it’s difficult being a female producer and that there are problems in being treated equally and being respected, but so far I haven’t experienced this personally,” she said. “I’ve been producing for 10 years now, through various music styles and scenes, so for me doing this is normal. I’ve always been playing music with my older brother and friends and doing what the guys are doing.”
She also pointed out that the gender distinction doesn’t matter.
“I have no idea how others perceive me, to be honest, but I don’t even see myself as a female among males,” she said. “I see myself as a musician/producer amidst other musicians/producers.”
Kristine said that she does hope that more women can get into playing instruments at a younger age and then get into producing, whether it’s her 80s-inspired style or some other kind of music.
“It’s so important and amazing to have that passion while growing up, but I think it’s something that should come to someone naturally,” she said. “We can’t do anything to get more women or anyone involved with music, apart from paving the way and letting them walk it.”
Kristine’s paving her own way with her new album. Essentially any of the album’s 13 cuts could end up being licensed — “Modern Love” has already showed up in an Aussie indie film. Or almost any of them could cross over into the blogs, streams, and podcasts that cater to those interested in synth-pop. I don’t think it’d be insane to place a song like “Everybody” on a playlist featuring the likes of HOLYCHILD, Chvrches, and Priest.
Even as writers like me speculate over how these songs will benefit Kristine, her fans, and society as a whole, or as the woman herself assesses the response to her long-percolating album, Kristine is looking ahead.
“I have already written some new songs and from September on I’ll probably start working on a new EP,” she said. “The sound will naturally progress and evolve from what I’ve been doing so far.”
“I’ve had a lot of new influences these last couple of years,” she said. “I want to implement these into my sound, so this is definitely the beginning of a new chapter with new stories waiting to be told.”