A new pop-flavoured player has emerged from the folk, punk, prog-rock melting pot that is the Fraser Valley’s music scene.
On February 17, Kristin Witko released her debut record, Union, through Simon Bridgefoot’s record label, Raccoon Moon Records. The record reflects sundry influences that Witko herself admits are wide-ranging.
“I tend to create stuff that jumps around genre-wise,” she says.
While Union is definitely eclectic, it gravitates for the most part towards production that’s electronic in nature. “Blue Light,” one of the tracks on the record, is a synth-driven bar-room croon that manages to toe the line between pop sensibilities and a moodier, more melancholy aesthetic.
“It’s arguable whether my project really represents a pop sensibility,” Witko says. “It’s pretty confrontational, [but] it’s not like, noisy.” After a second, she seems to change her mind. “Well, no. It’s sort of noisy. It’s got an attitude. It’s spiritually punk.”
Tracks like “Pegasus” have a definitively feminist overtone while still retaining an electronic, pop-driven attitude. And while that pop sensibility might have been intentional, Witko explains that the narrative and thematic lyrical content of the record came about organically.
“I don’t have a genre or message I’m aiming for, I don’t have any targets,” says Witko. “I just let it rip. I try to have my brain turned off as much as possible [when writing.] The songs that I’ve written that I think are the best, I wrote in five minutes.”
“Later I’ll [realize,] oh, this song had a particular meaning.”
That meaning, Witko explains, has gravitated towards gender.
“Probably because it’s a big source of feelings of alienation for me,” she says. “Not in the sense that [it’s hard to be a woman.] It’s more that it’s kind of horrifying to be a woman. There’s something intrinsic to it, the biological realities of being a woman.”
Despite struggling with feelings of adversity rooted in gender, Witko is sure of her place within the music community. For Witko, agency is paramount.
“The active attitude of somebody choosing to be seen, be heard [is very important to me.] Even if they feel like they might be in the minority in terms of what they’re doing.”
“I will work with the guys in Blessed,” who she worked with at the Kariton Art Gallery. “I will do shows with them and act as if I belong there. That’s how you start to carve out spaces. I feel like, not exactly as if the onus is on me, but I have the ability to take responsibility for how much space I’m taking up.”
Witko is sympathetic to artists who might feel isolated within the community.
“It’s not good to place the onus on people that feel marginalized to make spaces for themselves,” she says. But in carving out space for herself, Witko has carved out, perhaps unwittingly, space for others.
She is also not without a sense of humour.
“I’m the kind of person who jokes about everything. I get in trouble for it a lot.”
Witko’s humour is most apparent in “Hausfrau,” a track that’s immediately focused on relationship dichotomies. Tacked against the background of shimmery electronic pop hooks and a wafting siren, the lyrical content of the track is highlighted to almost jarring, comical effect.
Working with Simon Bridgefoot (The Parish of Little Clifton), Witko says, was a process that challenged her to break out of her comfort zone, particularly since she had up until then been recording material privately.
“Now we’re making music in the same space together, and using different sounds.”
“[That interaction was] totally revolutionary in terms of my music-making. Simon really smoothes out my rough edges, and he does tend to be someone who conceives of the end product before he sets out, whereas I never do.”
Union, on top of blending a staggeringly broad range of influences, constitutes a sharply combative, yet sonically carefree and unrestrained addition to the musical soundscape of the Valley.
Union is available for streaming or purchase on www.kristinwitko.bandcamp.com