Meet Kristian North: the former garage punk frontman sharing his new sophisti-pop music

Kristian North wasn’t originally set on making a career out of music, but now he’s coming into his own.

Being the son of two Broadway veterans, Montreal-based Kristian North’s love for music was almost written in the stars. North began his musical journey more than 20 years ago, playing music at an early age, but his passion truly came to fruition when he started playing in bands during his teenage years. Since then, pursuing a career in music has never been out of his radar.

Before becoming a solo artist, North was the frontman of the punk garage band Babysitter, where he performed all over Canada and the United States with his bandmates. After releasing their last project in 2015, the group disbanded. This was an opportunity for North to explore different music genres and to completely redefine his sound.

In the past three years, North’s musical journey has been quite a hectic ride. In 2018, he released his debut album, The Last Rock ‘n’ Roll Record, which he qualified as a “lyrical ode to the so-called death of rock ‘n roll.” This ‘80s rock-inspired record was quickly contrasted by the two alt-country/rock songs he released last summer, “So Called John” and “Circle of Life.” Now, here we are, with his forthcoming sophomore LP, Passion Play, a disco and new wave record, to be released on April 30 via his label Mothland.

When comparing Passion Play to his first album, North associates one to a compilation of short stories and the other to a long novel. When reminiscing about writing The Last Rock ‘n’ Roll Record, Kristian admits the album took a very long time to finish because he dove way too deep into the concept. For Passion Play, he wanted the eight songs of the album to have their own story plot while remaining sonically cohesive.

The album’s first single, “Fantasy,” released last February, perfectly sets the tone for what the record is going to sound like. When listening to the song, the funky guitar grooves of Janelle Monáe’s “Make Me Feel” or of Prince’s “THE GOLD STANDARD instantly come to mind.

Though North is very proud of the entirety of his project, he has some favourites; one he is particularly proud of lyrically would be “Halfway To Heaven.” This song’s writing process took over six months to complete and is, according to him, one of the more crafted and significant songs on the record. He is also particularly proud of his second single “Genius Of Song,” for both its lyrical and sonic quality.

While North has had the chance to perform online live sessions like Le Phoque OFF festival and The New Colossus Festival, he is looking forward to performing the songs of his album with a physical audience as it is one of the elements of music he truly cherishes.

The Concordian spoke with Kristian North to talk about his musical evolution and to know more about his forthcoming sophomore album Passion Play. 

TC: Has music always been in your peripheral as a career?

KN: I mean, I never thought too much about the future or anything like that. But I don’t ever recall having any moment in my life where I thought I’d ever go study for a particular career. And while I wouldn’t go as far as saying I have a music “career,” I do think music has always been one of my main focuses in life.

TC: You first were in the garage punk band Babysitter. Since then, you’ve made a stark shift in the kind of music you make. What led you to this reinvention of your craft?

KN: I guess there’s a strong aesthetic difference in my music before and after Babysitter, but I’d say that the songwriting aspect has kind of always headed toward the same direction. I even think that what Babysitter was doing musically towards the end, leading to this, makes some sort of “twisted” sense.

TC: Do you feel more creatively free as a solo artist?

KN: Yes and no. I mean, Babysitter was a pretty “free” band. But now, the compositional method is kind of different; the songs are a bit more thought-out now. Babysitter was mostly about improvisation when crafting the songs, and the structures were never quite as solidified as there are for me now.

 TC: On your Bandcamp, you’ve referred to the music of Elvis Costello, Roxy Music and Warren Zevon as the foundation of your music. Have these artists had a particular impact on your musical self-discovery?

KN: Those artists are mostly musicians who people have compared me to, but I do really like these artists. A few artists who’ve greatly influenced my music, especially for this new album, would be Marvin Gaye and Zapp.

TC: Knowing you were in the process of making Passion Play when the pandemic hit, how did it change your creative flow?

KN: I mean the pandemic is crazy (laughs), but for me, it’s been generally a positive experience. I have a studio I’m working in every day, I’m writing, I’m recording… I miss the live aspect of music, for sure, but I know it will come back one day. So far it’s been a really good opportunity to get some work done. I’d even go as far as saying it accelerated the process of Passion Play.

What’s next for you?

KN: I don’t know to be honest, we’re kind of just waiting right now to see how this album will be received. Hopefully, we get this thing [COVID-19] under control and get some shows. And if not, we’ll just start working on the next one!

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Feature photo by Georgia Graham

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