By Jason Shoff
Shortly after the release of the new Foreign Language album Taxus baccata, I interviewed band member and songwriter Kristina Moore and asked her about the album-making process, her fear of the ocean and why their band name almost involved dessert.
Jason: Tell me more about your songwriting process. What's currently influencing you musically and how do you go about creating your songs?
Kristina: Local artists tend to influence my songwriting the most. Ideas and aesthetics are so tangible when they can be discussed between friends or witnessed at a show. Watching people I respect and grow as musicians encourages my own growth. Its so apparent in a localized scene; where you see friends perform over and over for months, even years. I usually write music and lyrics simultaneously, but sometimes I’ll get ideas and record them on my phone (audio or lyrical). It either takes me an hour or like two months to finish a song. There's no in between; I don’t know why.
Jason: How long has this album been in the works? Where was it recorded?
Kristina: I’ve been working on this album for about a year and a half, off and on. I began recording it at 513 Analog the winter of 2013 with Dominic Armstrong. Then I was back in school, subsequently broke, and getting ready to graduate, so we put the album on the back burner. I didn’t start recording again until the following winter after Eamon Ford approached me with interest in taking up where I had left off. I flew out to Montauk while he was interning in New York and we recorded four songs there. Then we recorded the rest this past spring after he moved back to Phoenix.
Jason: Did you have any specific goals going into the sessions? Do you think these goals were met?
Kristina: I went into this wanting to put some serious effort in like never before. I released two EPs before this and was not happy with them at all. They were both so rushed. I wanted to take my time with this. I am quite happy with everything overall, but unfortunately we did hit a point where we ran out of time and everything was inevitably rushed. I wrote new songs and wanted to include them. I wanted to change things or write while recording. We explored some textural stuff, changed it, explored some more. I’ve come to accept how close I work to deadlines though.
Jason: There's quite a bit of water imagery in this album. It's cover features cascading waves, and the song titles mention beaches, swells, and ships. Is there anything particular about the ocean or water that inspires or influences you?
Kristina: I get stuck on certain themes as a writer. I’ve just been in an ocean phase lately. I’m not even sure how it started. I have a huge fear of the ocean. I think a lot of ideas and larger metaphors have arisen from this particular fear. I’ve also been lucky to see some new beaches this past year. That photo was actually taken by Eamon in Montauk. We decided to go out to the beach one night. I chose that photo for the album because I think it captures everything I felt when I stood in front of it that night. Its so truly beautiful and great, but I find its greatness to be terrifying and dangerous as well. All of those feelings are themes explored in the album.
Jason: I found the harmonies to be incredibly impressive. How did you record them, and how long did it take to get them down to your satisfaction?
Kristina: We recorded the harmonies quickly, actually. I think voice is probably my strongest instrument. Sitting down and writing harmonies is something I feel super comfortable with. Honestly, its probably the easiest part of recording for me, and maybe writing as well.
Jason: Before this release, you recorded under the name Where Are All the Buffalo?. What made you decide to abandon the name, and what made you originally choose Pageant as a replacement?
Kristina: I felt like I had outgrown that name. I wanted to move away from some of my older material, or become autonomous from it. I felt like two different artists: one of the past and one of the present. So I thought it’d be best to represent myself as something new. Also, the name was awfully long and nobody ever got it right the first, second, third time they’d try to repeat it back to me at shows or what have you. I ultimately picked Pageant because it sounded nice. However, the name was given more weight after a discussion with a friend, and I began to associate it with gender constructions and other ideas that I write about often. Suddenly the name seemed even more appropriate.
Jason: Once you found out that Pageant wasn't available, what gravitated you towards Foreign Language?
Kristina: I was pretty devastated by this whole ordeal. We were two weeks away from an album release and a month from tour. We had to think fast, so we all went home and wrote down some names to bring to band practice. I wrote down things I liked. Language happened to be one of them. “Foreign” was attached to it and we ran with it. There really isn’t much else to it. We were in a pickle. There wasn’t a lot of time to choose a name we related to or one that we felt represented anything. It was just a list. I think it also included the Atlantic ocean, books, and dessert, I kid you not.
Jason: I saw one of your Facebook posts also talk about a tour. How extensive of a tour do you plan on taking, and what do you hope to accomplish during it?
Kristina: So we leave on July 11th and return August 1st. I’m just so excited to get to tour again, especially with Gina (Lacagnina) and Mariah (Brown). I’m also stoked to go on the road with this album. It's been such a long time coming. To have something I’m proud of while we’re on tour will be incredibly rewarding. And we’re playing a few cities we’ve never been to before, so that's always exciting.
Jason: Overall, how do you feel this album compares to your previous work?
Kristina: I feel that it sounds very different from previous work. Maybe a little less folk. I also feel it's a bit darker than previous work. But I am quite happy with it.