Interview: Kississippi Talks Glittery New Single and Triple Crown Signing

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Photo by Kaytlin Dargen

The track is called “Around Your Room,” but from the twitterpated lyrics (“Throw your heart at me / I’m a sucker for you”) to the glittery candy bomb of a video, it’s clear it resides in the space inside Zoe Reynolds’ head. With her first new single as Kississippi (referred to affectionately as “Kissy” by fans and Reynolds too) since she self-released gauzy, emo-tinged Sunset Blush in 2018, Reynolds has affirmed her plunge deeper into pop. Kississippi stepped out of a blush-tinged, guitar-driven world and into an electronic landscape steeped in hot pink. 

Releasing “Around Your Room” on October 8, Reynolds anxiously anticipated the reaction from those who have been around since her first EP, We Have No Future, We’re All Doomed, with its minor riffs and languid vocals. “I’ve been working on this stuff for so long I kind of forgot that people don’t know that that’s what my music sounds like now,” Reynolds, who co-wrote the song with Sarah Tudzin of Illuminati Hotties, says. But a glittery pop aesthetic was always sprinkled throughout Reynolds’ music and performances—sometimes literally, like the doughnut sprinkles she once affixed to her frosting-pink guitar. Even the shift from We Have No Future to Sunset Blush saw Reynolds inching closer to dream pop, writing not the music she felt like was expected of her given the scene she was part of but the secret songs that had always resided within her. Inspired by female-fronted pop music from Britney to Beach House, it was just a matter of time until Reynolds broke the mold. 

“I’ve been thinking about it recently, and it’s the first time that I’ve really come to terms with the fact that I was holding myself back a little bit,” Reynolds says. “I feel like I finally found my voice on this shit.” It’s not just on the track itself. Reynolds, a visual artist, designs most Kississippi merch herself. When she writes songs, she doesn’t just hear the notes, but she envisions them in swaths of colors and textures. If you haven’t watched the “Around Your Room” video yet, you aren’t getting the full Kissy experience.

“Visuals and music connect in a major way for me; my brain just only works artistically,” Reynolds says. Working with a team including Josh Coll, who directed the video, to Kay Dargen, who did the album art, her vision was brought to life. “I just had such a good creative team behind every single part of this single,” she says. “I hardly had to explain anything”. The image of Reynolds with a pastel-colored, high-strapped electric guitar became so familiar as she toured to promote Sunset Blush that it’s somewhat shocking she hardly picked up a guitar writing “Around Your Room” and the rest of the songs that will comprise her as-yet-unannounced second LP (and her first since signing to Triple Crown Records this fall). “It’s a big change, but it’s what I’ve been wanting to do forever,” Reynolds, who wrote “Around Your Room” in spring 2019 while on tour with Laura Stevenson, says. Using the digital audio workstation Reason to write opened up a lot of different paths to electronic music for her.

The Taylor Swift comparisons have come in a steady stream, but Reynolds doesn’t mind a bit. Personally, that’s “the highest compliment,” she says. “When I heard some of these songs for the first time, I was like, ‘These are my 1989 songs.’” The timing is, if not ironic, notable, given that Swift just changed her own sound dramatically on folklore. But it’s exactly that kind of freedom for female pop musicians Reynolds finds so exhilarating; if she wants, her new album can be a little 1989, a little Melodrama, a little …Baby One More Time. Sure, “Around Your Room” is a youthful exaltation of infatuation, but not all pop needs to be. And it’s the emo sensibility Kississpi brings from We Have No Future and Sunset Blush that makes her new offering stand out in a landscape of pretty synths and beats.

Being part of the Triple Crown family too will be a big change for Reynolds in her next album cycle, given that she unexpectedly had to self-release Sunset Blush when her former label, SideOneDummy Records, underwent a major restructuring (read: laid off almost its entire staff). Without dwelling too much on details of the past, Reynolds acknowledges that finding a home at Triple Crown, hitting the ground running releasing “Around Your Room” and its accompanying video, and discussing release plans for her next LP is all the sweeter given the previous trials. 

“I’m really grateful for meeting so many people through that label, like [director of marketing] Jamie Coletta, [production and digital director] Christina Johns and Erica Lauren [social media],” Reynolds says. “Getting to meet them through that label was worth all of the strife, in my opinion.” As she shopped her forthcoming record to labels, Reynolds never forgot how supportive Triple Crown founder Fred Feldman had been during her self-release of Sunset Blush, and ultimately, the decision of who to sign with became not a decision at all.

“Now that I’ve ended up with Triple Crown it just feels really right to me,” Reynolds says. “I already have trust for him and have seen how much he’s done for so many friends’ bands, I don’t think I could ask for a better situation.” As for the butterflies she felt before the single’s release, Reynolds needn’t have worried. The song was featured on Apple Music’s Alt Pop, Indie Pop, and Breaking Alternative playlists, NPR Music’s New Music Friday playlist (and our own!), and was spotlighted on Billboard

“It’s so much better than I could have even imagined,” Reynolds says of the reception. Before putting it out, aware of the sonal leap, she wondered, Are people gonna be down with this? “And then I was like, well, how could they not be down with this if this is the best thing I’ve ever done?” That level of confidence can only stem from the gut feeling that Reynolds is finally making music cut from cloth that is wholly her own—a prismatic assortment of electric shades and sparkles.

Michelle Bruton | @MichelleBruton

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