cover photography Jonathan Mak
How has moving back to California influenced or changed your life in general? Do you think this change comes through your music as well?
California has always been particularly special to me. I feel distinctly connected and endlessly curious with the people, imagery, and memories that surround me here. I’m a sixth generation Northern Californian. Since moving back, I’ve had plenty of time to travel up and down the coast. I’ve had countless adventures with old and new friends, from the rooftops of San Francisco to the neglected trailer park towns of the Salton Sea. I would say that living here inspires me to try and keep up and capture all that I am experiencing; it’s so important to understand where you are.
Your sound is very tender and ethereal, it could be said that your aesthetic pertains heavily to that of young, adult girls. Do you write your music with this audience in mind?
When I recorded my EP, it was an ongoing process that I didn’t intend on making public. It was kind of like my experimental, daily journal. To imagine anybody reading my private journal while I was trying to write it would’ve definitely changed what went down in the pages. I wouldn’t say that I have ever had an audience in mind while writing, although I suppose that it would make sense for other young adult girls to resonate with what’s going on in my daily life.
You found a fascinating mix of an acoustic/organic and web-y chillwave sound, how did you do this?
I spend endless amounts of time experimenting. I started out on the piano when I was young, and then moved to guitar. It wasn’t until last year while I was living in Vancouver, my friend Jade and I decided that we wanted to start a chillwave band (Glass Veils), write and record a single (“West Coast Indians”) and have a party all in the same day. It was a blast and then I just kept experimenting on my own from there. Though I still strongly believe that there’s something special and present in the simplicity of an organic sound, it’s a great challenge as a singer to be able to work in continuum with different mediums.
What made you transition from being a university student playing music on the side to dedicating the majority of your time to music?
My university education was a bit all over the place (I started out school in Arizona and ended up in Canada, changing my major a total of six times in two years). I felt like I was on this crazy chase after different universities and majors due to the fear of not being in school. It was definitely time for a pause. Contextually, what I was learning didn’t align with the concrete goals that I have been slowly but surely forming. The transition came naturally, and the decision was black and white.
Being a university student was beginning to feel too abstract and future-oriented, whereas opportunities and ideas in music came up to challenge and motivate me in a very tangible way. I had to ask myself what I could do with the present. I want to go back and finish my degree eventually (now that I have a better hold on how I can apply what I learn to what I do), but music will always take up the majority of my time no matter what. It’s always on my mind.
Photos and other art forms play a significant role in your life, how has collaborating with other artists and experimenting with other art forms helped you evolve?
I love the connection between movement and sound. I got super into film around middle school and tried matching up fragments of random footage with sounds and music. I have years and years of footage that I still love to go through and play with. Film has definitely changed the way I look at my own music. In a way, it’s a test: does the song that I just wrote make me look differently at what I see?
This past year I’ve done film collaborations with my friend and photographer Olivia Bee (“Untied” for W Magazine and “Sacred Heart” for Hermes Paris). The special thing about working together is that the song and the video were both separate ideas that happened to lock. I think that this is because we have a similar “world” that we like to create with our work. It’s really effortless and special to watch side by side, and the imagery continues to inspire me.
Most of the other collaborations that I have done are with musicians. It’s so interesting watching all of their processes because people can say, “I do music,” with such varied implications. Some people see songwriting as an equation, and for others it’s purely emotive. There isn’t any set way to write, and every time I work with someone new, my own process evolves.
Is there a reoccurring theme you find threaded throughout your lyrics?
I tend to obscure my lyrics, and even though they may sound sweet they typically envelop much darker themes.
Your Cat Stevens cover of, "Trouble", is mesmerizing. What role does Cat Stevens have in your music making processes?
The song “Trouble,” by Cat Stevens is one of the first songs I remember honestly loving. There is something so pure and direct about all of his music (I’m actually listening to him right now). Once, when I was about to drive down into the Palm Spring desert in the heat of July, my friends and I pulled over to the side of the road, sat on the cliff’s edge, and blasted the song “Wild World” from the car. It felt like nothing else existed. It’s that feeling of timelessness that his music evokes that inspires me to write.
You travelled quite a bit for music, what are some crazy / interesting stories from your travels?
My craziest experience was definitely flying out to Paris this past Valentine’s Day to sing at the Palais de Tokyo, a contemporary art gallery right next to the Eiffel tower. One of my best friends, Olivia, was curating this beautiful event for Cacharel fragrances and there were flowers, perfume, and her amazing photos all around. After the performance and reception we hit up some boat parties along the Seine River, but had to plot how to sneak in because they didn’t want us Americans around.
That next day we ended up at a massive chateau in the French countryside at the most extravagant birthday party. There was a smoke cloud as high as the ceiling and little kids riding toy bikes around a massive dining room table stacked with cakes and alcohol older than we’d ever seen. Everyone in the room was related somehow. Then, the family gave us an incredible tour of their estate and we all got caught in a flash rainstorm while trying to pet horses. Olivia and I just kept on looking at each other like, “How, how is this real?”
What does the future of Krista Michaela entail?
I’m always working on new recordings, and will be releasing some of them soon. I just finished a really small tour, and am planning out some more shows around Southern California, where I’ll be moving soon. I’d love to go on a larger tour once I finish up my recordings (maybe even revisit Arizona and Canada). This summer I’ve got new video plans that I’m pretty excited about, some collaborative and some on my own. I’m also planning to work with other musicians, and continue to build my live set-up. ~*Future is bright*~
Check out Krista Michaela's song, "Sacred Heart," in the Olivia Bee x Hermès video below.