Published May 27, 2016When Kristin Welchez (a.k.a. Dee Dee) announced she would be transitioning from the leader of retro garage-pop act Dum Dum Girls into Kristin Kontrol, a new moniker for her audacious synth-pop solo act, it shouldn't have come as much of a surprise to fans. Welchez has been actively moonlighting outside of Dum Dum Girls for years, with projects such as Haunted Hearts with her husband Brandon Welchez (Crocodiles), the Mayfair Set with Mike Sniper (Blank Dogs), Zodiacs with J.B. Townsend (Crystal Stilts), and Les Demoniaques with Tamaryn. But as Kristin Kontrol, Welchez has "shed her skin" and revealed a new kind of artist, inspired by the '80s pop she grew up revering.
Aside from a futuristic R&B-tinged one-off single she released with Andrew Miller (UUV) as HUNI last year, Kristin Kontrol seems like the biggest departure yet. But for Welchez, it was a very natural decision for her to make.
"The direction I was heading just wouldn't work if Dum Dum Girls remained the vehicle," Welchez tells Exclaim! "The more I tried to progress my sound, the more it felt like the Dum Dum Girls template was hard and fast. It wouldn't, and maybe shouldn't, stretch out in other directions. So the only solution was the start fresh. Take back the 'kontrol.'"
X-Communicate (out now on Sub Pop) is the debut album by Kristin Kontrol, but originally it was planned as the next Dum Dum Girls album. While writing the songs, however, Welchez soon realized they needed to come from another source of inspiration. Glassy synthesizers and elastic programmed drums now dominate the music, but it was only after she'd written the songs with her guitar that they took on this new course.
"The songs didn't shift from one project to another," she explains. "It was more that at the end of the writing and recording sessions, it was obvious it needed to be something else. I approached writing very differently in the beginning, to make some big leaps, but ultimately found the guitar remained my most successful songwriting tool. It was just a matter of production after that."
Welchez believes Kristin Kontrol isn't about switching up the sound she has established, but expanding on it. "It's not like I turned my back on my earlier influences, I just opened the flood gates to let more in," she says. "Of course it felt risky to step away from eight years of a hard-earned spot. But feeling stagnant or trapped is far worse. The records and the band solidified a mould, a legacy maybe, and I just outgrew it."
As for what the future holds, Welchez isn't black or white about what will happen with Dum Dum Girls. She is just living very much in the now.
"For me, I only need one major outlet," she says. "Whatever I'm doing just needs the right home. That is Kristin Kontrol for the unforeseeable future."
Check out "Show Me" from X-Communicate below.